Centre helps thousands of Sheffield start-ups to get off the ground

Olusola McKenzie, of Learn to Re-Create, right, at the Business & IP Centre in Sheffield.
Olusola McKenzie, of Learn to Re-Create, right, at the Business & IP Centre in Sheffield.
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More than 2000 people have been helped to take their business ideas forward thanks to Sheffield’s Business and Intellectual Property Centre which opened a year ago.

Inventors, scientists, creative designers and students have all booked into the centre which is based in the city’s Central Library on Surrey Street.

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Almost 240 visitors also attended free one-to-one clinics with a patent attorney or the business information and intellectual property workshops.

Olusola McKenzie, founder of Learn to Re-create - a social enterprise set up in 2011 to train people in fashion and textiles - said she was helped to get the firm off the ground by the business support she received.

She added: “The business support I’ve had at the library has been invaluable and I used it a lot when I was writing my business plan to set up - using all the resources and databases to get the facts and figures I needed to make things stack up, and credible for investors. The staff were always very helpful and helped me find the information to make the right choices for my business.

“I brought my students to the Business and Intellectual Property Centre as part of a course I ran on ‘sewing and selling.’ I showed them everything you can find, all the information, online resources and events that you can use to set up a business – and one of my students has gone on to do this.

“What’s great about the centre is that you can also use it if you need a quiet space to work in and can’t do this at home. I practically lived in the library when I was setting up and it was good to have other people around me.”

The centre is free and open for everyone to use. Visitors can get access to help in a number of ways, such as meetings with intellectual property lawyers, free computer use and networking sessions with the business community.

Councillor Sioned-Mair Richards, acting cabinet member for neighbourhoods at Sheffield City Council, said: “We bid for external funding from the British Library to set up the centre and it’s making a positive difference for people with good business ideas and existing businesses wanting to protect their intellectual property.

“We’re helping people research their business plans and our staff see people whose confidence grows as they learn more and more using our services.

“We’re always here to help and provide free access to the specialist information that people need. Pop down and see what’s on offer.”

The centre is one of eight across the country and is running its first ‘Make it in March’ event this year as part of the Sheffield Year of Making 2016.

The first event is on Wednesday, March 2, for anyone interested in finding out how to manufacture, design and package their ideas for market. This will be followed by the ‘Meet the Makers’ fair on Wednesday, March 9, where innovators will display their crafts and be available to give advice to others about how to commercialise their creativity. Sheffield-born entrepreneur Guy Jeremiah will be talking at the event.

For more details about how to get involved visit www.welcometosheffield.co.uk/business