Starting an online business is not an easy undertaking, there are many considerations to take into account before you even get your new business off the ground. Often new businesses fail because they don’t plan adequately or neglect to consider the magnitude of the task ahead of them. Here are my top 10 tips for starting a successful online business.
After 11 years of working as a lecturer in further education, I was beginning to feel more and more like I needed a change, but just didn't know what.
What I did know, was that I wanted to work for myself in some capacity. I'd run my own business before, but took the job at the college because I wanted the benefits of maternity and sick pay.
In February of 2007, I found out that I was pregnant. It came as a complete surprise and it certainly wasn't planned. I already had two boys and had made my mind up that I didn't want any more.
As soon as I began my maternity leave, I had an overwhelming feeling that now was the time to start my own business and I just knew that I wouldn't be going back to the college.
But what would I do?
In October 2007, I gave birth to a gorgeous little boy and I became even more determined to work from home, running my own business.
Although my partner was working, he also had a small online business called www.BeingaMillionaire.com. It had been moderately successful but he'd begun to lose interest and because of this, some orders had been overlooked.
I decided to start sending the orders out while I was off work.
I should add that at the same time, we were having a very large extension built on the house and the place was crawling with builders. The only place I could sit quietly and work was our bedroom. So it was there that I would sit on the bed, laptop perched on one knee, baby bouncing on the other while I typed emails with one hand!
It didn't take long for the business to take off. It was such a great idea, all it needed was a little TLC.
I chose not to use childcare so baby had to go wherever I went - to meetings, visiting suppliers, seeing the bank manager...everywhere, and he always got a great reaction.
When the time came for me to return to work, I took the plunge, called HR and told them I wouldn't be back. I did have to pay back some of my maternity pay, but it was worth it.
Even though I was sad to leave as I had made some great friends, I've never looked back.
Two and a half years later and my little baby is now a toddler and I work during his playgroup sessions and nap times.
The business has just had it's most profitable year yet and I'm currently in the process of expanding the product range.
I know not everyone will have such a great experience as me but I wouldn't discourage anyone from taking that big step into their own business.
Andrea Daly, The Accidental Businessmum
My Count On It® labels enable busy households like mine to keep track of when food has been opened and make an informed decision of whether it should be thrown away. As a busy mother to two young boys, I was always throwing food away because I couldn’t remember when I’d opened it.
Such is the success of my business, a while ago I was invited to an event at Downing Street to celebrate the achievements of Britain’s small and medium-sized businesses – something I never thought would happen. It’s amazing – if somebody had told me two years ago that one of my ideas would be retailing through a national high street store and that I’d be invited to Downing Street because of it, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Getting the business off the ground took a combination of a tried and tested route with a helping of TV quiz show luck. Having come up with the concept I contacted Business Link for help. I then won £15,500 on Channel 4’s Deal or No Deal, which enabled me to move things forward quickly. Following research and trials of product samples, the first batch was manufactured in April 2008 and soon we were trading online (www.count-on-it.co.uk).
Lakeland and Betterware now stock my products and their popularity is growing through word of mouth, online via Twitter (@mummypreneur) and my website. I am also in talks with a distribution partner in America and have sold as far afield as Korea and Australia. Count On It® labels have received glowing endorsements from celebrity mums such as Amanda Holden and Angela Griffin, as well as green/eco advocate Janey Lee Grace.
Becoming a mumpreneur has changed my life and as an advocate for taking an idea to market should the opportunity arise, I’d encourage any mum who wants to fulfill her entrepreneurial dream to take that leap of faith. As Goethe succinctly puts it: “Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”
Lyndsey Young, Count On It
I’d often dreamed of becoming my own boss but I lacked the start up capital to take such a huge financial risk so it stayed a dream. It wasn’t until I was on maternity leave that I realised I didn’t want to leave my son with someone else while I went out to work but I resigned myself to the fact that this was how it was going to be.
Then a week before I was due back to work I was made redundant. I was devastated. I was relying on the income after months of unpaid leave and I needed to start earning money again. The recession was in full swing, there was a lack of local jobs and I still wanted to stay at home with my son.
After a while I started thinking this was my opportunity to finally start a business. By this point I’d had some success sewing toys and shoes for my baby and had managed to get a few custom orders. At first I thought this was great but I soon realised the baby shoes were too time consuming to make which meant I wouldn’t make a profit. For years I had been fully immersed in the online handmade community and while I was researching other business possibilities I realised there was a gap in the market to help others in this area. I was seeing so many creative people trying to sell their handmade goods but not having much luck purely due to the fact that they didn’t know the best way to market themselves. With my past experience working in advertising, marketing and promotions and my first class degree in Design and Management I knew I could help.
But I had no money. I knew my target market was international and because my niche was crafters I knew where to find them. I joined Etsy, a handmade marketplace for small businesses. On Etsy you list items for sale under a shop front which you can design yourself. Etsy allows you to sell non-handmade items as long as you are providing a finished item which in my case is marketing and PR plans.
Start up costs
I set up my shop on Etsy for free. I designed a banner, logo and illustrations to list my products under. Listing was 20 cents an item and I listed 4 items to start with. I actually didn’t have to pay anything upfront as the bill for these listings would be due a month later.
Marketing on a budget
Despite not having much money I was able to utilise the internet to market myself for free. I use Twitter and Facebook to interact with other entrepreneurs and forums to chat with potential customers.
I set up a free blog with marketing tips and I decided early on to feature inspirational businesses in a series called Creativity Speaks! This helped to gain readers whilst becoming a resource for creative businesses.
Within a few weeks I had my first clients. One in Canada and the other in Singapore. Due to my low overheads, almost overnight I had a profitable international business.
I now spend my days playing with Lego, finger painting, exploring in parks and collecting things for our nature table. When my son naps I catch up on emails, when he goes to bed for the night I complete marketing plans. Being made redundant was the best thing that ever happened to me. Just don’t tell my old employers that!
My top tips when starting up on a budget:
Isa Maria Seminega, Noisette Marketing