Do you want to build a business?

Do you have an idea that could change the world?

Maybe you’ve been toying with the thought of starting your own business and this might just be the year that you finally take the leap and go for it.

We asked some of our small businesses for advice that they would give people starting out. Reading through their replies, I noticed that there were some key points that stood out.

1.Know your Vision

You need to have it crystal clear.

Cohesiveness shows through and your brand message will be consistent right from the start.

“I wish I had been clearer on what I wanted my small business to be at the start! I knew I wanted to make children’s clothing but I muddled along for over a year trying different things before I settled on a style that I really loved. Once I knew what I wanted it all became a lot easier and less confusing! It is important to write down your vision for your business and goals and to work out what you want to achieve before you set off into the unknown!” Ali, Tutti Frutti Clothing.

“Consistency is key. Having worked in print media for 15 years, I know that being on brand, having the right tone of voice and being consistent in your messaging, content and frequency of communications is vital.” Georgina, Pebble Magazine.

2. Do your Research

Better safe than sorry.

You’ll learn so much and gather a wealth of resources and useful contacts.

Invest time and resources to gain knowledge in different fieldsIt is important to learn as much as possible to have more awareness and control over your business as well as to reduce costs. Look out for free workshops. E.g. In Scotland there are Business Gateway and Cultural Enterprise.” Roberta, Quinta Essenza.

“As a Soil Association certified skincare range, finding dependable sources of approved packaging and ingredients, in the quantities we require, has been a challenge. Do thorough research on suppliers of raw material before you start up. Go to the large trade shows, look at all the options, ask about minimum order quantities and find out how they can help you as a start up. Most importantly make sure you have a back up option in case of issues.” Jayne, Nom Nom Skincare.

“Know your product, and if you are unsure, learn. Know your market and know how to target them. This has not always been my forte. I wish SEO training was something I could learn overnight and that there were more of me so that I had the luxury of time to learn more and do more.” Zarina, Buggy Revival.

“Try and get some experience working for someone with a similar business to what you think you want to do, this will be invaluable. I didn’t and wish I had.” John, John Eadon.

3. Start off right

Putting key systems in place right from the beginning will mean less work later.

Whether it is marketing, sustainability, packaging or logistics, start off in the direction that you want to end up in.

“Make sustainability part of your story. Consumers now want to know how and where their products are made, they’re eco conscious and prepared to support smaller brands with an authentic voice and who care about the environment over those that don’t. I am working with brands on how to engage their audience around what they do that’s positive for the environment.” Georgina, Pebble Magazine.

“Give yourself enough time to research and source the extra things like packaging and business cards from companies with the same ethics as yourself. Be picky about where you place your products. I was shocked and disappointed to discover that the occasional shop selling ‘ethically sourced products’ were nothing of the sort.” Kay, Kay Reed Silversmith.

Develop a brand from the beginning. It is not only about selling products, but providing a recognisable, pleasant and distinctive buying experience. This requires time but it is paramount to start from the beginning in thinking what makes your business unique.” Roberta, Quinta Essenza.

4. Stick to your Values

This can not be emphasised enough.

As ethical businesses, we strive to make a difference by doing things right and sticking to our guns because we believe in a better world.

“The most important thing that we did, and still do, is to be completely honest with our customers.  We know of competing manufacturers and retailers who mislead people by using the Shetland name in their wool products when they really use New Zealand lamb’s wool or Australian Merino wool and nearly all of the ‘Shetland’ products on other marketplaces contain no Shetland whatsoever (even the non-Shetland Island, Shetland breed). Our brand of Real Shetland Wool was created to give a defendable identity to the genuine article and help promote the hard work of the crofting community up on the Islands.  Honesty is something that we feel separates us from the competition.” Adam Curtis, Adam Curtis Online.

“Remember that you will always be learning and with that, you should be willing to adapt and change without compromising your key values.” John, John Eadon.

“I am really pleased that I took the plunge and made the decision to ‘go green’as it were. It meant discontinuing a popular product but once I made that choice and stuck to it, my business really took off  as it became something I really believed in. I think it is important to have a business that you believe in and can talk to people about with passion and enthusiasm!” Ali, Tutti Frutti Clothing.

5. Network, network, network

This is critical to grow your business.

You’ll find people who share your values, can offer support, help with your business, sell your products, teach you something, … the sky is the limit!!

“I think it is important to join groups or have someone that can be a sounding board for advice and ideas. As a small business owner I work from my home and am on my own most of the working day. I have found that joining a couple of small business groups have been really useful for me to sound ideas out on and help me achieve bigger things.” Ali, Tutti Frutti Clothing.

“It is always going to be an evolving beast. Keep searching for more revenue streams, more business development ideas and keep networking. You never know what can come from a conversation or email.” Zarina, Buggy Revival.

“Try and meet and talk to others who have been there before or are at a similar level, amazing what can come from conversations.” John, John Eadon.

Shameless plug on the subject of networking: If you are based in the London area and would like to come to one of our business breakfasts, please let us know. The next one is in Feb!


Finally, remember this.

“There’s no magic bullet. I launched an online mag with no experience in digital marketing – I’ve learnt tonnes in the last year but it took me a long time to get out of the mindset that if I could just learn one secret, master one trick or watch one more webinar, somehow my business would turn into a million dollar company overnight. That doesn’t happen – slow growth is good growth – and more sustainable. So don’t expect to find one thing that magically transforms your business. Plugging away at it, will work better.” Georgina, Pebble Magazine.

If you need more things to think through, there’s this blog by Ethical Hour founder Sian Conway, this piece by The Guardian, Startacus which is full of great resources, and so much more!

What are your top tips for starting a business? Let us know in a tweet!

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Preeti is the Marketing Manager at Blue Patch. Born and raised in India, she spent some time in the US, completing a degree in Psychology and Biology, after which she moved to the UK in 2010 to study an MSc in Finance and Management. She can often be found obsessing over her plants, trying to clamp down on an ever-increasing collection of nail polish or exploring and taking photos of random corners of London. She enjoys business strategy and is helping brands get their messaging on point.