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Why failure is an important part of your entrepreneurial journey

10th October, 2016 No Comments


No-Limits-Inspirational-Picture-Quote

The more successful entrepreneurs you speak to, the more you will begin to realise that failure is all part of the job. From Richard Branson to Steve Jobs, many of their great successes would not have been achieved if it wasn’t for previous failures.

Risky business

Being an entrepreneur is risky business; there’s no other way to put it. If you’re committed to being a successful entrepreneur you will need to take risks to both start and grow your business, with the potential of risks yielding bad outcomes.

When you have to take a risk in your business, don’t shy away from it. Learn as much as you can about all possible outcomes and make an educated move. If the risk you took doesn’t pay off, at least you know you made the most informed choice you could. You then need to move on. Get comfortable with taking risks and learn to live with your mistakes. It will make you a stronger, more confident business person in the long run.

Learning curve

As an entrepreneur, you are your own teacher. Unlike people who are employed by a business, you don’t have a structured role – your role is whatever you want it to be and your business success is a reflection of that. The decisions you make don’t have to be agreed by a board of directors or approved by management; however you can’t rely on others to pick up the slack if you’re feeling unproductive.

As a result of this, you will be forced to learn from yourself and the saying ‘try, try, try again’ will begin to ring true. If you try out a new idea, whether it’s a new product or a new marketing strategy, and it doesn’t work out, you will know what not to do next time. If you need to gain new skills to succeed, you are responsible for that too. Either outsource the weaker areas of your business, or up-skill yourself.

Be critical

You will most likely experience failure at some point during your entrepreneurial journey, but it’s important to see these failures as experiences you can learn from. Remember that yes, this is your life, but you are also building a business. Think critically and don’t let emotions get the better of you.
When you do experience failure, take a step back from the disappointment and think critically about what went wrong. Was it a problem with finances? Did you fail to train your staff adequately? Or was it something out of your control? Whatever the reason may be, spend some time finding the cause and create a plan to avoid repeating the same mistake next time.

What doesn’t kill you …

… makes you (and your business!) stronger.

While it is often easy for start-up businesses to go bust in their first few years of trading, this isn’t always the case. Luckily, every failure you experience won’t mean that you will need to start a new business from scratch, but it can result in some serious setbacks.

The way you handle your failures not only says a lot about your personal character, but of how you behave in the business world. You may be looking for investors, or working to develop partnerships, and you need to display confidence. If you’ve experienced failure and fall at the first hurdle when a new opportunity arises, you risk making people feel nervous about working with you in the future. It’s not the fact you failed that matters; it’s how you pick yourself back up and keep going. How you learn from mistakes and keep chasing success. And how you stay focused on your goals, realising that today is just the next step in your entrepreneurial journey.

Written by Amanda Orton, Marketing Executive for Business West, delivering business support in the South West.

For support to start and grow your business, contact the Start & Grow teams.

 

DKY Staff meeting

Pitching your business idea is easy.  Or is it?

9th August, 2016 1 Comment


Multi ethnic business group greets somebody with clapping and smiling

You’ve come up with a great idea for a new product or service and you need support, whether it be financial, technical, or professional partnership.  The next step is convincing the right person to give you that support.

So what do you have to do?

Finding the right audience to pitch to is the obvious first step (and there’s a few links below to help with the search), and then you have to prepare your pitch.  And prepare you must!  Your idea will be as clear as crystal in your own mind but you have to portray that idea to others with the same clarity.

Whether pitching to a friend or associate, a group of business angels, or a bank manager, and whether it be face-to-face, using a business plan, or online, there are some fundamental rules to ensure you make your pitch the best it can possibly be.

Be prepared

Make sure you have all the relevant facts and figures at your fingertips – have a print-out with you that you can refer to both at face-to-face pitches and when preparing a written or online pitch.  You should also consider producing a one or two page brief summary; use your business plan as a back up to your pitch (in some cases your business plan will form the major part of your pitch – particularly if you’re talking to a bank about finance); consider producing a PowerPoint presentation; and develop a 5-minute elevator pitch.

Investors are as interested in the entrepreneur as they are in the business idea (maybe even more so) so prepare yourself too!  Be confident in your idea and show a passion for the business.  Investors need to know that you are logical, efficient, quick-thinking, and able to see your idea through.  They also need to know who you are, so be yourself!

