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Top tips for starting a business

Ever felt like going it alone and becoming your own boss? It’s something that many people dream of, but often the reality of making the jump to setting up your own business or going self-employed can be a daunting prospect – even for the savviest of individuals.

Taking that first step can also be exhilarating. So, to help you with that quest we’ve spoken to expert business advisors, Outset Cornwall (new to the Muddy Little Black Book) as well as some experts and independent business owners for their advice, and rounded it all up into our top tips for starting up a business in Cornwall. Live that dream!

1) Do something you feel passionate about

Running a business can be a labour of love and success rarely happens overnight, so working on something you really know and care about will make the journey more enjoyable. 

Sophie Tilston had a degree in textile design and a successful career as a product designer and buyer but always dreamt about creating her own business. A busy family life and a part-time job kept getting in the way, until the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 gave her some much needed time to complete a training programme.

Sophie now runs a successful business from her seaside studio in Falmouth, doing something she loves; handmaking and printing eclectic homeware and fashion accessories, and she hasn’t looked back.

She says “Don’t give up on your dream, and make sure you enjoy the journey whilst knowing you’ll have to work hard. As a busy mum to three children, I’m used to multitasking and getting the most out of every single minute of the day. Running a business I love gives me the freedom to work anytime I choose – around the children and in the evenings.”

2) Don’t be put off by the current economic climate

What do Airbnb, FedEx, WhatsApp, Groupon and Uber all have in common? Apart from being hugely successful businesses, they were all started during economic recessions. A company that is formed during an economic slump is more likely to have the tools and resilience to fly when the economy improves. There are going to be permanent changes in the way we live, shop and do business and there are plenty of opportunities for start-ups willing to embrace these changes. 

3) Have a plan and be organised

Andrew Davey started his business, Topitots in March 2020 making fully recyclable environmentally friendly toys.

He says, “I have found that it is so important to plan ahead. When I was starting out, I used project planning Gannt charts to schedule all of my to-do lists to make sure I met my own deadlines. Otherwise things never happen!”

4) Make sure people can find you

Marketing branding

For many, your website and branding will be your shop window. It’s the first impression you’ll make on people and it’s imperative to get it right.

Then, there is social media, and as much as we dream of our entire marketing activity involving snapping a pretty picture, sticking on some hashtags and waiting for the orders to fly in, there’s a bit more structure and science to it than that.

It’s worth investing in your branding if you are able to. Shop around to see if you can find an affordable company to help you out from the start. Even if they don’t do your entire marketing and branding, their knowledge and expertise can help point you in the right direction so you have a clear and concise message and offering from the start.

5) Don’t try to rush

Winning clients takes time – sell, tweak your offering, then sell again. Successful businesses are usually very different from those described in their original business plan. Try something and if it isn’t working, try it a different way. Persistence is a vital quality of any entrepreneur.

6) Money matters

Accountant New Business

It’s often said that a decent accountant will always save you more money than you spend. Not to mention they can give you the definitive answers on certain aspects of things like payroll, pensions (and they’ll even phone up HMRC for you which is a gift in itself!) There are lots of local firms who offer impartial advice at start-up costs to get you started.

One good habit to get into is to take photos of all your receipts. Currently, you’re meant to retain all receipts for at least 5 years after tax deadline day but the reality is that you end up with a mountain of paperwork and things getting lost. Having a digital copy stashed on your computer will stop you having sleepless nights.

7) Ask for help

Running a business requires a wide range of skills, from marketing and sales to finance and administration, and you won’t be good at everything straight away. Getting support and guidance from an organisation like Outset Cornwall can be a huge help.

Jo Hague from Lostwithiel started her sustainable textile art business during lockdown with support from Outset Cornwall and now makes and sells her stunning art pieces online and through an interior design retailer in London.

She says: “Do a business start-up course so that you are fully aware of all that having your own business entails. It will help in giving you a clear idea of what you want to achieve. The Outset Cornwall programme was so useful – I’ve learnt so many different elements to running a business. The Selling Online session was particularly helpful, as it’s allowed me to get my full product range online and generate sales, even during lockdown.”

Outset Cornwall has provided support to entrepreneurs in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly since 2009 and helped over 840 businesses get off the ground. Outset Cornwall is currently running its award-winning start-up programme of specialist workshops and 1:1 coaching online and it is completely free to residents of Cornwall.

The Outset Cornwall programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Outset Foundation, supporting people in going self-employed and starting up their own business.

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