By Christie Day
If you are considering starting your own business but struggling to get your idea off the ground you are certainly not alone. Even the most motivated entrepreneurs find the early days a challenge and it’s no secret that more than half of new companies fail within the first 18 months. So whether it’s a lifelong ambition or a recent lightbulb moment, deciding to go it alone takes guts, determination and an immense amount of planning.
Out of all the businesses in the UK, more than 99% of them are SMEs and 96% have fewer than 10 employees, according to the latest House of Commons library report. Figures suggest that, while there are failures, there are also many success stories. Female business owners are in the minority, as around a fifth of SME employers are women. While women are significantly under-represented in the current statistics, it would be fascinating if we could measure how many females are considering turning to entrepreneurship.
The figure would undoubtedly be high due to the numerous benefits for women who do step on to the self-employed career path. From escaping the glass ceiling of a corporate set up to achieving a better work/home life balance or simply to fulfill your true career potential. For Mums, flexibility is one of the biggest attractions, with the ability to satisfy working ambitions and fit it around family commitments.
The burning question is, how do you get started? If you are interested in setting up your own company but are not sure what type of business you want to start or how you go about it, we have put together some top tips to help you reach a measured decision:
Assess your strengths
You might feel you have what it takes to run a successful business but are unsure of the exact nature of the company. If that’s the case, it’s time to do some honest soul-searching. Go back to basics and find answers to the obvious questions. What are you good at? Is there a new sector/skill you would like to master? What do you want or need to get out of the business? The latter is an important determiner. If the main motivation is to have a second income or spend more time with family the business idea might look very different from one based on financial independence and rapid growth.
Do your research
It doesn’t matter if you’re a budding entrepreneur with either a vague concept or a strong idea, research is absolutely critical during the early stages. Start online to gauge your potential markets, assess the feasibility and check out valid competitors. Networking via local business groups is a good way to evaluate an idea, as well as attending relevant business events for practical advice and guidance. Our forthcoming Women in Business Expo offers an invaluable opportunity for all women looking for inspiration on their start-up journey. Whatever stage you are at in the process, the event can help you learn, network and explore your ideas. You can also meet key contacts, from service providers to franchisors and finance companies to support you in your business decision.
Devise a Plan
Every potential business needs a proper business plan to help you set financial goals, assess your value proposition and map out the practicalities to help you succeed. There are some fantastic online resources that offer free templates and advice you get you started. So once you have a firm idea, you need to draft a plan to determine what you can achieve and how you will achieve it for the first year of trading. Having this on paper will help to set some concrete targets and establish metrics by which you can measure success. You will also need a clear business plan for any finance applications – from opening a business account to applying for loans.
Markets and Marketing
It may sound obvious but before you hang out the ‘open’ sign you need to truly know your market. All too often, small business owners think they know what their customers want without actually delving further into the potential market. Not many start-ups have the funds available for a dedicated market research company, however, you can easily find out lots of valuable information looking at views and opinions on social media or even competitors’ sites.
How you will market the business should also be a key consideration during the early stages. The trick here is to go for quality over quantity. Research one or two marketing platforms that will be the most beneficial for your particular business and plan how best to use them. Target those platforms where you think your customers might look for your product or service.
There is no foolproof way of starting your own business and many entrepreneurs say it is often a learn-as-you-go process. However once you’ve established a strong idea, the more planning, research and decision-making you take early on, the better chance your company will have for success. The Women in Business Expo, which takes place 16-17 October in Farnborough, will provide an essential resource for all budding entrepreneurs. The ‘free to attend’ seminar theatre will cover a range of informative topics with sessions on everything from investment and crowdfunding to CRM software and social media marketing. The perfect platform to help you thrive in the world of new business.