City of London Business Library expands business resources to SMEs across Midlands & South East

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The City of London Business Library (CBL) is expanding the availability of its extensive resources to those who are looking to start-up businesses across the Midlands and South of England.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon business start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the UK is being addressed by online services from the City Business Library.

Resources available through the City Business Library allow you to plan, understand your market and find the space required to focus on your idea.

You can make use of free resources online and in your community, find the space you need, ask for help and advice and build the relationships you need to get up and running. There are business one-to-ones, market research resources, seminars, networking and events. If you are passionate, you can make it happen.

The City of London Business Library offers information resources for businesses including:

Free information resources available for City Business Library members:  Our online databases including access to the Cobra (Complete Business Reference Adviser) database that has a factsheet ‘Coronavirus – Government Support for Business’ which contains advice on sources of information for businesses and employers including Coronavirus advice for businesses.

Learn more about The City of London Business Library on the City Business Library website  

Twitter: @cityoflondon

CASE STUDY:  A State of Nature – Barbara Fidler

Written by- Amanda Patterson, CBL Business Research Support Officer

Barbara Fidler is my neighbour, we’re very lucky to live in a picturesque mews not far from Hackney Central, London.  Over the last year we’ve sparked a friendship over our mutual appreciation of all things beautiful: food, flowers, cities and clothes. I sat down with Barbara, two meters distanced over her little patio fence, and to write down our conversation.

In March 2020, Barbara took the leap into starting her own business. Called State of Nature, she makes shirts and jackets in her workshop at home.

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“The idea of having my own brand was always there, the passion for working on my own projects started early in university, I was always happier being independent and being in control of my vision.”

Barbara’s business, a State of Nature, took off fast. “I strongly believe in craftmanship and support other independents too.”

She buys fabrics from a family run business in Lancashire as well as the British Millerain (the original manufacturer of waxed cotton for outerwear and a specialist in waxed cotton fabrics).

For me, getting my fabrics from the UK is more ethical than securing cheaper materials from other parts of the world.”  Barbara believes that your supply chain should reflect your ethos. “My relationships allow me to be flexible, manage my finances and secure good quality material.”

Barbara knew that starting a business was going to be risky – especially under the current Coronavirus circumstances, but she has developed a robust vision and ethos that is driving her brand. However, she knows that A State of Nature is still growing, shifting and changing as new ideas, new customers, new methods of promotion come to light. “I believe that people are becoming very interested in how and where articles from their lives come to be, people appreciate the transparency of knowing where my materials come from, feeling a personal connection to me, and being exposed to the whole process of making the shirts.

“When you think about someone making you a garment you might typically think of something very high end, or inaccessible. I want to make this process accessible. What develops is a very functional, comfortable garment – the styles are inspired by Japanese streetwear, they are oversized and versatile. You can wear it to work, cleaning, for a walk or dressed up.”

“I’ve developed my brand, built contacts and partners mainly by using Instagram. It’s an excellent free resource, if you know how to really get the most of it.”

She’s also been successful in encouraging influencers, brands and magazines by offering her product in exchange for press. “If I’m going to approach someone from a magazine, say I like the photography editorial – I will find the name of the photographer in the magazine, locate them on Instagram and contact them directly. Let them know where I saw their work, what I liked about it and what I’m proposing – I really believe in the personal touch, it shows that you understand them, you understand their work and share in and appreciate their art.”

“It’s important to reach out to people and organisations for help,” Barbara goes on. She sought the help of her family, who are graphic designers, artists and animators. “I had to make sure that my craft was strong, but I needed a wide range of skills, not just in making the clothes and jackets, but also in producing my brand.”

Barbara used Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for her website, labels and packaging, as well as movie making and photography skills for her Instagram page. Having previously worked for large fashion brands, Barbara had watched and learned processes dedicated to press, merchandising, design, networking, studio management and ordering.

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“It’s good to recognise the detail of running a fashion business and the work I needed to do outside of my creative passion. You can’t just be a designer – you have to represent the brand as well as making sure the product is commercially viable.”

Barbara’s business plan involved understanding how she was going to budget for materials, how she was going to reach out to likeminded artists and stockists. “You can create something innovative, but you have to base it in commercial decisions and set up the necessary connections to realise your vision.”

Right now, Barbara is easily working nine hours a day on her designs along. Added to that she’s setting aside time for the practical side of running the business.

I really love being able to do my work from home, I can open the door to my workshop and listen to the birds, having the sun and fresh air streaming in. I can take a break and have a cup of tea and relax in the mornings. I get to dictate my schedule – sometimes I will have a slower morning and work later into the evening.”

This adaptability means that A State of Nature can grow organically, and Barbara can ensure that the quality of her work is maintained while growing intelligently.

I ask Barbara if she has any advice for those who wish to start new businesses. “Take a risk! I didn’t know if I would be able to do what I loved as a job, but it’s important to be brave, be creative – don’t get stuck, take the slower days with the busier days and know that if you try and expose your passion and your talent, you will grow. Stability can be a mire, if you have a passion, try it out, allow yourself the time to test it out. You can’t just think, ‘I’m starting this and I’ll be successful’, but be smart, start small, approach it with a strong vision and a plan.”

She also recommends patience, take time out to meditate and relax. Real success doesn’t come overnight, it’s a mixture of hard work, dedication and a bit of luck. Believe in yourself and be open to ideas for improvement and advice – and finally be happy about what you’re doing, it’s so personal, there’s so much energy – you are presenting a part of yourself to the world and opening yourself up for feedback.

Find A State of Nature at, and on Instagram @a_state_of_nature

About the City of London Corporation: The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK.

About City Business Library: City Business Library is based at Guildhall EC2, The City of London Corporation-owned library helps create and grow sustainable businesses in London and across the UK by providing access to essential business data and tailored business support.

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