British Library announces first official Entrepreneur in Residence to boost advice

Seen as the business brains of Bristol, mega-rich trade empire boss Stephen Fear will host a series of whirlwind “entrepreneur makeovers” at the Library’s Business & IP Centre, to turn London’s brightest business potential into the success stories of the future.

Fear’s “speed mentoring” sessions, billed as “50 years of business expertise in one hour”, will give young, aspiring Richard Bransons the tools to make their dreams come true. The entrepreneurs lucky enough to be chosen for a free session with the business legend, will get in-depth advice on marketing, intellectual property, financial markets and the secret “tricks of the trade”.

Fear’s appointment forms a key arm of “Innovating for Growth” a major initiative to boost small but fast growing London businesses. The Business & IP Centre will assist 150 ambitious and innovative “micro-businesses” for an expert 3-year intensive support programme which will push them to the next levels of success. The initiative delivers key policy objectives from the Mayor’s Economic Development Strategy for London, the LDA’s Investment Strategy and the BIS’s Strategy for Sustainable Growth.

Business genius Fear, who became a teen millionaire with a cleaning formula made in a garage, will meet some of the capital’s brightest talent for one-on-one coaching sessions on how to break new markets, protect their ideas, launch new products and make their fortune.

The inspirational entrepreneur told how he opened his first “office” in a red phone box, aged 16, when he heard on the news that new laws would force food manufacturers to change the way they clean ovens. The Bristol-born cheeky chappy hung an “Out Of Order sign” outside the phone box, charmed an operator into pretending to be his secretary, persuaded a US firm to sell its oven-cleaner product to him, and was soon dealing with the world’s biggest food brands. He and son Leon Fear, now run a multinational trading juggernaut incorporating 64 companies with interests in everything from hotels to manufacturing.

Fear, 58, whose own fortune runs into hundreds of millions, admitted that not everyone was born with his entrepreneurial talent, but said he wants to help the British Library unlock London’s growth potential, by sharing what he learned when making his millions. “I was lucky to meet some inspirational people at a very early age and, if that hadn’t happened, things could have turned out very differently.

“As a kid, I grew up with nothing, and never dreamt I could start a business, until one day I met a very rich banker and offered to do his gardening for free, if he agreed to tell me the secret to his success. He spent an hour a week explaining how to make money, and his advice gave me the inspiration to take that leap and start my own business. The Business & IP Centre helps do that for thousands of people who are starting out, like me, with nothing but a dream and an idea. The Centre gives start-ups free access to about £5 million worth of business & IP information, and help from some of the top experts in Britain. Many of those they help have experienced redundancy and I know how to lift them out of that situation because I have been there. I am excited to be sharing everything I have learned to help kick-start hundreds of great new businesses across the capital.”

The British Library’s Business & IP Centre, which receives Government funding to help entrepreneurial hopefuls, successfully launched over 800 new businesses and injected £32 million into London’s economy, in just two years.

The Centre’s Head of Business & Research Audiences Isabel Oswell says their new Entrepreneur in Residence will be the centrepiece of a new programme of support for London’s small businesses. “Stephen has some great plans to work with some of the most promising talent in London: people who have great ideas but just don’t know how to make money out of them. Our aim is to unlock all the exciting entrepreneurial potential out there and help create a hundred new Stephen Fears.”

The ‘Innovating for Growth’ scheme forms part of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) initiative to “capitalise on London’s innovation and growth to extend economic opportunities to communities where it is most needed” and crucially, the project will help London achieve the EDRF’s Priority 1 target for Business Innovation and Research and Eco-efficiency.