Norfolk County Council joins forces with British Library to roll-out small business support to three more Norfolk libraries and turbocharge the local economy
08 June 2021
The British Library has announced a major expansion of its highly successful network of library-based Business & IP Centres (BIPCs) to over 100 regional and local libraries across England, including in Norfolk.
Following last year’s pledge of £13 million in Treasury funding towards the expansion, BIPC Norfolk - managed by Norfolk Library & Information Service - has been allocated a share to equip Cromer, Wroxham and Wymondham libraries with Business & IP Centre spaces, resources and services. This expansion builds on the proven support already available through BIPC Norfolk in the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library and BIPC Locals in Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Thetford libraries. In addition to the Treasury’s investment, this growth is made possible by Business Development Funding awarded through Norfolk County Council’s Economic Development service.
Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships at Norfolk County Council, says: “At their heart, libraries are trusted spaces with a mission to connect people with information. The provision of more local-based business support will give customers the information, skills and connections to start up, protect and grow their business.
“Adding three new BIPC Locals means BIPC Norfolk now has physical sites in all seven district council areas. Although there has been an enforced move to online support over the last year, being able to provide an option of local face-to-face support reinforces our principle of being open and accessible.”
The BIPC network has a notably strong track record of supporting people from all walks of life to start, protect and grow a successful business. In just three years it has:
- Supported the creation of over 12,000 new businesses
- Led to the creation of over 7,800 new jobs
- Generated an extra £78 million GVA to the UK economy
- Created businesses twice as likely to succeed beyond three years
Business & IP Centres can open up the path to entrepreneurship for anyone with a business idea, regardless of their background. Consistently, over half of those who use a BIPC to set up a business are women and a third are from under-represented ethnic backgrounds. More than triple the national averages for business ownership in the UK, this diverse user base speaks to the accessibility and community-based ethos of this library-based support.
Cllr Graham Plant, Deputy Leader of Norfolk County Council and Cabinet Member for Growing the Economy, says: “The network of Business & IP Centres is founded on the belief that anyone can turn an idea into a successful small business with the right support and access to information.
“Expanding the footprint of BIPC Norfolk will aid the economic recovery in the county by bringing proven business support to the heart of local communities.”
While each Centre, including BIPC Norfolk, is equipped with a core set of resources, such as up-to-date market research and business databases, provided by the British Library, they are brought to life by a tailored and highly individual programme of events, workshops and one-to-ones, delivered in collaboration with local business leaders, role model entrepreneurs and community partners.
This accessible support has been invaluable for small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. In a recent survey, 23% of all BIPC users said that the service had helped them gain confidence and resilience to steer their business through the challenges of the pandemic. Over the last difficult year, BIPC Norfolk has been there to support aspiring local entrepreneurs and existing business owners by pivoting its services online. From April 2020 to March 2021, the service delivered 178 online events, helping more than 500 business owners to weather the storm of the pandemic. The events were attended by a diverse range of entrepreneurs: 85% were women, 11% were from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background, and 29% had a disability.
The support included Reset. Restart, an emergency online programme launched by the British Library last year and rolled out locally to provide new skills and resilience to all SMEs during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Liz Jolly, Chief Librarian at the British Library, says: “From Glasgow to Brighton, our BIPC Network harnesses the power of libraries, bringing in expertise from the local community to help people from all walks of life turn an idea into a successful business.
“We’re delighted to mark this next chapter in the Network’s journey, growing from 14 to over 100 new regional and local Centres across England, with a longer-term ambition to expand across the UK. Our mission is to put business support in every library, but we’re also learning lessons from the past year, by making sure more and more of our business and IP workshops, events and 1-1s are open to everyone online.”
Culture Minister, Caroline Dinenage, says: "It is brilliant that small businesses and entrepreneurs will now be able to access invaluable support and resources in more parts of the country than ever before. I'm delighted that, thanks to our £13 million investment in the British Library's Business & IP Centres, this important network is growing from strength to strength."
At present, libraries across Norfolk are operating in a Covid-safe environment so some BIPC services are limited. You can currently book study space and access a wide range of free online subscriptions providing up-to-date business information including market research, grants and company reports. It is hoped that browsing business publications will be permitted as lockdown eases further.
Bryony Fayers from Norwich is the founder of ‘bear’ - a soon-to-open shop selling sustainable and responsibly sourced products for the family. Bryony has made great use of the Reset. Restart programme and she particularly appreciates the flexibility the programme offers her as she’s had to dip in and out of home schooling her children.
Bryony says: “I was so lucky that at just the point I was ready to engage with thinking about my new venture, the Reset. Restart programme was just starting. Not so luckily, coronavirus struck, and I ended up home-schooling two boys and looking after a new-born! Julie (Cleminson) and team have been ever so accommodating and understanding about how different people are approaching setting up a new business, and for me, it’s been chaotic.
“The 1:1 sessions delivered by MENTA have been incredible. If there was something specific that Tim (Cooke) didn’t know about my particular industry, he knew where to find out (and did so very quickly!). The session was warm and relaxed, and so, so useful. The paperwork that was required beforehand helped to clarify lots in my head and then we went through it and filled in any gaps together.
“The various sessions have all been informative, but John Clarke’s session on the business financials was invaluable. He shared a business plan template and also a spreadsheet that simplifies and works a lot of things out with set formulae - like cash flow. Great for a technophobe like me!
“I am committed to making ‘bear’ work. I know the community around here will really welcome this kind of shop and I am confident it will be a success. I would not have known where to start making this conviction into an actual business though, without BIPC Norfolk.”