Practicing your elevator pitch for face-to-face meetings will bring confidence but you also need to have answers to all the potential questions that might be asked of you.  Know your product, costs, market, and processes inside out and you will not be caught out by questions you cannot answer.

‘Knowing the enemy’ will give you an advantage too.  Research the investors wherever possible and use the information to your advantage to benefit your business – do they have experience in your industry? ; have they invested in a similar business before and how successful was this? ; how much time do they have to support you and your business?  Pitching to the wrong people is both a waste of their time and yours!

Pitching your idea

Spencer Waldron, presentation expert at Prezi, suggests that the best pitches tell a story.  Consider formatting your pitch with an introduction, a middle section of ‘chapters’, and an end where the main character in the story is your proposed market / customer.

The introduction could cover what is available now and the gap in the marketplace that your product or service will fill.  The middle chapters will cover your target audience and their needs; why your product will benefit them; why they will buy from you; who might stop your business being successful and how you will counteract this.  And the end would be the growth plan for your business and your exit strategy.  It would be worthwhile adding a brief summary which highlights the 3 things you want people to remember from your pitch – choose the 3 wisely!

Ensure your content covers all the issues that your potential investors will want to know about:  customer base; your team; costs and financial forecasts; competitors; and, of course, what exactly is it you want from the investor (and, where applicable, what do they get in return).

And finally your presentation should be well designed – smart, crisp, and to the point.  And make sure your personal appearance is as polished as your presentation.  In any printed or digital material keep text to a minimum; highlight important parts with ‘bold’ / text size / text colour; discuss one point at a time (in a PowerPoint that’s one point per screen); and use photos and images wherever you can.  Finally, maintain your branding throughout your presented materials.

So, there you have it – pitching your business idea is easy, isn’t it?

Written by Davina Young, Marketing Manager at Cavendish Enterprise

 

Cavendish Enterprise partners are able to advise and support you in writing your business plan.  Our business advisors can also assist with other skills and knowledge you may need to develop your business idea.

Some useful links:

Additional tips and thoughts on ‘how to pitch your idea’ from the British Library and from James Caan of Dragon’s Den.

Once you’ve got your pitch ready, the following links may be useful:

Pitch to Peter Jones

Pitch to Angels’ Den

Pitch on BBC’s Dragon’s Den

Launch your project on a crowdfunding platform

Looking to start a food and drink business?  Pitch on 16th Sept 2016

Pitch your business in Dundee, Scotland

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Seaweed

Seaweed grows fast!

4th July, 2016 No Comments


Seaweed & Co. Ltd was established in 2015 to advise on, supply and accredit superb seaweed for the food, health and nutrition markets. In this time, the company has established a global distribution network, and world-class production that is proving its seaweeds to be the best on the market.

Harvesting seaweedOuter Hebrides

Above : The Outer Hebrides where the seaweed is grown and harvested.

Dr Craig Rose, Managing Director of Seaweed & Co, explains how the business support he has received has helped his enterprise to grow as rapidly as the seaweed it harvests.

“Establishing a business in an emerging industry presents its own very unique challenges. It takes a great deal of patience during the early months to educate and inform potential customers who don’t yet know about the potential of seaweed. At Seaweed & Co. we are not only trying to sell our own products but also work alongside other companies in our field to grow the industry as a whole.

“As a business owner this means that I had to go into the start-up phase with my eyes open. I knew there would be a significant initial outlay on equipment – such as the state-of-the-art technologies we installed – and my forecasts had to reflect the fact that we wouldn’t be selling thousands of pounds worth of produce from day one.

“With high set up costs and little awareness of such a niche industry, a new business like Seaweed & Co. requires access to both investment and proactive business support. And that was why I took the decision to approach TEDCO.”

TEDCO is the Cavendish Enterprise partner delivering business advice and support in the North East.

Dr Rose continues “I was already aware that TEDCO had a strong reputation for start-up support and when I first contacted business advisor Bill Hartshorne, he very quickly understood where we were and how we might look to meet the challenges and opportunities that we faced.

“One of the key things that I was able to get help with straight away was funding through the Virgin StartUp Loans scheme. We were delighted to be awarded the maximum possible loan of £25,000, which enabled us to get the new technologies in place. Thanks to the marketing teams at TEDCO and Virgin StartUp we were also able to generate substantial press coverage through the trade press, newspapers and even BBC news.

