Your new business idea is set to take your industry by storm. It’s all down on paper, you’ve won the support of family and friends, but how do you turn your idea into a reality?
If you’re looking to launch your new enterprise into the startup stratosphere, follow our ten-step guide to turn your business idea into reality.
This article has been produced in partnership with Tide, who provide powerful and simple small business banking. Together, we’re offering one lucky startup founder £5k and a package of mentoring support to help them start up – find out more and enter here.
1. The proof is in the planning
If you want to bring your idea to life, planning is key.
Start building your business plan as a reference point for the next steps in your journey. Your plan will help to determine your brand identity, target audience, market research, financial forecasts and much more, whilst keeping your eyes on the key goals.
Business plans can take many forms, but it’s good to start with a general template:
- Your mission: Set out who you are, your values, goals and vision for the business
- Your place: Collect market research and demonstrate where you fit within it
- Your brand: Define your branding, from the logo to colours and font
- Your audience: Who will you be targeting? What solutions can you offer them?
- Your strategy: What systems are in place to help you accomplish your mission?
- Your operations: How will you run your company? Staffing and day to day functions
- Your finances: How will you fund the business and what are your forecasts?
For an in-depth insight into these steps, this article offers some useful advice on developing your business plan.
2. Research the market
If you want to be a real contender in your sector, you’ll need to understand who your competition is.
Start by researching similar companies to you that operate in the local area. Take a look at their website, social media and products to get a feel for what they are offering. Ask yourself what you like about what other startups have, and what you would change.
Next, put yourself out there and visit these businesses. Established business owners will have been where you are once, so don’t hesitate in approaching them with a few questions. Ask about their customer base and how they deal with suppliers, for example.
3. Solidify your strategy
Researching the market will have shown you what appeals to others, but what’s important to you? Your brand voice comes from your vision, goals and mission. So clearly define what solution you offer and how you see the startup developing.
Here are some steps to get you started:
- Objectives: Begin by setting out your objectives. What do you want to achieve in the first week, month or year?
- SWOT analysis: Identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats your startup faces
- Delegate tasks: Make a list of priorities and delegate tasks that play to the strengths of your team or freelancers
- Hone your marketing strategy: Define your target audience to understand what marketing approach will capture their interest, from print visuals to an elaborate digital marketing strategy
4. Target the right audience
You may feel like you want everyone to hear about your business idea, but cast your net too wide and you risk missing opportunities and confusing clients.
You can use this data to create buyer personas, which can help you better understand your customers.
Create a list of traits that your ideal customer would have. What are their interests? How would they use your services? What do they need from you? How can you keep them engaged?
Once you have several buyer personas, start building campaigns relating to their traits.
5. Find your home
This all ties into your target audience. Find out where they hang out, discover how accessible these areas are, and how frequently they visit the space. If you set up in an area that your target audience rarely ventures to, you may not sell enough to remain open.
Similarly, you need to know where your competitors are. If you’re a beauty business owner looking to set up shop on a salon-saturated highstreet, could the market be too crowded for you to make your mark? Is there another area of interest where you might find your target audience?
Many of us also seem to forget to consider how accessible the workplace is for our employees. For example, whilst selling your product from your home may have worked initially, if you need more help with packing orders, you may need a bigger, central space for your hires as opposed to a hidden flat in a residential maze.
Remember, if you decide to rent a shop or cafe space, you’ll need to adhere to tenant regulations. Gov.uk has some useful information on what to do when leasing property for trading.
6. Register your business
When you’re ready to bring your business idea into fruition, one of the first steps you’ll need to take is registering your company correctly.
You’ll first need to decide on what type of enterprise you’d like to be. The three typical business structures are:
- Sole trader: If you choose to work for yourself and run your own business, you can register as a sole trader. For more information on what qualifies you as a sole trader and how to register, head to gov.uk
- Limited company: You’d form a limited company if your business finances are separate from your personal funds and you’re planning on hiring staff. Responsibilities of directors range from paying corporation tax to creating your company’s articles of association
- Partnership: If you’re going into business with someone else, you may want to set your company up as a partnership. Partnerships essentially mean that you share equal responsibility of the business. Head to gov.uk for more advice if you’d like to register as a partnership
Did you know you can register your company and open a bank account with Tide, who we’re partnering with on the no excuses campaign, for free? They’ll pay the £12 of the company registration fee and set you up with an account in one streamlined process.
7. Prepare to pitch
One of the most daunting prospects new entrepreneurs face is selling their product in person. But you’ll need to overcome the nerves in order to make a sale.
Start by practicing your elevator pitch in front of the mirror, family or friends. Concisely define who you are, what your business is and what you’re setting out to achieve.
Note that many customers or investors have limited time on their hands, so getting the facts in straight off the bat will create a great hook to keep them interested.
Be sure to brush up on your knowledge and come prepared to answer questions after your summary.
8. Research the legalities
If you’ve registered your company, you’ll need to ensure you’re adhering to the right rules and regulations. For example, if you’re running a restaurant you may need to obtain a music or alcohol licence. If you’re a pop up events company, you may need a temporary events licence.
The licences you need to obtain truly depend on what type of business you’ll be setting up, where and what you’ll be selling. Gov.uk has a useful licence finder for those looking for guidance on acquiring the correct licences.
9. Build your team
Your team is the beating heart of the business. You want to ensure your brand’s reputation is in the right hands, so choose your employees wisely.
Before you hire your first employee, consider what roles the business would benefit from. When you’re used to being a one person band, it can be hard to visualise giving a slice of responsibility to someone else.
Do you have the financial planning side of things down, but lack that marketing magic? Spend some time getting to grips with your strengths and the areas you lack knowledge in.
10. Monitor your progress
If you’ve put in the work to cover the above steps, how will you measure what is working and what needs to change?
You need to check in regularly with the goals you set out in your business plan. They could be related to sales or marketing, or making progress with your product development. Whatever key objectives you choose, make sure you’re monitoring your progress.
If you’re looking for more accountability, try finding a mentor or forming a peer group with other entrepreneurs. Talking to people about your progress is a great way to get inspired and make sure you stay on track.
Want to be in with a chance of winning £5,000 in funding and gain access to five mentors who are experts in their field? Head to Tide.ThePitch.uk to tell us about your business and why you should win!