Is now a good time for setting up your own business?
It’s one of the questions I’ve heard the most over the past few years. And it’s understandable, there has been a lot going on in the world, that’s for sure.
Yet many people have chosen to get creative in a crisis and to launch in lockdown - and for good reason. Where there’s change there’s opportunity, and despite all the uncertainty for business, the pandemic has led to a flurry of entrepreneurial activity, with startups springing up to solve new problems and fill gaps left by bigger businesses.
There’s never a ‘perfect time’
Research has shown that over 75% of people, at some point in their lives, want to launch their own business, yet fewer than 5% of people start. That’s a lot of people that dream of being their own boss, but for one reason or another, don’t make it a reality. Many people are waiting for the ‘perfect time’ and while the pandemic has offered up many reasons not to start, the truth is there will always be a reason to delay. At some point you’ll need to throw caution to the wind. Waiting for the perfect conditions is a sure-fire way to ensure you’ll never start.
Tim Ferriss summed it up nicely when he said “The universe doesn't conspire against you, but it doesn't go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect…just do it and correct course along the way.”
Entrepreneurs. It takes one to know one
Virgin StartUp Link opens in a new window was launched in 2013 to help founders in the UK start and scale early-stage businesses. As a not-for-profit, funded by the Branson family, we provide business advice, access to funding, mentoring, training and sometimes just a friendly shoulder to lean on.
Over the past 8 years, we’ve learnt a thing or two from the founders that we’ve supported. We’ve worked with more than 45,000 people on their entrepreneurial journey and have provided over £55m in Start Up Loan Link opens in a new window funding, to help almost 4,500 founders start up.
Here are a few hints and tips to help you set up your own successful business in 2022…
Finding the right idea
This isn’t as hard as you might think. You don’t need to come up with a ‘million dollar’ idea. Ideas alone aren’t worth a great deal – they often change and evolve over time – so don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
There are lots of ways to come up with ideas, but one of the best is to simply ask yourself “what do I wish someone would make for me?” Generating ideas this way has a number of advantages. Firstly, you’d have at least one customer, yourself, but more importantly you can trust your intuition about what to do. If you're building for other people, you have to guess what they would want, which can be much harder.
Another approach is to focus on something that fulfils a real need. If you’re struggling, spend a week jotting down problems that you encounter in day-to-day life. What doesn’t work very well? What frustrates you or is inconvenient? Once you have your list, think if there’s a solution that you would be willing to pay for. If there is, it might suggest that someone else would be willing to pay for that too.
Finally, whatever idea you land on, be sure it’s something you’re passionate about. I can’t stress this enough. Starting a business can be hard, so you want to make sure it’s something that you’re still going to have a motivation for in three years’ time.
Do Your Homework
Before you jump into starting a business, it’s important to do your homework. A business plan can provide a great structure to get your thoughts down. To see what you’re clear on and what might need more work. It’s a key step in setting you up for success.
We’ve developed our own Business Plan Template Link opens in a new window at Virgin StartUp that you might like to check out. It contains thought-provoking questions and comes with loads of useful resources too.
It’ll help you identify your target customer - who they are and what makes them tick. Knowing this, will help inform everything else, from price point to what marketing activities are likely to be effective.
It’ll also help you look at your competition – who else is out there doing something similar to you? What are they doing well? What are they not doing well? And where is the opportunity for you and your business?
It’s important to focus on the financial side of running a business too. As well as developing a cash flow forecast, we also encourage founders to create a ‘personal survival budget’. This looks at your personal income and expenses and helps establish what you’ll need to draw from your business going forward to cover your living costs.
If you’re looking for business startup help, advice or support on any of the above, you can always get in touch with the team at Virgin StartUp Link opens in a new window. That’s what we’re here for. We provide business advice, mentoring and access to Start Up Loan funding from £500 - £25,000, to help get your business up and running.
