A nice piece over in The Telegraph appeared on International Women’s Day in March, and billed itself as tips for ‘aspiring female entrepreneurs’.
While certainly so, the advice – offered by others who’ve been there, done that – could also apply to anyone starting out on their own.
‘When you have an amazing business idea, it’s oh-so-easy to dive head first into building it’, says Pip Jamieson, Founder of The Dots. But do check out some basics first. Would people pay for this?
‘Start by asking friends, family or even people in coffee shops’, says the piece.
You could test it by crowdfunding, and do scan the competition.
‘Don’t get too disheartened if you find someone doing something similar;’ says Pip Jamieson, ‘Thomas Edison was so right when he said that genius is 1pc inspiration and 99pc perspiration. If you feel like you can execute an idea better than what’s out there, go for it!’
Then, ‘create a business plan’ – including, ‘an understanding of your market; an explanation of your USP; a detailed business model; as well as plans for execution (marketing, sales, finances and so on) and proof of concept (are people willing to pay for your product or service?)’, says The Telegraph.
Aim for ‘short, clear and concise’.
‘The most straightforward option here is to self-fund your project’, says the piece. But Taymoor Atighetchi, Founder of Papier, warns against the emotional and mental stress of that.
‘He suggests raising money from people who have savings that they’re looking to invest.’
And he himself raised finance ‘through a small group of angel investors, including his old boss’, says the piece.
‘Not everyone will buy into the idea,’ says Taymoor Atighetchi, ‘so cast your net wide; if you’re looking for four investors, contact 40 people.’
And don’t be disheartened, suggests the piece. Though raising funds can be especially hard, it’s conceded, for women. According to a Telegraph poll, ‘two-thirds of British female business owners say that they’re still not taken seriously by investors’.
‘If you’re a female entrepreneur with children or want to have them, fundraising can be a particular challenge’, says Kara Rosen, Founder of Plenish, who fundraised while seven months pregnant. ‘In some meetings, she knew just by the look on people’s faces that it was over before it began’, says the piece.
‘The raise took longer than I anticipated, but I ended up with investors that support women and backed me and my team’, she says.
‘When it comes to branding and design, your passion is what should come through, says Laura McLeod’ of 99designs.
‘In a saturated marketplace, ensure that your personality and business values are expressed across everything’, is her advice.
Make sure ‘that your logo is responsive, so that it works on any device screen’, says The Telegraph, and be bold in your typography, says, says Laura McLeod: ‘Don’t be afraid to go larger-than-life’, which is ‘in’.
Think legal before you lunge. That’s the advice of Kate Palmer of Peninsula. Patent ‘your amazing idea’.
‘This can expensive, but may save you money in the long run’, she says, and points people towards the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys.
Think about the status of your team: employees, or self-employed?
‘This a grey area, with various legal definitions, explains Ms Palmer, but getting it wrong could lead to tribunal claims against your business.’
Some find it a pain, but of course you need to be on top of all documentation, and up-to-date with business law. Failing to ‘could lead to higher costs and staff turnover, or may mean that you’re operating unlawfully’, warns Kate Palmer.
Hiring a team can seem exciting. Rachel Carrell, Founder of Koru Kids, suggests ‘first look at yourself’, says the piece.
‘The ideal first hire is someone who shares your values and commitment, but has complementary skills to you.’
She deliberately wrote job ads ‘how we speak – not in a formal or corporate tone’, she says, to attract people who would suit.
She also recommends mums as an excellent resource. ‘There are so many well educated, highly-experienced women out there who have taken a parental break and want to return to the workforce part-time.’ It may work for them, and for you.
Think about a good space well-located for you and your team, and potentially customers and suppliers. And try to get it right first time.
But watch those costs Tom Mercer, Founder of Moma, says: ‘your office will form a significant overhead going forwards’.
Co-working spaces might be one to consider.
‘They can be expensive on a per-desk basis,’ says Tom Mercer, ‘but they have a great atmosphere and lots of people to collaborate with and ask for advice.’
And finally, look after yourself, advises Pippa Murray, Founder of Pip & Nut.
‘Running a business can get really hectic’, she warns. ‘Sometimes, when projects are running at full steam, my personal health and wellness has been neglected.’
You should never feel guilty about taking a break, is the advice: it will anyway only help with ‘clarity of thought’, as Pippa Murray puts it. Which every business owner needs.
Being a founder can also be lonely, suggests the piece. So, ‘try to build a support network around you’.
‘I’ve found it particularly helpful to build my own circle of female founders, with whom I can share advice and go for breakfast or coffee, rather than formal events’, says Pippa Murray.
Lots of excellent thoughts. We do hope some help.