A recent feature in The Guardian ran with the headline: ‘Graduates warned of record 70 applicants for every job’ The next line went: ‘Class of 2010 told to consider flipping burgers or shelf stacking to build skills’ Was I the only one thinking flipping burgers and shelf stacking is a flippin’ great way to earn part time income whilst building a business? For all graduates considering self-employment, here are five tips along with stories of those who’ve been there and done it.
If you’re an undergraduate and looking at the job market with dread, start taking small steps now to earning an income. Is your degree in languages? Become a private tutor via sites like First Tutors or sell your skills to business through the likes of Lingo 24 and Language123.com. Are you good at making things? Make a few more and upload to sites such as Folksy.com and MyEhive.com so you can sell to a wider audience. Kane Towning started on the path to self-employment whilst at Leeds University and as soon as he graduated, became full time director of AIM Clubbing; an events company set up with two fellow students and friends.
There is plenty of help on offer whilst you’re studying – and still when you leave. Whilst studying, check to see if your College or Uni hosts an enterprise society; NACUE is a good source for this. Make the most of events, competitions and Awards hosted by National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship and Shell LiveWIRE and why not take on work experience with entrepreneurial upstarts so you can learn on the job via sites including Enternships and Gumtree.
Does starting a business seem a bit too daunting when you haven’t even left learning? Then pool your talent, join with friends and start that way. This is what the three amigos Oliver Sidwell, Ali Lindsay and Chris Wickson did when they came up with the idea for RateMyPlacement whilst studying at Loughborough University. After graduating, they all secured jobs and worked collectively on the business at nights and weekends. That was three years ago and the company is now a startling success.
To be sure of a wide market for your products and services, go global from the start. Technology enables you to do this with sites such as Odesk and elance.com allowing you to be found by customers around the world if you’re selling time and knowledge and having your own website (with good search engine optimisation) increases your chances of picking up overseas trade. In business, the world truly is your oyster and think of all the places you’ll get to travel to meet clients, and taste local culture!
I hear from many students who are running a business and getting much-needed help from parents whether it be rent-free accommodation or having a bookkeeper/mentor/telephone receptionist on tap who won’t expect a salary in return! Arthur Guy started a star solutions when he was 17, after working at an electronics store. He’s now completing a PhD at Sussex University so his Mum takes care of the day to day running of the business. Thanks, Mum!
Even if you don’t turn your business into a full time venture, the experience of being your own boss and showing you have the attitude and skills to make a living will look good on your CV and set you apart from those other 69 applicants.
We’ve recently launched new interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com to help start-ups learn from the experiences of others. Arguably, there’s no better way to learn.
Through an energy-packed mixture of video, Twitter feeds and blogs that feature on the new Big Brother-style business website, we chart the trials and tribulations of three start-up businesses, as their owners share their experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – in real time.
The three businesses featured are a record label, a bespoke tailoring company and a Mexican food range. Each are finding their way through the start-up maze and sharing their experiences along the way. From naming their business through to frustrating first meetings with banks, the businesses lay themselves open for others to watch and follow online.
The In a Fishbowl project was founded by entrepreneur Toby Reid and is being supported by Midlands-based entrepreneur Andrew Springhall, who says: “So many people go through the process of starting a business – it’s a truly daunting experience. There’s a wealth of information available, but nothing that really provides the chance to learn from the experiences of others in the way www.inafishbowl.com does.
“The aim was to show empathy with the challenges new entrepreneurs face, but also to inspire them and enable them to learn and benefit from an interactive source of support for any budding entrepreneur.”
Taking inspiration from her native land, Marcela Flores Newburn owns and manages Rico Mexican Kitchen. The new business produces a range of authentic, home-cooked Mexican food products that are sold through stores in the UK. Mother-of-two Marcela makes all of the products by hand.
“I’m really excited to be featured on inafishbowl,” she admits. “It’s a great idea and I really hope it will help other new entrepreneurs in the early stages of starting their business.” On the site, Marcela discusses everything from dealing with buyers and distributors at department stores to the reality of running a home-based business.
