I tried to start my own food business when I was 21. For a variety of reasons, it wasn’t meant to be. But fast forward 14 years and it was a completely different story as on 26th April 2015, the first BOL veg pot was sold in the UK.
Tip #1: So my first tip is - don’t get disheartened if things don’t happen as quickly as you’d like. Traditional values of grit and perseverance are absolute demands when it comes to being an entrepreneur. Think marathon rather than sprint (although you’ll probably sprinting marathons pretty soon).
#2: When you hit a wall, find the doors and windows in it. Use a ladder if needs be. Get used to being told “No”, especially during the start-up phase. Whilst you can’t control how many people say it, you can control how you respond. Being able to creatively problem solve to find solutions that lead to a “Yes” is a skill worth developing.
#3: Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. People you like being around. People you wouldn’t mind sharing a 4 hour car journey with. Your founding team will most likely be taking a level of personal risk to join your fledgling business and since you’ll be spending so much time together, getting the brightest, smartest and nicest people on board from the start will make the tough days more bearable.
#4: Culture, culture, culture. Make it a place that people want to be. A place that you can work, think and have a laugh. Think “band of brothers” rather than “colleagues”. Create an environment where everyone is encouraged and allowed to be the best versions of themselves. Decent coffee and a well-stocked fridge definitely help.
#5: Think differently when it comes to your product or idea. Just because you have passion for your idea (which is imperative otherwise why would you be doing this?) the outside world may well not. Make a prototype then get out there and test it. There’s a reason the chocolate teapot has yet to launch.
#6: Make it beautiful. Your brand, that is. If you wouldn’t wear your logo on a t-shirt, why would anyone else want to buy your stuff? Find the best creatives to help you create something you’re properly proud of and then spend the time, money and attention getting it right.
#7: Nail the why. It’s great having a good idea but to succeed as a business, you need to be truly purpose driven. Figure out what your why is - the thing that gets you out of bed, the reason you come into work every morning. Then write it down and stick it everywhere so you never forget why it is you’re doing what you’re doing.
#8: Get your elevator pitch down. You should be able to describe your business idea in 7 words or less. “It’s like Top Gun, but with cars” is my all-time favourite. I’ll let you work out the film. Your business plan should be equally clear, concise and convincing. After all, you never know who might step into the same elevator as you.
#9: Give people a reason to believe. And then help them out by making it really, really obvious. If you don’t make the benefits clear, people might not buy your product, no matter how amazing it is.
#10: Get a bean counter. Cash burns quicker than you probably think so make sure your finance needs are met. If you’re not a numbers person, find someone who eats spreadsheets for breakfast from Day 1. Look after the pennies and all that…