“As part of the Start & Grow programme, Seaweed & Co. also benefitted from the one-to-one support of a business advisor, which is ongoing for up to three years after start. With the help of Bill Hartshorne, we were able to ensure that our business plan was up-to-scratch and that we had the right plans in place to grow the business once we had funding in place.

“Less than two years later we have a truly world-class and highly unique product offering that is now being sold around the world. But our relationship with TEDCO didn’t stop after those early few months. We have continued to work closely with them and the wider Cavendish Enterprise team to promote the business and realise our ambitions.

“In June 2016 Seaweed & Co. was one of just three companies from around the country selected to talk at the House of Lords. This event, a Celebration of Enterprise, was organised by Cavendish Enterprise and sponsored by Lord Wei of Shoreditch.

“It was a huge honour to be able to speak at the highly prestigious House of Lords, to an audience of invited guests that included some big names in the business and business support world. This type of exposure is only possible through the on-going support and networking opportunities made possible through TEDCO and Cavendish Enterprise. With their help we have been able to raise the profile of seaweed, as a natural and sustainable British resource that both benefits people’s health and the health of the planet.

“In starting a business there are many uncertainties, risks, time constraints and demands on resources. It was genuinely helpful to work alongside a support agency that understood the complexities and challenges of a start-up business. From the very beginning, both TEDCO and Cavendish Enterprise have continually provided a high quality business support offering, with a genuine interest in the business and a desire to see us succeed.

“I would highly recommend any business to make contact with a business support agency, and to see where it could go. It was one of the best decisions I made when starting out.”

With thanks to Dr Craig Rose, Managing Director, Seaweed & Co for his informative insight into starting a business.

More information on Seaweed & Co., and the immense benefits of seaweed, can be found on their website.

 

 

Board Sylvia Philips - circle

Be brave and follow your dreams

7th April, 2016 No Comments


Good day to turn your life around

According to the official data from Companies House more than 600,000 businesses were launched in Britain last year, up from a record 581,000 in 2014, and bringing the five year total to 2.6 million.

For the fifth year in a row a record number of new businesses have been created in Britain proving that a new entrepreneurial age has truly dawned.
Not surprisingly London led the way with over 196,000 new ventures started in 2015, followed by Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Warrington, but everywhere is seeing a growing interest from people who are interested in exploring the opportunities to start up their own business.

Starting up a business is relatively easy. Indeed we remain one of the best countries in the world to start up, and whilst many of these business will not succeed, the focus has changed to ‘start and grow’ ensuring that new entrepreneurs have the best possible chance of surviving and realising their full potential to create jobs and secure long term investment.

In many ways Britain has entered a new entrepreneurial age. People of all ages, backgrounds and experience, are now alive to the opportunities to become their own boss, and draw on the wide range of advice and support that is available to scale up their activities.

Whilst the mainstream banks have not really changed their attitude and approach to ‘risk lending’, other new providers of capital have appeared, These sources include family and friends, challenger banks, peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding platforms, funding circles, business angels, and Government initiatives such as Start Up Loans.

Cavendish Enterprise is proud to play its part in this enterprise revolution by delivering the exciting ‘Start & Grow’ programme, which provides tailored support to new enterprises. Businesses on the programme will benefit from up to £5,000 worth of business support at a cost to themselves of just £100 +VAT.

The case studies and many success stories published on the Cavendish website demonstrate the value of accessing the support available, and capture some of the entrepreneurship that exists and is blooming everywhere. If you are seeking some inspiration you can read about how others have overcome their fears and obstacles to starting up.

I would also like to recommend a visit to the cinema to see a recently released film called ‘Joy’, which tells the true story of a housewife inventor who becomes a real hero by battling against those who did not believe in her or her business ideas but ends up becoming an American business icon.

Joy Mangano at 33 years old was a single mother with three children. She took the brave decision to invest her life savings to start a small business based on her invention of a Miracle Mop. Frustrated with the mops that she was using, Joy found her invention much more efficient and practical and wanted to show other housewives how it could transform their lives.

Despite having few qualifications and no business experience, Joy had a passionate and sincere belief in both her invention and, most importantly, in herself. In short, this is a story about true entrepreneurialism, and the difficulties many people face when trying to launch a new business. Joy overcame the odds in fighting against those who did not believe in her, and she now runs a billion dollar business designing and producing new products.