You can also follow www.inafishbowl.com on Twitter for latest snippets from all three of our entrepreneurs, while Marcela’s posts have been chosen to feature regularly on the Start Up Donut blog, too, so watch this space.
The amount of free resources available to entrepreneurs is truly remarkable when compared to the business world of the 90s. The growing popularity of web apps – and in particular free web apps – is allowing small business owners to benefit from tools and technology which used to come with a hefty price tag. Some of the most useful web apps available today are those concerning search and networking. Regardless of your industry, finding quality leads or prospects is one of the most important elements in growing your business.
In this video, we’ve searched the internet for the top web apps around. These six businesses tell us how they’ve used web applications and online networking to get in touch with the right type of prospect for their business.
There was much to be inspired by at the 2009 National everywoman Conference last Wednesday, but the thing that jolted most of us into unprecedented awe was an animated speech from Allegra McEvedy MBE, founder of healthy fast-food restaurant chain Leon.
McEvedy, instantly deriding the term ‘celebrity chef’, launched into a condensed story of her life, endearing us with her account of a somewhat rebellious and directionless youth marred by the death of her mother, which she spoke of frankly and without self-pity. This was followed by some time gaining experience in the restaurant industry, a stint in the United States, and some botched attempts at setting up a successful business, before finally finding success, fame and, most importantly, happiness, in the much-lauded Leon.
What we like about Allegra is her ‘real-ness’, despite the professional success, despite the MBE, and despite the Observer Food Monthly Award that she was afforded just months after opening Leon. She is warm, funny, full of life, and doesn’t seem to see herself as anything special. To most of the delegates, though, keen to make a success of their own businesses, she is pretty darn special and has an awful lot to teach them.
McEvedy reminds us that it is fine to be human and to make mistakes, in both our personal and professional lives, and that our achievements will be better for it. Openly and with humour, she puts forward the view that a successful entrepreneur is someone who has trialled and erred, and picked herself or himself back up again when things have truly hit rock bottom. Although no longer strictly an entrepreneur herself — McEvedy gave up her role in early 2009 to focus on writing and media work — she was keen to pass on her pearls of wisdom to the entrepreneurs in front of her.
Leaving the stage to a tumultuous round of applause, McEvedy left us with these top business tips to consider:
Do you agree with these tips? What would your top tips for start-ups be?
In a world of increasing complexity and one with growing demands on our time, it can be challenging to create a business plan. In recent years, however, there has been a growing trend in the production of 'simple business plans'.
What is a simple business plan?
A simple business plan is a business plan typically produced by start-ups. You write your business plan as normal but you reduce the breadth of content in certain sections of your business plan.
Why would I write a simple business plan?
Simple business plans are appropriate when there are a lot of unknowns or when you are simply at the idea creation stage. At this point you do not want to invest significant time and resources in a full blown business plan, but are looking to produce a business plan that will enable you to forward it to interested parties for further consideration. Once you have received feedback you can then proceed with a full blown business plan.
What does a simple business plan contain?
The simple business plan contains much of the same content of a standard business plan but certain sections can be put on hold at this point e.g. cash flow statement, balance sheet etc. Sections can be skipped and a greater emphasis can be placed on the idea, the market opportunity, the likely demand, the routes to market etc
What is the point of a simple business plan?
One frequent problem entrepreneurs have is that they can keep ideas ‘in their head‘ rather than commit them to paper (or to a PC). However, ideas are practically worthless when they relate to a product or service in isolation (or without providing a market and commercial context). By producing a simple business plan, the entrepreneur is taking the next step towards their idea reaching fruition. A simple business plan will ensure that there is a holistic view of the business opportunity and an assessment of whether it is commercially viable or not.
How do I create a simple business plan?
Business Plan Pro has the option of a simple business plan built -in. By selecting the option within Business Plan Pro, the number of tasks you need to undertake is reduced from the number needed to produce a standard business plan.