Chris Ellis, an experienced Innovation and Growth Specialist from the St John’s Innovation & Growth team, has been delivering valuable advice and support to Blackmores - a forward-thinking Letchworth-based company now offering ISO standards consultancy services online.

For many companies, it’s important to meet the standards set by the ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation). ISO Standards are an internationally recognised hallmark of good business practice, in everything from sustainability and information security to health and safety and product quality. In many cases, firms need ISO certification to win new contracts, but even if they don’t, ISO Standards are what many businesses aspire to, as they strive to become better at what they do.

It can be difficult sometimes for companies to understand how ISO standards apply to their particular business, and to identify the areas where they need to improve. That’s where consultancy Blackmores comes in, working with clients to help them raise their game and, ultimately, gain ISO certification.

Blackmores was well established, having been providing ISO consultancy services to businesses for 14 years. But then Covid happened, and it was no longer possible for Blackmores to work in the way that it had been – with consultants visiting sites and engaging with clients face to face.

Luckily, Blackmores had already been considering ways of expanding the services it could offer. As company founder and Managing Director Mel Blackmore explains, “we had been thinking for a while that we needed to innovate, but Covid fast-tracked it.” Blackmores developed ambitious plans to create a digital delivery platform, enabling it to provide its consultancy services online.

Innovate UK EDGE support to put standards hub online

In July 2020 Blackmores began working with Chris Ellis who is part of the St John’s Innovation & Growth team, to help make these plans a reality. This support was funded via Innovate UK EDGE. With Chris’s support, the company was able to think through the processes involved in building a digital platform, as well as the business model that Blackmores would use once it was in place. Chris was also able to point the company to some potential sources of funding, including (since the plan to move online had sustainability and carbon-neutral thinking at its heart) from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund.

In total, Blackmores secured some £70k from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund to develop its new platform (as well as follow-on innovation and growth support around its commercialisation). The result is the ISOlogy Hub, an online resource for businesses to learn how to do better and achieve ISO certification. Blackmores now works on a subscription model, with clients being able to choose what level of engagement they want: from self-learning using the tools and information available on the website, through to full online consultancy.

While the service was conceived as a response to Covid when site visits were not possible, its value has shown itself beyond the pandemic. For businesses around the world, it means that they have round-the-clock access to CPD and best practice advice online. It also means that a range of more affordable options are available for businesses that need support, short of full consultancy.

For Blackmores, it means the potential to grow the business internationally, at pace. The company has already made three new hires, and it anticipates growth in turnover from £1m to £3m within the next three years.

“Working with Innovate UK EDGE to create the ISOlogy Hub platform has been a major achievement for us. With Chris’ help we have been able to deal with the teething problems that you inevitably get as you grow. He’s offered us a fresh pair of eyes, as someone who has worked with other companies in a similar situation.”

Mel Blackmore, company founder and Managing Director