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How to turn your idea into a successful business

Ready to take the first steps to starting a business? Isabel Oswell from the British Library’s Business & IP Centre offers some helpful pointers

Ever had a lightbulb moment for a new business? It can happen anywhere, any time – while you’re at work, out for a run or in the shower. Taking your idea and turning it into something tangible can be an exciting prospect. There are probably lots of questions flying around in your head: Is my idea good enough? Will I be able to do it in my free time? Do I eventually want to work for myself? Has someone done it before etc., etc.? While you might feel like dropping everything and going for it here are some things you should consider before jumping in feet first:

Find out if your idea is unique

Think you’ve come up with something no one else has? Make sure you do some research to find out if you’re correct. If your idea is for a new product, you can search for patented inventions for free in the British Library to see whether that is actually the case. Some simple desk research (Google is your friend) will also help shed some light on whether someone else has been there and done it. If you find they have – don’t be put off. Do some competitor analysis and see if you can do it better or with a different approach. Maybe a similar business exists in another country but you need the service locally. Keep note of what your competition do well and what could be improved – and voilà you’ve identified a gap for something new!

Do some market research

So you’ve identified something no one has done before but will anyone buy into it? It’s important that your product or service meets an identified demand or solves a problem for people. Thorough market research gives new businesses like yours the ability to make informed decisions about the way you position your products and services to consumers. A simple way to start this is by doing some desk research at the British Library.

What type of business will you start?

So you’ve a new business idea and a target market group, now what? For UK taxation purposes you will need to quickly decide what type of business entity you’d like to form. There are five or six different options for you to consider including:

  • A sole trader
  • A business partnership, limited and limited liability partnerships
  • A limited company
  • An unincorporated association
  • Or a social enterprise.

For further information or assistance on registering your business, make sure you visit the Companies House website.

Put together a business plan

A business plan is an absolute necessity for mapping the steps you need to take to start and grow your business. It will also help when you approach potential partners and investors giving them the confidence they need to support or fund you. It will also help you manage your cashflow. There are plenty of free templates online that you can use but remember it should be flexible and fluid adapting to the needs of your business as it grows and changes over time.

Don’t feel like you’re on your own

The thought of starting a business on your own can be daunting. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance along the way. At the British Library Business & IP Centre we’ve been helping people start successful businesses for 10 years now. So to celebrate our birthday we’re holding a day of free workshops and events on 27 September, on everything from raising cash to getting your business online. We’ll help you take those first steps to turn your idea into a reality.

Finally, running a business is hard work so make sure it’s something you’re passionate about and then the enjoyment of running your own business will never waver, even when times get tough.

Isabel Oswell is the head of business audiences at the British Library


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