Starting a business is, in my opinion, one of the most amazing things you can ever do for yourself in life. However, as I’m learning, it’s not an easy task and requires a lot of planning and graft!
Based on my own personal experience, I’m sharing everything I have learned so far. If you’re thinking about starting your own venture or have been through the process I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Please don’t be shy!
Step 1: Your Business Idea
The first business idea I ever had was in primary 5 at school. My friend Nikki and I had the idea to sell pick n mix sweets in bespoke hand-made paper bags. We thought this was brilliant and immediately took our product to market.
After rushing production, 3 days later we had made approximately 50 paper bags which we filled with a mixture of sweets and sold to pupils at break time for 60p (with permission from the teachers of course!).
We had a pretty good run, for about a week, then a group of kids from another class decided to get involved in the action and instead of painstakingly hand-making paper bags, they simply bought normal sweetie mixture paper bags and sold sweets for 50p a bag.
Needless to say, our business model at the time was definitely flawed and we went out of business pretty quickly. Luckily it was just a bit of fun at the time, but that experience taught me many things about business that I still carry with me today.
Here’s what I learned, aged 7:
Starting a Business: The Do’s
- Offer your customers a unique product/service that isn’t being offered anywhere else.
- Ensure you stay on top of competitor activity and try to offer your customers something your competitors can’t compete with.
- Carry out market research to make sure that the product/service you are offering is something that people actually want.
- Let your passion for your product drive your success.
Starting a Business: The Don’ts
- Launch a business idea without doing market research.
- Push a product or service that isn’t viable or scalable.
- Don’t assume that your product won’t need to be tweaked to suit consumer feedback.
- Don’t rope your friends in to starting a business that won’t make them money – unless of course you’re both 7 years old and it was just for fun 😉
Step 2: Do Your Research & Plan Ahead
There’s nothing more exciting than putting all of your energy into something that you’ve made and created. However, there’s nothing worse than putting everything you have into something that hasn’t been researched, tested and proven because there may be a chance that you have to go back and readdress issues that were ignored at the start.
Here’s a quick list of some of the things you may want to do before launching your business:
- Attend the free Start-Up Business Gateway courses available at The Hub by Elevator. I would recommend, in this order, going along to: Start-Up Awareness, Start-Up Planning, Start-Up Finance, and Bookkeeping.
- If you want to register a limited company, check that your chosen name is free before you start designing your logo. Visit Companies House to check for your chosen name and for existing trademarks.
- Complete your first Business Canvas Model, and revisit it all the time. This is a living document that will help you develop and grow your business idea to ensure chance of success.
- Establish how you will fund your venture and what your projections look like. Is your idea viable and how will you build it from the initial idea phase?
Start-Up Awareness is a fantastic 3 hour introduction to kick-starting the planning process of your new venture. It is led by a business advisor and covers everything you need to consider from day 1. You’re given an insight into how to use the Business Canvas Model as a strategic management and lean start-up tool. This will help you stress-test your business idea which in turn helps you shape and develop your Business Plan.
The free course also covers all the legal stuff you need to be aware of and how your venture will be run. For example, will you register your business as a limited company? And if so, are you aware of the tax regulations and company set up for this route?
If you’re planning to run your business as a Sole Trader, do you know how this works and what you need to put in place to ensure your tax and accounts are submitted accurately and on time? Or, are you starting up a partnership? Have you considered what the terms of the partnership will be and what rules will be put in place if one or more of the partners decide to exit the business in the future?
The Start-Up Awareness course is fantastic and really opens up all of these areas for discussion to help you steer your venture in the right direction. It’s also a fantastic way to meet and network with other like-minded people.
Start-Up Business Planning
Start-Up Business Planning is the next course in the start-up series and it’s a really great dive into starting and developing the written half of your business plan. The Business Gateway course run by Elevator automatically allocates a business advisor to everyone who registers and attends the free courses. This is an amazing resource when you come to complete your first draft Business Plan. Your dedicated advisor can take a look and provide meaningful and actionable feedback to help you produce the best business plan possible!
