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UK’s young entrepreneurs share lessons learnt on their journey to business growth

With the number of millennial founders rising, The Office Group has rounded up four young CEOs to find out their best advice for starting a business

Late last year the number of UK company directors aged 29 or under surpassed the 300,000 mark for the first time.

Millennials are now an important driver of the UK economy, as an ever-increasing number of motivated young people choose to start their own companies, forgoing the traditional route into employment.

In support of these aspiring young entrepreneurs, we started our TOG100 competition in 2016, which offers 100 young entrepreneurs the chance to win free co-working space for a year.

Starting your own business can be a daunting prospect, and the isolation of working from home, or the many distractions to be found when powering up your laptop from a café, don’t always provide the most productive environment from which to grow a business.

While the increasing trend for remote working and the rise of the “digital nomad” have given workers more freedom than ever before, many have found the culture and community of an office environment irreplaceable.

Offering the opportunity for organic networking and collaboration, co-working space can also give those starting out on their business journey access to mentors to help them grow and mature, as well as other like-minded entrepreneurs with whom they can exchange ideas and share the highs and lows of growing a business. Previous TOG100 winners have already seen the benefit to working within a collaborative community.

A year into their business journey, three of these young entrepreneurs share the best piece of advice they have received, whether from mentors or other entrepreneurs on the same journey, and lessons they have learnt so far:

Know your start-up story and how to tell it

A brand’s story can be a powerful marketing tool. People want to feel a part of something and therefore, telling the story of your start-up can be an effective way to attract customers, and clients, as well as partners and investors who can help you grow your business.

26 year-old Amy Williams, founder at Good-Loop, an ethical video advertising platform, explains: “As a start-up, storytelling goes much deeper than being just a branding exercise. Not an abstract mission, storytelling goes right down to the core of who you are, why you founded your company and its purpose. Telling the Good-Loop story has been a central pillar to growing my business.

“When I founded Good-Loop, I was advised to construct a clear story and know how to tell it in under a minute. I begin every meeting, pitch and even recruitment interview by telling this story.”

“When people understand the story, they understand the business and become extremely valuable to contributing to its ongoing growth. I have learnt that making investors feel a part of Good-Loop’s evolving story has been crucial to help us gain support, while a huge component of successful recruitment is being clear about what your company stands for.”

Set realistic business targets

The road to business growth is not always smooth. Remaining focused on your end goal and setting attainable targets along the way can help you stay on track and give you a clear purpose to drive your business growth.

Aged 21 and 22 respectively, Joseph Black and Oliver Jacobs are the founders of UniDosh; a marketplace for students to outsource tasks, sell services or complete odd jobs to earn money. Their advice?

“If you don’t know where the target is then you’re never going to hit the bullseye! Our end goal was to revolutionise the university experience and to help students earn money while studying.

“In order to achieve this, we broke down the process into targeted activities, such as building an effective plan, ensuring legal and regulatory issues were met, acquiring resources, customer research and developing a marketing plan, with fixed deadlines to complete each task. The timeline is crucial so ensure you track your progress along the way.

“Having said that, personal experience has taught us that it’s equally important to enjoy the journey and its ups and downs, rather than focusing purely on the outcome. And when things don’t go to plan, don’t waste time dwelling on the past; there are many ways to get up the mountain, you just have to find another way. Passion and belief in your goal are also imperative.

“Enthusiasm and a great idea go a long way, but it’s your commitment and dedication to see a project through that really matters.”

Be authentic to your brand

When building a business, it's important to always remember your mission and values, and be authentic to your brand. As your company grows and evolves, you may feel pressure to follow in the footsteps of other brands in your industry. However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to growing a business.

23 year-old Cindy Liberman, co-founder at Lara Intimates, a vertically integrated and eco-friendly underwear brand, explains:

“While it's important to listen to advice, I know my customers better than anyone else and in growing Lara Intimates, I have learnt to focus our mission of celebrating women and championing inclusivity and female empowerment above all else.

“Our growth strategy is entirely organic, using Instagram to share stories of real women finding their bra size. This kind of organic growth is extremely successful for us but is a huge change from traditional fashion and retail marketing.

“Advisors have recommended we slash prices with sales, use paid advertising and even use ‘classically beautiful models' so as not to hurt our chances of being featured in mainstream fashion magazines.

“As young entrepreneurs, we have mentors and friends offering their opinions all the time, often those from traditional retail backgrounds who don’t always understand our unique approach. However, by staying true to our values, we have developed a strong message and attracted brand loyalty that has been integral to our growth.”

To enter the next round of the TOG100 competition, apply on the TOG website here.