Monday, 15 July 2013

Guest Post: A Young Entrepeneur Guide

These tough economic times are affecting a lot of us; some have lost their jobs, some are struggling to get onto the employment ladder and others are just finding the pressures of the workplace just too much. Sometimes, it may seem like the only option is to go it alone and start up your own business. Yes, there are a lot things to consider and it may seem incredibly scary, but, as many people around the country are proving, it can be done with lots of hardwork and dedication. Matthew Greenacre, a young entrepeneur, who set up his business just three months ago, has shared advice to those thinking about setting up a business.

Starting Up A Business - A Young Entrepeneur Guide by Matthew Greenacre

Matthew (second from left) with his Sugar Rush team and regulars. Image sourced from Facebook.
A collection of some of Sugar Rush's products. Image sourced from Facebook.

Unemployment rates in the UK have jumped to 2.5 million (in April) according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with the most common age group out of work being 18 to 24 year olds. Is this because of the lack of jobs available? Is it because the youth of today may be deemed 'lazy' or is it because there are few willing to start their businesses, leading to self employment?

At the age of 24, I own an American/International sweet shop named Sugar Rush Sweet Shop located in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. I sell a wide range of sweets, chocolate bars, snacks and sodas from around the world – specialising in importing American and hard to find treats. I have been trading for over three months now, quickly expanding my range of stock, gaining a lot of support from regular customers and have had a lot of positive feedback. Equally, some people have been unsupportive, others do not understand the hard work and struggle to stock such niche products and keep them at competitive prices but overall, I have had more positives.

It all starts with an idea. You need to have something in your mind of what you want to your business to be or what you want to achieve. I first started working on Sugar Rush in February of 2013 after managing a very busy American sweet shop in the centre of Sheffield. I started trading in mid April – but a lot of work and ideas went into it before I opened.

Research


The first piece of advice I can give anyone wanting to start their own business is to do lots of research! Think long and hard about your business idea and research not only at finding the best supplier or locating somewhere to trade but to research into products, other local businesses in the area that do something similar. It helped me to not only look on the internet but to physically go out and visit other sweet shops in the area – I looked at all competitors, including giant companies such as Tesco. Even now, I constantly check other businesses and websites, for pricing, product ranges and look at suppliers who have the best service or prices/promotions available. It pays to research constantly!

Speak to business enterprise agencies such as eFactor  (http://www.e-factor.co.uk/) who can help give you an idea where to start with your business – they are very friendly, helpful and will show you the right path of where to start your business venture. They can help point you in the right direction of funding schemes, or even help you prepare for business meetings with banks.

Funding


Funding is a major concern for most when starting their own business. I didn’t have much savings, banks refused loans and I had no idea how I would get the money to launch my store. I tried something different called Crowd Funding – a way for family, friends and the general public to donate money for your business or cause through a website. Unfortunately it didn’t actually work for me, but there have been a lot of success stories on Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

I eventually gained funding by borrowing from very generous friends and family members as well as investing the little money I had saved. I need to state that doing your research and calculations is one of the most important factors in starting up. If you have a good idea of just how much funding you will need – triple it. There are so many different issues and costs you can run into whilst starting up – something I was very naive about, admittedly.

Use Social Media


Next, the most valuable tool I suggest to get your business up and running is to use social media. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have a very powerful way of connecting you to customers directly. I started a business page for Sugar Rush Sweet Shop on Facebook – running competitions to get people to 'like' and 'share' the page with friends. Starting with 0 likes, I now have 637 likes to date – I use it to inform customers of new products as well as basic information like opening times and it’s a good way for customers to get in touch. I would say around 60% of my customers come in because of the work I do on the Facebook group. I still run competitions and giveaways to gain more interest – building my customer base and support.

Location


Finding the best premises for your business is a very important factor to consider when starting a business. Even if you just need offices or space to run your business – where you are located can have a huge effect on sales. My store is located in Cleethorpes and so is busier during the summer season, but I hope to move into a busier area in time for winter. Check the best premises or spaces available and even try considering setting up further afield if there isn’t any where suitable. Location is a vital component in making your business a success.

Invaluable Support


You should try and call in as many favours as you can – getting family and friends to support you is like a building a strong trampoline to help you jump start. I knew I needed help in terms of decorating my store and also to help gain sales by asking family and friends for help. They helped with funding, to help me decorate my store and also helped with the Facebook group, to gain more likes. They are like your business partners – and can really be useful for advice or someone to talk to about ideas and where to go.

Network


Speaking to local business owners or even general public is a good way to grasp the need for your business – and to gage what you need to do. Business forums online are also a good way to speak to business owners who may already be up and running and can give you some valuable tips or advice to help you get started. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to recycle other people’s ideas – it’s how you turn those ideas into something rewarding that is the real challenge.

Local business events or opportunities to network with local businesses is a good way to gain contacts and help see how others have succeeded in what they do. It’s my belief that making friends with other business owners, even if their business is the same as yours, is the way to succeed – rather than focusing on negatives and be unwilling to work with others. There is enough business for us all. I work closely with another American sweet shop in Scunthorpe – I help stock products they are unable to buy in and vice versa. It pays to be friendly.

Have Faith


My ultimate advice is to believe in yourself and your business idea and I guarantee you will succeed. A lot of people told me, my idea wouldn’t work or I was foolish to even consider doing what I now do – but I persevered. I had setbacks just as anyone will encounter – but you need to rise above all the negatives and be positive about what you plan to do. Listen to as much advice as you can – but make up your own mind as to what you take from it.

Once you are up and running...


... continue to research – look at avenues where you can expand or to how you can keep costs to a minimum. I am still looking at ways to improve – in terms of service, to gain more sales and even how I can reward my customers.

Starting my own business has to be one of the most difficult, yet rewarding experiences I have ever had – I feel, in such a short space of time I have come a long way in terms of how I conduct business, how I treat my customers and what I have learnt in my three months of trading. I have been very lucky to have a lot of success – I have nearly finished designing a website, I plan to open another store in Grimsby and have very friendly regular customers, the best family and friends who I can’t thank enough for their support.
There are so many lucrative and rewarding opportunities in business, it’s how you conduct and apply yourself, if you wish to be a success.

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