Whether or not you’re seeking funding to start your business, writing a business plan will give you a more focused approach to your venture and will likely increase your chances of success.
Start-Up Finance is another fantastic free course available in this series. I personally found this course invaluable! It gave me the knowledge and skills I needed to run accurate projections for the services I will provide. This in turn gave me the confidence that my business is viable as well as a personal passion!
After having attended the Finance course, I can now interpret and develop my own Profit and Loss account, Cash Flow statement and my Balance Sheet.
I’ll definitely be hiring an accountant to file this for me but I’m very pleased that I can interpret my own figures and get more involved with the financial side of things. As well as this, I can now use this knowledge to complete the financial half of my Business Plan.
Bookkeeping is the next free course I would highly recommend you attend when planning your business. It gives you all the information and guidance you need to know when dealing with business transactions on a daily basis, and how to record them!
Business Gateway and Elevator run free courses and workshops literally all the time and anyone can attend, it doesn’t matter if you’re thinking about starting a venture, have already started or have been trading for a while.
Step 3: Insight Into Action
Once you’ve established the type of company you’re starting, you can go ahead and action everything you have gathered form the research and planning phase. If you aren’t seeking funding you should still write a business plan to give yourself structure moving forward.
It’s also really helpful to establish a routine that you can follow when you’re building up your business and brand. Setting out a list of your tasks and priorities is a great way to ensure you’re spending the right amount of time on each task to help you drive your venture forward and get that all important first client or customer. 😇
Step 4: Business Funding & Banking
Regardless of the type of business you’re starting, it’s advisable to open a separate business bank account. This allows you to collect customer payments and pay business purchases all from the same place.
After a bit of research, I met up with Nick Bansal from RBS to have a chat about what I need for Aberdeen Digital Marketing and what options are available to me.
At present, I’m not seeking any funding for Aberdeen Digital Marketing, but I have big plans for the agency in the future. My vision is to create opportunity for young people in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire through internships, apprenticeships and graduate jobs to help encourage more youngsters to build a career in digital marketing.
There are lots of options available from RBS to help me achieve this in the future. Back Her Business is a crowdfunding scheme aimed at supporting more female entrepreneurs to get into business in the UK. I’ll be writing more about Back Her Business in a future blog so watch this space!
For now I’m scoping out business bank accounts. RBS offer start-up bank accounts for free for the first 24 months, which is great for new businesses like mine that will be trading less than £1million per year. Other options are available, find out more here. There are also options available at all other banks.
Step 5: Networking
Once you’ve done all of the research, planning and actions, you might start feeling a little nervous and uneasy. That’s ok, it’s perfectly normal but the best advice I can give at this stage in the game is to go networking!
No matter where you’re based, there will be a multitude of opportunity to get out and meet other people who could become a future customer, client or simply a good friend!
Here’s a list of local networking opportunities in Aberdeen. Check out sites like Eventbrite for similar networking opportunities in a city near you!
- Aberdeen Business Network
- Business Network International (paid annual membership, not ideal for new start-ups but worth checking out anyway)
- Business Gateway Workshops & Events
- Aberdeen Networking Events on Eventbrite
Step 6: Self Care
If you’ve made it this far in your journey, well done! Based on my own experience, I had to include this step to keep momentum up. Self care may be a really obvious one to some people, but a lot of people still tend to overlook it.
If you’re starting your own business it’s likely the product or service you’re offering is an extension of you. To protect your business and ensure it’s positive growth you must treat yourself as valuable stock! What I mean by this is, don’t overwork yourself to the point you burn yourself out. Take small, simple steps every day to keep on top of your physical and mental health. Sometimes, just getting 5 minutes of fresh air in between tasks is all it takes.
Here’s a nice video that I often come back to every now and then to remind myself of this step!
And, that’s it! I hope this quick overview was useful and I would love to hear from anyone thinking about starting their own business or anyone who has already been through the process! Please leave comments below!
Also, check out my first blog Aberdeen Digital Marketing is here!
#AberdeenDigitalMarketing #GrowYourBusiness #MakingItHappen