Stepping into the unknown is exciting, but it can also be intimidating. If you are in the process of starting a new business, you will no doubt appreciate a few words of wisdom from women who have already successfully founded their own businesses – which I have found on the website www.startups.co.uk.
You may already be familiar with Melody Hossaini and Claire Young, both having featured on the television programme The Apprentice. Hossaini founded InspirEngage International at the age of 24 (which provides young people with skills to help them set up their own enterprises); and Young founded the businesses School Speakers (which provides motivational speakers for schools) and Girls Out Loud (which aims to raise the aspirations of 13 to 18 year old girls). Julie Meyer’s business is Ariadne Capital (an investment and advisory firm), and is an investor on the online version of Dragon’s Den.
Melody Hossaini emphasises that at the outset, any budding entrepreneur needs to have a clear idea of what outcome they wish to achieve, and the motivating power of passion and confidence.
More specifically Julie Meyer advises seeking advice from people who are already in the market you are trying to break into. She states, “You need to risk sharing your idea in order to get feedback on it. Some entrepreneurs work in isolation either through fear, competitiveness or because they don’t have a network to discuss it with, but you need input to build a better concept.”
Once you have decided on what you wish to achieve, you will of course need to set up a business plan. Meyer recommends, “A good business plan should allow you to point to fixed costs, variable costs and forecasts for the next 12 months, which you should monitor on a month-by-month basis to see if you’re on track with them. If you’re wildly off base with your forecasts then you’ll know something’s wrong with the thought process. There are really three different business plans you should have prepared. The best case scenario, the worst case scenario and the one in the middle which you roll with. If a bank manager asks you what the biggest thing that could go wrong with your business is and you stare back blankly, that’s an instant giveaway you haven’t stress tested your plan. It doesn’t need to be bulletproof. You just need to think about what could go wrong and how you’ll mitigate against that risk.”
More advice comes from Claire Young, who stresses, “Work as a team. Listen with two big ears. You need strong leadership. Have a clear strategy, know your tasks along the way, and don’t be blinkered. Always see the opportunities even when things go wrong. Be proactive and don’t wait for things to fall in your lap.”