Is now a good time to start up a business?
Timing isn’t everything, according to the panel we assembled at the launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW)
To mark the Week, three entrepreneurs and enterprise expert Andrew Devenport (pictured), the chief executive of Youth Business International, the organisation behind GEW, give their views on the optimum time to start a business and their tips for start-up success.
Recent stats show that the economy is now back to pre-recession levels – do you think that now is an optimum time for a business to start-up?
James Bishop, founder of cocktail events company Hire the Barman:
“I’m not sure there is ever a right or wrong time to start a business. If you have a strong and considered strategy, a vision to create a disruption in your industry that will grab hold of some market share and you possess the un-relinquishing drive and motivation to make it happen, then it’s the right time for you.”
Andrew Devenport, chief executive of Youth Business International:
“I think that, with more confidence in the economy, now is definitely a good time. The organisation I represent – Youth Business International – has just done a piece of research with the Kauffman Foundation. It found that UK entrepreneurs are feeling optimistic, with 50% saying they expect their revenue to increase by 30% or more by 2016. However, it remains to be seen if consumers are confident enough to spend more. That said, economic timing is less important than personal timing. Are you ready to start your own business? Are you sure you’ve found a good niche? Have you tested your business idea, and are you prepared to put in long hours at the beginning to get your business going?”
Research suggests it costs less than £3,000 to get the average start-up going. Given that budget, where would your money go?
“I kept my risk and commitment low in the short-term, something I would recommend to any start-up. I spent less than £1,000 until I’d generated profit to feed back into the business. With this in mind, my money would go on a good laptop and phone, making sure I had enough product to cope with demand and simple, effective marketing.”
“It depends on what kind of business you’re setting up. If you’re selling a product, I would focus on getting the highest quality product possible. If you don’t have a great product, you won’t get your business off the ground. Things like office space can come later and marketing can be done on a shoestring.”
Which organisations helped you most when starting up?
“Social media and networking with like-minded people were the biggest help to me. But this comes with a health warning – absolutely anybody can become an ‘entrepreneur’ so my advice is to always remember to think for yourself!”
Rob Forkan, co-founder of flip flop brand Gandys Fashion:
“Alibaba, Facebook and Google. Alibaba is an amazing resource and was absolutely instrumental in us finding a good supplier in China. Facebook really helped us get the word out – we actually had our first sale through Facebook – and Google was our go-to for anything we didn’t know how to do. It used to be a running joke between us – ‘just Google it!’”
How many hats did you have to wear in the first year of starting up?
Paul Forkan, co-founder of flip flop brand Gandys Fashion:
“Every kind of hat! It was just the two of us working out of our one-bedroom flat in Brixton, with barely any money, so we were doing photoshoots in the bath with our iPhones, while at the same time dealing with the design, website, PR, marketing and accounting. It was a crazy time and it’s great that we now have a team of about 20 people.”
What’s the biggest bugbear for a lean start-up? What’s the most unhelpful thing you encountered?
“My biggest bugbear was being overwhelmed. I was worried about missing opportunities that I could see in front of me. The most unhelpful thing was fretting about the competition. Looking at the competition and what they are up to causes you to burn out sweating the small stuff. Just get out there and do what you do best.”
“I think the most difficult thing was other people not believing in our idea. We had a lot of friends and family telling us that we were crazy to start a flip flop company in the UK. It’s really important to stick to your beliefs and keep going. I was lucky I had Rob to carry me through when I came up against a barrier. I would definitely recommend having a business partner.”