Connect with us

Start-up Advice

5 Vital Start-Up Basics

Richard Branson on the vital basics of starting a business.

Richard Branson

Published

on

Basics-for-starting-a-business_start-up-advice_Starting-a-business

I’m a high school student. I’ve been selling key rings and other collectibles on eBay for over a year. I’ve found that I love doing business, and would like to continue this in the future – I’d like to own a company myself. I would like to expand my business to selling clothing and other items, but a large amount of homework and a lack of money is holding me back. What do you think I should do? – Felix Yim, Australia

Felix, I really admire your enterprising instincts and ambition to expand your business. Running this start-up will allow you to learn a lot about entrepreneurship, and with limited financial risk.

You’ve made some great choices so far. Your business does not involve growing or manufacturing a product, and the only office you need is likely your room at home. Through eBay you can distribute your goods to markets far and wide, reaching customers instantly and without a marketing budget. These are all tremendous pluses for any business, and especially for a young person without much access to funds.

The importance of education

Given the fact that you’re considering expansion, it sounds like your enterprise is doing well, which brings me to your question about homework: I left school at 16 to run Student magazine, because I felt that I could not do well at both.

Also, my dyslexia made schoolwork quite frustrating, and I wanted to focus on something I could do well. On the other hand, many people who become successful entrepreneurs complete high school and obtain university degrees.

When you and your family are discussing your options, remember that learning the ins and outs of running a business will be helpful to you throughout your career.

I was around your age when I started up two ventures with a friend: growing and selling Christmas trees and then breeding and selling parakeets.

They both failed: We hadn’t realised that we had to protect our saplings from rabbits, which feasted on our tiny forest, and keeping large numbers of birds proved to be much more difficult and noisy than we had expected.

This taught me to assess the risks associated with a business and to make sure that I had the resources and manpower to keep a venture going – lessons that I have applied throughout my career.

However you decide to balance homework and business, here are a few basic steps you can follow to boost your enterprise:

1. The ABCs of raising capital

You indicated that you need money to acquire more products to sell. It can be very difficult for young people to obtain access to loans, but on the other hand, it’s unlikely that you need to pay for living expenses right now, so any money you obtain can go a long way.

When I was starting out, I raised the cash we needed for seedlings and birds by doing things like delivering newspapers, washing cars and mowing lawns.

Could you earn the money to buy your stock? If this is a good option, try asking your parents, neighbours or the owners of local shops if they are looking for extra help.

2. It’s all in the name

Have you come up with a good name for your store on eBay? A catchy name will help people to remember who you are and what you sell, and make it easier to find on search engines. Then put that name on every receipt and marketing item – remind customers of it at every opportunity.

3. Hunt for treasure

One of the best ways to keep customers coming back is to sell unique products that they won’t be able to find anywhere else. At Virgin Records, we prided ourselves on offering customers hard-to-find albums – we stocked live recordings of concerts and many foreign imports.

In your line of business, you might search for collectibles at flea markets, garage sales and charity shops.

4. Stand out from the crowd

It would be good for business if you can find a way to make your store stand out from the others, especially on a site as popular as eBay. Providing great service is a good start, but your customers may need to know more about your ability to find and curate collectibles.

We always looked for stunts or stories to make our businesses noteworthy. Is there something you could do to make news in the community of collectors?

5. Keep in touch

Once you have customers, make sure you keep them coming back. Send them news about new products, special offers and other developments in their areas of interest.

If you look after your customers, they are more likely to buy from you again and to recommend your business to their friends – and a recommendation is far more valuable and cost effective than an ad.

Good luck! No matter what field you go into, remember the basics of success: Keep enjoying what you do and do what you enjoy.

[box style=”grey map rounded shadow”]

How to Do What You Love for a Living.

[/box]

How do you think Felix could better juggle schoolwork and his business venture?

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He is the author of "Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur."

Advertisement
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Start-up Advice

Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk

Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…

Chris Ogden

Published

on

risk-management-rain-boots

You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.

Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.

It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.

There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…

Step 01: Do your research

No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.

Step 02: Understand the costs

Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.

A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.

Step 03: Know when to walk away

As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.

You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.

Continue Reading

Start-up Advice

Mind The Gap

The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.

Chris Ogden

Published

on

entrepreneurship-gap

Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.

Here are five…

1. Network

It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.

2. Look for pain

Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.

Be the Panado that fixes these pains.

3. Luck

luck

This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.

4. Luck needs courage

You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.

Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.

5. Pay attention

This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.

Continue Reading

Start-up Advice

5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.

Catherine Black

Published

on

small-business-start-up

Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.

Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:

1. This too shall pass

Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.

2. Appreciate what this phase brings

The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.

3. Establish boundaries

Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.

4. Take a break

Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.

5. Give it space to make mistakes

While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.

During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.

While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

SPOTLIGHT

Advertisement

Recent Posts

Follow Us

Entrepreneur-Newsletters
*
We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.
Advertisement

Trending