And so the moral of this story is ‘be brave and follow your dreams’ as they are within reach if you persist, work hard, and invest in yourself, which must surely be the best investment one can make in life.

Written by Sylvia Philips, CEO, BBV Limited

Board Dawn Whiteley - circle

New Year, New Start

3rd February, 2016 No Comments


choose a job you love

At this time of year, those of us working in the business of helping people to start up and run their own businesses usually expect to see a large increase in the number of enquiries! Whether it’s the fulfilment of a New Year’s resolutions, or the just the dawning of another new year being the catalyst – there’s no doubt it is the time when more prospective business starters come forward than at any other time of the year!

So if you’re thinking about starting a business, have you taken the bull by the horns yet?  And if not, why not?

More and more people are exploring the potential to become self employed than ever before.  The figures continue to increase and even following a slight drop off towards the end of last year, the numbers are on the rise again.

We now operate in an economy that is much more supportive and much more accepting of small, independent businesses, sole traders, and the self-employed, and so there has never been a better time to look at starting your own business, particularly if there is that burning desire within you to be your own boss!

But, if you are thinking about it, make sure you do it in the right way.  Take all the advice and support you can. Explore the opportunities and the challenges fully.  Don’t kid yourself it will all be easy as it certainly won’t be!  But if you’re prepared for hard work and probably a bit of stress, then there are many rewards to be had too!

There are drawbacks of course, in a good number of cases and certainly in the early days you will probably earn less than you’re used to and you certainly won’t have as many of the perks and comforts of a paid job either: holiday and sick pay, pension contributions etc.  And that’s before we start on whether you get paid on time for the work you do!

That might sound a bit negative, but actually far from it.  People working for themselves are generally happier than the run of the mill employed person – we suspect because you are in control of your career and your destiny, and you have the ability to make the choices about the work you do and when you do it and you’re prepared to compromise on some of the downsides because of the freedom and flexibility that comes with working for yourself!

Get thinking
• Do you have what it takes to run your own business; the skills, experience and contacts required to make a go of it?
• Does your family support you in your ambitions? They’ll need to if you’re going to make a go of it.
• Do you have the resources to make it a success?  That could be cash; it could be tools and equipment; it could be access to other people who’ll help you make it work.

Get advice
• There are plenty of sources of good advice so take as much of it as you can.  You don’t have to follow it all, but listen, digest and work out how it can help you move forward.
• If there are training opportunities available to you, take them – you wouldn’t become a brain surgeon without studying medicine would you?  So why then might you consider not training for what it takes to become a good business person?  Not only that but you’ll meet people there who you can learn from and even better, trade with!
• Similarly with networking, hardly anyone would say they enjoyed it, but it’s an essential part of doing business because it helps you learn how to do business better.  More importantly networking gives you access to contacts who might become suppliers, customers or other important partners in your business.

Get customers
• Customers are absolutely key to the survival and success of any business, without them there is no business – remember that! You can have the best product in the world, the cheapest, the best value, the most exclusive or the most popular.  But if no-one is buying it then you have nothing!
• Remember that people buy people and so even if your product is the one they are almost certain to buy, if you don’t come across as the person they want to buy it from you will lose the sale!
• Who are your customers?  When you’re planning your business it’s very easy to base all your decisions on what your family and friends are telling you about the product or about the service you’re offering.  Well, that’s great, but they are likely to be somewhat biased.  What about those you don’t know?  Are they as likely to buy? If not then you’ll soon run out of customers and soon run out of business! Make sure you run your idea past the widest range of potential customers before you get started to be sure you have enough to base a good business upon.
• Once you’ve got them, make sure you keep them! Many businesses put a lot of time, effort and money into attracting new customers and then deliver a poor product or service, meaning they are very unlikely to buy again.  What a waste! If you’re going to put your hard earned cash into getting a new customer, you need to do all you can to make sure they buy from you again and again and again.  The saying ‘under promise and over deliver’ was never more apt!

If you want your business to grow and take on staff there is even more help available, notably from the start up business support programme, Start & Grow.  Programmes such as this support you through the stages of setting up your business with training and advice, and some continue to support you after you start trading.  Start & Grow support continues for 3 years – just think where you could be in that time!

What are you waiting for?  Get on with it!  And good luck!

Written by Dawn Whiteley, CEO, National Enterprise Network

 

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