When it comes to starting a business however, you don’t need to spend a fortune. It has never been easier to build a business from your bedroom, develop a brand and put it out into the world, than it is today. Lots of the best tools are available online and are free to use - here are a few of my favourites:
- For a beautiful website there’s Squarespace Link opens in a new window or for a simpler landing page, Strikingly Link opens in a new window
- Wanting to sell online? Shopify Link opens in a new window provide some of the best ecommerce solutions out there. Or if you’re thinking of taking a physical store online, try Weebly Link opens in a new window which is great for ‘clicks & mortar’ businesses. You could always skip out on the website completely and sell through your favourite social media platform like Instagram Shopping Link opens in a new window
- Building an app or software solution used to require specialist developers. Not anymore, thanks to NoCode tools like Bubble Link opens in a new window
- How about using Mailchimp Link opens in a new window to build out a newsletter to engage with your audience? Services like Substack Link opens in a new window even let you monetise your subscribers
- And for data, Typeform Link opens in a new window helps you build beautiful forms to capture it - from sign ups, surveys, feedback and more. And whilst CRM systems were previously the reserve of big businesses, anyone can now create one for free thanks to platforms like Airtable Link opens in a new window
- Virgin Money even have their own tool that lets you track your key business apps in one place. Whether you want to check your inventory via Shopify, check your Instagram stats or see how your Mailchimp campaigns are performing, you can do all of that in M-Track Link opens in a new window – an insights dashboard from Virgin Money. It also comes with forecasting tool Fluidly – and best of all, it’s free with M Account for Business Link opens in a new window.
Have a play and see what you can create.
Build a ‘Better’ Business
The drive towards more conscientious business has never been stronger. We know the world is changing, and that fundamentally, businesses need to change with it. Consumers are looking for more purposeful and sustainable brands to engage with, and startups are at the forefront of this movement.
Simon Sinek famously said, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. And it’s so true. So, stand for something. Build a business that combines purpose with profit. And share why you’re doing what you’re doing with your customers, followers and users.
If you’re looking to create a business that operates in a sustainable way, then you could try out the Virgin Money Sustainable Business Coach app Link opens in a new window. The app helps you understand more about the environmental and social impact of your business activities, identify high priority goals and measure your progress against your sustainability targets and much more.
It’s the businesses that do, that will not only survive but thrive in the future.
Find the Right Support
While you might start a business on your own – you don’t need to go on the journey alone. It’s important to have the right support around you.
A mentor can be a great start. While feedback from family and friends can be helpful, there’s no substitute for the advice of an experienced mentor who doesn’t have a vested interest in your business, but simply wants to help. At Virgin StartUp we have over 600 mentors who work 1-1 with our founders to help them on their business journey.
Connect with fellow founders too, they can be another great source of business startup tips, advice, guidance and general support. See what business communities are local to you. Look online as well – so much more is virtual nowadays and it’s much easier to connect with fellow founders wherever in the world they’re based. At Virgin StartUp we run a free, monthly MeetUp event Link opens in a new window, giving people the opportunity to hear from a diverse range of voices in the startup space, while meeting and connecting with fellow founders too.
Also, choosing the right Business current account Link opens in a new window is vital too. Virgin Money offers a range of current accounts that are designed specifically to suit all different business sizes, types and needs. They come with a nifty Business banking app Link opens in a new window that’s packed full of clever tools to help you budget, save time and manage your business current account on the go, without the hassle.
Plus, all Virgin Money M Account for Business Link opens in a new window customers can take advantage of the free M-Track dashboard Link opens in a new window. It lets you take control of your business by bringing all your favourite business tools into one easy-to-use dashboard. From accounts and HR, to e-commerce and social media, M-Track even lets you forecast ahead as your business grows.
The best startups of today are the big businesses of tomorrow
Every business starts somewhere, but with the right motivation and hard work, you can take it anywhere. Here are three of my favourite Virgin StartUp supported businesses for inspiration:
- Oddbox Link opens in a new window – Order fresh fruit and veg, that would otherwise have gone to waste, direct from the farm. As a proud B Corp, Oddbox are helping people to eat well and do good.
- Freestar Link opens in a new window - As well as being an award-winning non-alcoholic beer, Freestar is one of the world’s most sustainable beer brands and another B Corp. Having experimented with over 400 recipes, they pioneered a new way of blending beer, rather than brewing it. In doing so, Freestar emits 90% less CO2, uses 80% less water, 80% less energy and creates 70% less waste than typical beers.
- MOUS Link opens in a new window – what started as a single phone case, capable of holding your wired headphones, has grown into a range of innovative tech accessories. With over 1 million customers in 150 countries.
- [Insert Your Business Here]
How would you have liked to have seen your business on that list? Plenty of people have ambitions to start a business, but few turn them into anything. Make 2022 the year that you do – there has never been a better time.
Virgin Money Business customers get a 50% discount on Virgin StartUp events Link opens in a new window – from masterclasses to help you run a business to ScaleUp for those looking to expand.
Not with us yet? Find out what other perks come with having a Virgin Money Business Current Account.
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