Norfolk libraries announce record year for supporting local businesses
19 July 2022
2022, Small Business
In the past year, the Business & IP Centre (BIPC) Norfolk, managed by Norfolk Library & Information Service, had a strong track record of supporting local entrepreneurs to start, manage and expand successful small businesses.
From April 20221 to March 2022, over 700 attendees received free business support from the Centre. 36% of these attendees were aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to start their own business and 27% were looking to grow an existing business. Additionally, there was a 180% increase in people receiving support from the Centre during this period.
Business & IP Centres (BIPCs) are part of a national network of over 100 regional and local Centres, led by the British Library. Each Centre, including BIPC Norfolk, is equipped with a core set of resources, such as up-to-date market research and business databases. These core resources are brought to life by BIPC Norfolk’s tailored and highly individual programme of events, networking opportunities, workshops and one-to-ones, delivered in collaboration with local business leaders, role model entrepreneurs and community partners.
BIPC Norfolk events range from helping keen crafters turn their hobby into a business, to a Summer School starting at the end of July. The online Summer School is aimed at 16-25-year-olds to give them an idea of what’s required to start a business. Each week’s session, from Thursday 28 July to Thursday 1 September, will cover a different topic, and participants will have the chance to ask questions throughout. There will also be the opportunity to hear from a successful young business owner about their experience of starting and running a business.
Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, cabinet member for communities and partnerships at Norfolk County Council, said: “By basing support for starting and running a business in Norfolk libraries, we are making it more accessible. As well as holding more business-related activities in our libraries, we’re also continuing with a strong online offering as it can often be more convenient, especially in a rural county.
“Our free online Summer School will give younger people from across Norfolk the chance to learn about starting their own business. Even if it isn’t quite right for them now, it’ll give them an insight into the skills and aptitudes required and may pique their interest enough to choose business as an option for further studies.”
The support available at BIPCs 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, 14% have a disability, 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.
Last year, BIPC Norfolk expanded its presence in the county by adding three more BIPC Locals in Cromer, Wroxham and Wymondham libraries. This was part of a wider national expansion of library-based business support from 14 BIPCs to over 100 regional and local Centres across England, including in Norfolk, thanks to £13 million in government funding awarded to the British Library.
Liz Jolly, Chief Librarian, British Library, said: “At their heart, libraries are trusted spaces with professional staff who have a mission to connect people with information. From Glasgow to Brighton, our Business & IP Centres harness 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.
Over the last year, the BIPC network has hugely outperformed its growth targets and helped to safeguard thousands of jobs through the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. We know that businesses started with the support of our libraries are nearly twice as likely to survive beyond three years than the national average. These remarkable results are living proof of the part libraries can and are playing towards boosting their local economies.”
To find out more about how BIPC Norfolk can help you start and run a business, visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/bipcnorfolk
All BIPC Norfolk events, including the Summer School, are bookable on Eventbrite at www.bipcnorfolk.eventbrite.com
Case study - Lottie Russell, L K Designs
Wymondham-based Lottie Russell’s business is called L K Designs - a one-woman show working on graphic design and illustration. 27-year-old Lottie’s services include bespoke commissions, and currently her most popular products are logo design, pet portraits and watercolour house portraits. BIPC Norfolk supported Lottie with their Reset. Restart sessions, delivered by MENTA Business.
“When the pandemic hit, I was put on furlough at my previous employment and wanted to do something worthwhile with my time. I started an online course in graphic design and decided to start illustrating again which I haven’t done since my university days. I forgot how much I loved being creative and rediscovered a long-lost ambition to work in the creative community.
“I stumbled across the MENTA Business LinkedIn page where the BIPC Norfolk Reset. Restart networking events were being advertised to help small businesses during Covid-19. I wanted to learn more about working for myself ‘freelancing’ and decided to join.
“They were so informative and filled with a diverse group of like-minded people in very different fields. The sessions were monthly meetings with a guest speaker at each to discuss different topics that we hadn’t necessarily thought about before. This helped me to drive forward with my small business and put into practice a lot of the skills I had learnt to create my website, social media pages and Etsy shop.
“My future plans are to work on my social media following to promote my product sales and work on new projects I am currently in the process of developing. Longer term I would love to set up a studio where I could exhibit my work, hold workshops and work on new ideas.”