Most of us will have great business ideas at some point and dream of leaving the day job. Making the switch from employee to business owner can be daunting and risky, but hugely rewarding if you can make it work.
It’s an endeavour that must we well thought out and planned in advance. Go into it knowing that starting a business always takes longer than you expect.
Money runs out fast so be prudent. I learned a lot along the way, especially about getting the most bang for your buck as my resources were limited. I made some mistakes as well.
Here are a few nuggets that may help make your path a little smoother if you are thinking of starting your own business.
Do the research
Once you have your idea, it’s essential to find out if there is demand, who your competitors would be, how much financing it may require and what sort of knowledge and help you will require.
Ask for help
My father, who was also an entrepreneur, told me to locate people who had started similar businesses and contact them to ask for advice— I thought it would be bonkers. However, he said that although some people may not return calls or emails, you’ll always find a couple of people who will be flattered and willing to answer questions. So that’s what I did.
I had no choice as I didn’t know anyone in my desired industry aside from one guy. With the help of that one person and a handful of strangers and friends of friends (who went on to become mentors and friends), along with support from organisations who assist entrepreneurs and startups such as the British Library Business and IP Centre, I was on my way.
Have a cushion
Having a workable plan is just as important as having some savings and security in knowing how you are going to finance your venture.
I worked for years socking away money to start my business. Manicures, blow dries, leg waxes went out the window. I wore the many same clothes for years.
I wanted to have 100 per cent control but it does take longer without investment and was scary at times. You may want to take on investors, do crowd funding. Friends and family, grants or bank loans are all worth exploring if you don’t have the savings— and even if you do.
Tell a story
Why will your business be unique? What will your wow factor be? I always loved bees and became obsessed with bee superfoods like propolis, bee pollen and royal jelly and decided to base the brand on the idea of health from the hive.
It also helps to raise awareness about the importance of bees and to donate to bee causes as they are under threat, which brings us to…
…Have a higher purpose
A genuine concern about ethical practices, social good, the environment and sustainability enhances any business. A lovely ethos adds another dimension to your business and will give you, your employees and anyone you work with a great feeling.
I realised that I didn’t just want to sell natural supplements and help people feel better, I wanted to give back. Helping raise awareness about the importance of bees (they are responsible for a third of our food, as well as chocolate, coffee and even cotton) and donating to bee causes, has added depth to our brand.
Studies show that companies with a heart perform better, have higher staff retention and enjoy higher employee and customer satisfaction levels.
Get the knowledge
I spent over a year getting to know my marke, going to entrepreneur’s classes and brushing up on skills I knew I would need, such as understanding margins and bookkeeping.
To lock down the basics, The British Library was invaluable. They are big supporters of entrepreneurs and their Business and Intellectual Property Centres are around the country. They run great classes, provide advice and mentors and access to free market research.
Don’t waste too much time on a business plan
Get a good action plan in place and a watertight executive summary of what you intend to do and a pitch deck if you are seeking investment. No one has time to read colossal business plans anymore.
Make sure you understand basic finance
Check out the local classes in your area or hit the books. Make sure you have a good bookkeeper on board to keep track of things if you aren’t comfortable in that area.
Branding messaging and design
The key element, the coat hanger as it were, of any business, is a watertight brand— everything will hang off of that so it’s crucial to get that right. Whether focusing on products or a personal brand, a lot of soul-searching should be done: what is the brand’s identity you want to put across, the personality, look, and message?
Nail down a proper brand brief. Read one of the books on the story of Innocent Smoothies for inspiration. Study successful brands in your sector and see what they do differently. Whether a product or service you’ll need a good logo and attractive branding. Find someone great at graphics and try not to spend a bomb- a lot of cash can be wasted here. Find a designer you are on the same page with.
Always ask for discounts and for something in return like an editorial mention, social media shoutout or a giveaway (ask for data).
Build a database
A friend who has headed up marketing for numerous large lifestyle brands always stresses this. It’s the best way to build a community of fans and customers. I always thought no one opens emails anymore. She said with compelling content and interesting subject lines, many will open!
Get social and collaborate
Social media is a fun and economical way to market your business and to make friends and future fans. Set up your accounts before you launch so you’ll have followers in place already.
Use it as a place to post relevant and fun content that will appeal to your target customer base. Cross-pollinating with other brands is a great way to build up followers. Get out there and network.
About the author
Sarah Orecchia is the founder of supplements brands. The brand’s Bee Prepared immune formulas and Bee Energised supplements are now sold in over 1,000 tartUK and Irish health stores and chemists including Holland and Barrett, Wholefoods Markets, Planet Organic, Revital and in health stores in Dubai, Spain, China and elsewhere. The plethora of natural remedies and supplements can be confusing and with the help of nutritionists and health experts, she decided to produce a range of targeted natural remedies combining plant-based nutrients with proven benefits.