Starting a business – what you need to think about

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If you think of the word ‘entrepreneur’ who comes to mind? Richard Branson? Sir Alan Sugar? How about Sarah Tremellen, who set up bra retailer Bravissimo? Or Laura Tenison who set up Jojo Maman Bebe? More women are doing it for themselves and starting a business.

How to get started

If you have a business idea, you’ve made a start. Read up and do online research about how others are making money from your idea or (if it’s completely new) how they’re putting similar ideas into practice. Then:

  • Sign up for free advice: The business section of Gov.uk is a good place to start. There’s lots of information on the website.
  • Talk about your idea: Don’t give away secrets but talk to one or two trusted friends. You need to know you’re not the only one who thinks your idea is a money spinner.

SAVVY TIP: You may underestimate how good your idea is or you may have missed the key stage of ‘how does it make money’. Talking it through with someone else will expose the strengths and weaknesses of your plans.

Consider the funding: Women are far more likely to rely on savings or money from family and friends, rather than approaching the bank. The recession has affected how much money banks are willing to lend, but some are keen to attract female business customers.

SAVVY TIP: Research carried out by the Women’s Enterprise Task Force in 2009 showed that women were as successful as men (or more successful) at raising finance from banks and were less likely to be rejected because of poor planning. However, women it also revealed that women didn’t tend to use venture capital or equity funding – selling a stake in their business in return for capital. However, the growth of crowdfunding in the last few years has begun to change that.

  • Set some goals: You may have to fit your business start-up plans around current work or your family or both, but it will help you focus if you have an idea of what you want to achieve by when.

SAVVY TIP: When I was planning SavvyWoman, I had relatively little web experience and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to explain clearly enough what I needed the website to do (it felt like asking someone to build me a house without having an idea of how big the house should be). I talked through the menu and design with a web-savvy friend and wrote outline articles for one section so I could see what would work and what wouldn’t.

  • Don’t forget trademarks and patents: If you have a domain name, company name or a brand that you want your customers to recognise, you should get it trademarked. The process takes several months and costs up to £1,000, but it’s well worth doing.

SAVVY TIP: If you type ‘trademarks’ into Google you’ll get dozens of different legal firms offering their services. You can check whether or not the name or logo you want to trade mark has already been registered by visiting the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) and the Gov.uk website has information about trademarks.

Useful links:
Everywoman has lots of free online information and runs workshops and conferences.

Horsesmouth is a social networking mentoring site, with specialist business mentors.

Women in Business Network organises regular monthly lunchtime networking meetings for members.

Sahar Hashemi, who co-founded the Coffee Republic, has written a book called Anyone can do it. I heard Sahar speak some time ago and thought her experience was really interesting. She explained that she was turned down by 19 bank managers for a loan when she wanted to start up Coffee Republic; one refused on the grounds that Britain was a nation of tea drinkers and would never want to visit a coffee shop. Hmm.

Related articles:

How to get a better work/life balance

How to succeed when you start your new business

What you’re entitled to if you’ve been made redundant – understanding the rules of redundancy pay

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