A guide to starting a small business
Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation gives us some of her top tips for starting your own business
Founded by Emma Jones, Enterprise Nation is a business support company that helps people to start their own business by providing them with the information they need to get going - from coming up with an idea to writing a business plan all the way through to making sales and getting known.
Here, Emma gives us some of her top tips for starting up a new business:
Come up with an idea
Every business needs to have a strong idea behind it to be successful.
Although coming up with a business idea can be difficult, asking yourself these three questions can help get you started on developing your very own business idea:
- Can you spot a gap in the market?
- What's your passion, your hobby, your skill and can you turn that into a way of making a living?
- Have you seen someone do something you think you could do better yourself?
The answers to these questions will usually give you good basis for an idea for a business that you can then take away to develop further.
Write a business plan
Once you have an idea for your business, you need to write a business plan.
This will need to include 5 key aspects which are easy to remember as they spell IM OFF:
Idea - what is the idea for your business?
Market - Who will your customers be?
Operation - What equipment do you need to get started and keep growing?
Finances - Do a basic cash flow forecast - do you need to raise any money?
Friends - Who is your support network?
Many startups will sell their products to their friends and family before taking them into the wider market.
The benefit to this approach is that you can get instant feedback on your products. Which means that you can make any necessary improvements to your product or service before you introduce it to a larger audience.
When you're ready to move on from selling to your friends and family, there are two major channels that you can make use of:
- Online - through either your own website or a third party retailer such as Etsy or eBay
- Offline - through pop up shops, street markets or craft fairs
As you grow you may also want to consider selling to the high street which will involve meeting buyers and pitching your products to them.
Raise your profile
Although you and your friends and family know what you do, a lot of other potential customers won't. So you need to take some time to raise your brand's profile, if you want your business to grow.
When trying to get your business's name out there, the first thing you've got to do is know your story and understand your own brand. This will make it easier for publications to write about your business as much of the hard work behind researching what it is you do will have already been done.
When you've taken some time to refine your business's story, you can start to approach the journalists that are writing in the publications and other news outlets that your customers are reading. To do this, send them a story with stats and quotes to back it up.
Although traditional press outlets are a great way to raise your business's profile, you shouldn't neglect relevant online platforms such as blogs and online magazines.
Focus on sales
There are two things that bring businesses down - high costs and low sales.
For a business to be successful you need to make sure that enough money is coming in to cover the costs that are incurred by your business every day. So making enough sales is crucial.
To do this, you need to know what it is that you're selling and make it appealing to the market that you're looking to sell to. Focus on the specific aspects of your product that make it stand out from the crowd such as price when talking to customers. And make sure to highlight any unique features of your product in the description section of your online shop (if you set one up).
On top of this, you need to make sure that the money you are bringing in is managed well and that you're not spending your profits on things that you don't really need for your business.
The start-ups we see do well at Enterprise Nation have a niche and know exactly what they're offering and to who. They're really focussed on making sales and managing the money as well.
If you focus on these two things, you'll be off to a good start in business.