COULD YOU BE AN ENTREPRENEUR?
More and more women are launching their own businesses in mid-life. What does it take to be a success? And could you hack it?
There is no age barrier to starting a business. In fact a bit of maturity means more resilience and life experience to inject into a new venture. If you’re bored or frustrated or looking for a change, becoming your own boss might be the perfect way to do something you really care about, rather than something you feel have to do.
Over-50s who set up their own businesses account for one in six new businesses started in the UK. And while women have tended to lag behind men in business creation, increasing numbers of women in midlife and beyond are deciding to give it a go. Research suggests that people who start businesses in mid-life tend to have a 70 per cent chance of making it through the first five years.
But we can sometimes be held back by lack confidence in our own ability to start a business and this creates a mental barrier. A fear of the unknown sets in, along with concerns about the risk involved. But with the right advice, support and a well-researched idea, starting a business can be much easier than you think.
You may have a hobby you can turn into a business. Or your passion may lie in an aspect of your current expertise – or a totally different industry – so bite the bullet and get trained up! The beauty of the internet means that with the touch of a button we can get information on pretty much any industry, anywhere. If you need inspiration and ideas spend some time with a career coach to explore your options.
Here are the most important points to work through when starting a business, step-by-step.
Ensure the idea is viable. This means properly researching the idea and taking time to understand the market you want to enter. Don’t rely on family and friends for opinions and advice. They will tell you your idea is marvellous, and it may well be, but ensuring you do some independent market research is vital. Consider: Does your business solve a problem? Are you selling something which is a necessity or a luxury? Make sure the market isn’t too niche. There must be enough people or companies who will buy what you do to ensure you can make money.
Think of a name. This is often the hardest thing to do! Firstly, make sure the name is easy to spell and memorable. A name usually works well if it means something in your chosen industry, but this isn’t essential. Make sure no one else is using the name, checking with and Companies House. Check you can purchase the domain name for the website. Then once you have decided, register your trademark and company name so no one else can have it.
Know your numbers. From the beginning make sure you have properly costed out your start-up costs. Make sure you know everything you will need and what it will cost and then add a contingency fund. The next step is to work out how much you will charge for your goods or services and how much your ongoing costs will be. This way you can begin to see if this is a business that will earn you a proper income. Consider how you will cover your living costs while building the business.
Write a business plan. Once you have completed the first three steps, start writing a business plan. Many people think this is just for people who want to arrange finance – wrong! This step is vital for anyone starting a business and it’s an ongoing document. It’s your blueprint for your business idea and is the plan that will help you bring the business together to get it trading. Get free information here on business plans.
“Many local councils have a Business Development department which supports start-ups.”
Get advice. Every area has a local enterprise agency, and often you can get a number of hours of business advice for free. Google to see what is available in your area. Many local councils also have a Business Development department which supports start-ups. By sharing your business plan with them, they can review where you are and what help you need. Some areas also have business incubation services. These are there to support start-up businesses and often offer greatly reduced office or unit rentals for a fixed period to help you get started.
Go Networking. This is a fantastic way to meet with other entrepreneurs in your area or in your industry. Talking to people who have already been on the journey really helps. Gaining support early on will help you to solidify your business plan and also help you to promote your business in the area, finding links to potential new customers. Again, go to Google and check what is in your area.
Write a marketing plan. Spend some time on this. Include your market research and competitor analysis. Spend time thinking about who your target market is. Age, gender, job types and income are all relevant in building up that picture. If you know who you are targeting, your marketing will be more effective. Then consider what channels you will use. Top of the list is a website, then you will need to think about where your target market is most likely to find you. It will depend on your business which marketing channels you will use, so don’t restrict yourself to Facebook! Getting help from a marketing expert can also save you lots of time and money.
Create a good brand. Spending time and money in the early stages on having a great logo designed and considering the look and feel of your brand could earn you customers straight away. Working with a branding consultant can be a great investment, making your brand attractive to your target customers.
“Make sure the website truly represents your brand, the copy is clear, it’s easy to navigate and well optimised for search engines.”
Create a website. Having the right website for you and your customers is so important for any business, so don’t cut corners by trying to do it yourself unless you have expertise in this area. Make sure the website truly represents your brand, the copy is clear, it’s easy to navigate and well optimised for search engines. These help your business get found by people who are searching for what you do in the area you are trading. If you also need to make changes and updates to your site on a regular basis, ensure you know how to do this yourself rather than incurring the expense of getting the website company to it. If you are planning to sell online do some usability testing and make sure the purchase journey is smooth and seamless. Many businesses fail because too many customers abandon their carts and don’t complete the sale because of complex issues on their website.
Build processes. The earlier you do this the better. Have processes for everything in your business. This way you will not get lost under a mountain of paperwork or end up with undelivered orders. Also, when you come to employing staff or outsourcing this can make the transition much easier. Use an online accounting system such as Xero, a task manager system such as Asana and a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system such as Capsule. This will all help you to manage processes and client relationships early on.
At first glance this list may seem a little overwhelming. The important thing is to break down all the activities you need to do into chunks to stop you feel overloaded. Make a timeline of tasks and give yourself time limits.
The most important thing is to congratulate yourself on every single achievement and celebrate each success – every day, every week and every month. From the business idea to the logo, to the website launch to that very first customer – it’s important that you get that sense of progress.
Working for yourself is life changing, challenging and really satisfying. It puts you in charge of your destiny and can give you the freedom to be creative with your ideas and time in ways a job can never do. It’s not for everyone – but maybe it’s perfect for you.
Words: Debbie Gilbert, author of ‘The Successful Mumpreneur’ a complete guide to starting and running a business around your family. Available from Amazon and all online book stores.