Many of us have had a lightbulb moment and dreamt of launching our own company. Whether it’s the allure of leaving the 9-5, your dreaded train commute and managerial appraisals that lights the fire in your belly – or just a simple idea you know could really work – your moment needn’t be just a pipe dream.
Small businesses are now the backbone of the UK economy and with shopping ‘local’ becoming a priority for many consumers, due to our awareness of our environmental impact and carbon footprint, there’s no better time to take that leap.
Decide on your idea
It seems obvious, but it’s so important that your concept is a) as unique as possible, b) there is a market for it and c) that it will be profitable. It’s all very well wanting to make your dream a reality, but if this is going to be your main source of income, you’ll need it to be financially viable so that you can support yourself.
Understand your market
Do. Your. Research. Understand your clients/customers. Who are they and why will they come to you over anyone else? What is their income, their lifestyle, and how old are they? Learn about them and learn to understand their needs.
Know your competitors. If you’re launching a yoga class on a Thursday and an already-established local class exists, let’s be honest – this isn’t going to take off. Read case studies and success stories, conduct focus groups with impartial friends and use your own skills to your advantage.
Know your strengths
Speaking of skills… Albert Einstein once said: ‘Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole live thinking it is stupid’. None of us know everything and nobody expects you to do this on your own. We’re pretty sure Richard Branson had a helping hand or two along his way.
Ask for help where you need it. Assess where your skills are best in use and employ or seek support from others with the skills you don’t have to do the rest. You’ll thank us later.
The finance bit
You don’t have to know your way around a spreadsheet – but it helps. There’s now an abundance of free tutorials online and plenty of advice available to start-ups. Banks are also investing resource and support in SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). Barclays features all the basics on its website, including how to write a basic business plan, and understanding your costs, margins and overheads.
Register your business with Companies House at gov.uk. Ensure you follow the correct process so that your business is legitimate and heading in the right direction. You’ll need an understanding of your financial forecasts, even if it’s just cash payments, to see where your responsibilities lie in terms of tax.
Get an accountant. They are worth their weight in gold and will allow you to focus on where your skills are most valuable.
The branding bit
Here’s the thing – the name of your business might seem groundbreaking to you, but if someone else has already registered it – you’ll need to go back to the drawing board. You’ll know whether your company name is good-to-go if it’s not already registered on Companies House.
Build your website
This can feel more overwhelming than the business plan, but it needn’t be. Plan it out on good, old-fashioned paper first. Remember, your website is your brand’s home. It’s the centre of your business ‘ecosystem’ and your shopfront. So, take the time to get it right. There are tons of great, easy-to-use resources to build websites yourself; including Squarespace, Shopify, Magento, Wix, the list is endless. Enlist a specialist to help ensure it’s SEO-friendly (can be found by your customers via search engines), then check that your copy is perfect, your pictures crisp and your sales messaging clear.
You’re almost there! Whether you’re selling a service or a product, you’ll need to shout from the rooftops about it. And by rooftops we mean social media.Plan out a calendar of content for the month ahead. Only set up the accounts that will be relevant to you. If your customer isn’t someone who uses Pinterest or Twitter, don’t bother setting up business pages. There is nothing worse than feeds without content.
Do list yourself on Google My Business. It’s quick and easy to do and will help customers to find you. They can also leave reviews for you!
This is your dream – always remember why you wanted to do this in the first place and never lose sight of that. Good luck!