Could you start a business?
There is no age barrier to starting a business. Often a business can be more successful because the older an entrepreneur is the more life experience they have to inject into their new venture.
If you have spent a long time in your current career or spent time raising your family or both, now might be the time for a real change. Becoming your own boss might be solution you have been looking for. A chance for you do something you really want to do as opposed to something you feel have to do!
Women can often lack confidence in their own ability to start a business and this creates a mental barrier. The fear of the unknown sets in, along with concerns about the risk. But with the right advice, support and a well-researched idea, starting a business can be much easier than you think.
But how can you come up with an idea? You may have a hobby you can turn into a business. Or your passion may lie in a certain industry which might be a change from the career you have now – so bite the bullet and get trained up! The beauty of the internet means that with a touch of a button we can get information on pretty much any industry, anywhere! If you need inspiration and ideas spend some time with a career coach considering your options. If you love what you do you will never ‘work’ another day in your life!
Here are the most important points to work through when starting a business. It really isn’t as difficult or as scary as you might think! By following a step by step process, you will massively increase your chances of success.
- Ensure the idea is viable. This means properly researching the idea and taking time to really understand the market you want to enter. Don’t rely on family and friends for opinions and advice. They will tell you your idea is marvellous, and it may well be, but ensuring you do some independent market research is vital. Consider: Does your business solve a problem or are you selling something which is a necessity or a luxury? Make sure the market isn’t too niche-there must be enough people or companies who will buy what you do to ensure you can make money.
- Think of a name. This is often the hardest thing to do! Firstly, make sure the name is easy to spell and memorable! Ideally it works well if it means something in your chosen industry, but this isn’t essential. Make sure no one else is using that name. Check with ipo.gov.uk and companies house. Check you can purchase the domain name for the website. Then once you have decided register your trademark and company name so no one else can have it!
- Know your numbers. From the beginning make sure you have properly costed out your start up costs. Make sure you know everything you will need and what it will cost and then add a contingency fund. The next step is to work out how much you will charge for your goods or services and how much your ongoing costs will be. This way you can begin to see if this is a business that will earn you a proper income. Consider how you will cover your living costs whilst building the business.
- Write a business plan. Once you have completed the first 3 steps, start writing a business plan, Many people think this is just for people who want finance- wrong! This step is vital for anyone starting a business and it’s an ongoing document. Its your blueprint for your business idea and is the plan that will help you bring the business together to get it trading. Get free advice here on business plans https://www.gov.uk/write-business-plan
- Get advice. Every area has a local enterprise agency. Contact them for business advice, often you will get a number of hours free. Google to see what is available in your area. Many local councils also have a Business Development department which supports start-ups. You will also be able to share the business plan with them and they can review where you are and what help you need. Many areas also have business incubation services. These are there to support start up businesses and often offer greatly reduced office or unit rentals for a fixed period to help you get started.
- Go Networking. This is a fantastic way to meet with other entrepreneurs in your area or in your industry. Talking to other people who have already been on the journey really helps. Gaining support early on will help you to solidify your business plan and it will also help you to promote your business in the area and find links to potential new customers. Again, go to Google and check what is in your area.
- Write a marketing plan. Alongside the business plan the marketing plan is other major document you need to spend time on. Include your market research and a competitor analysis. Spend time thinking about who your target market is. Age, gender, job types and income are all relevant in building up that picture. If you know who you are targeting, then your marketing will be more effective. Then consider what channels you will use. So, for example top of the list is a Website, then you will need to think about where you target market is most likely to find you. It will depend on your business which marketing channels you will use, social media is just one marketing channel so don’t restrict yourself to Facebook! Getting help from a marketing expert can also save you lots of time and money.
- Create a good brand. Having a good brand isn’t reserved for the big companies. Spending time and money in the early stages having a great logo designed and considering the look and feel of your brand could earn you customers straight award. Working with a branding consultant can be a great investment. It will also mean your brand is attractive to your target customers.
- Create a website. This is essential for any business. Having the right website for you and your customers is so important. Make sure the website represents your brand, the copy is clear, it’s easy to navigate and its well optimised for search engines. Search engines such as Google help your business get found by people who are searching for what you do in the area you are trading. If you also need to make changes and updates to your site on a regular basis, ensure you can do this to save costs of asking the website company to it. If you are planning to sell online do some usability testing and make sure the purchase journey is smooth and seamless. Many businesses fail because too many customers abandon their carts and don’t complete the sale because of complex issues on their website.
- Build processes. The earlier you do this the better. Have processes for everything in your business. This way you will not get lost under a mountain of paperwork or have undelivered orders. Also, when you come to either employ staff or use an outsourced company this can make the transition much easier. Use an online accounting system such as Xero, a task manager system such as Asana and CRM such as Capsule. This will all help you to manage processes and client relationships early on.
On first glance this list may seem a little overwhelming. The important thing is to break down all the activities you need to do into chunks to stop you feel overloaded. Make a timeline of tasks you need to do and give yourself time limits.
The most important thing is to congratulate yourself on every single achievement and celebrate each success- every day, every week and every month.
Each milestone is worth a cheer! From the business idea to the logo, to the website launch to that very first customer.
Working for yourself is life changing, challenging and it is also really satisfying. It puts you in charge of your destiny and can give you so much freedom to be creative with your ideas and your time which a job can never do.
Debbie Gilbert is the author of ‘The Successful Mumpreneur’ a complete guide to starting and running a business around your family. Available from Amazon and all online book stores.