Proving that your business idea will work is a vital step when you’re starting up. Not only does it give you confidence in your idea, but it gives others confidence too – whether those people are investors, suppliers, or people looking at your business plan. It also gives you valuable feedback on how to develop your product or service, and a solid framework on which to start up.

There are lots of different ways to gauge interest for your startup idea. Here’s how four entrepreneurs who received a Start Up Loan through Virgin StartUp did it.

Sacha Atherton, founder of Premier Parents

Premier Parents is a recruitment agency focussed on providing flexible and part-time employment opportunities for working parents.

Sacha Atherton, Premier Parents - Virgin StartUp

I think one of the best ways in which I got some validation for my business idea early on was the PR coverage I received pre-launch – and it didn't cost me a penny. Not only was I contacted by numerous radio and media organisations, I also started to receive lots of support from parents across the UK telling me how happy they were about the idea and asking if I could help them find work. It proved that the demand was there, and nearly all of my candidates came from this PR and word of mouth – I currently have nearly 300.
All of the PR coverage came off the back of me contacting the local paper about my story and business concept. Coincidentally, they had been trying to get hold of me anyway after seeing a crowdfunding campaign I had launched. The rest of the PR followed on from that, but I still proactively push for PR interest even now. If you can get it for free, you should!

Lara Sengupta, founder of CorkYogis

CorkYogis is a yoga social enterprise. They create eco-friendly cork yoga mats, with amazing grip that increases the more you sweat, and also handmade yoga bags made from recycled saris.

Our social enterprise idea was to team up with a charity in India - the home of all things yoga - that combats sex slavery in Kolkatta and helps the girls to find alternative employment through education and teaching skills. The girls make our yoga mat bags from recycled saris to be able to fund the work they are doing and earn a wage. For every yoga mat we sell one woman learns a skill, and every yoga bag we sell means one week’s wages. 

We validated our business idea in a pretty rustic way, which was to wait outside various yoga studios and catch people coming out of classes. We quickly explained our business idea, including how we would do social good, and let them see a sample of our product. It was a long process, but we managed to get about 50 people to give us feedback on the business model and how much they would pay for the product. This was also a good way to help us price the product correctly.

Once we got started a little bit, we entered Pitch to Rich 2016 with a crowdfunding campaign. This was fortunately at the same time we launched the business. We used the business competition as a platform to explain our business to the public and to drive sales. Our crowdfunder was successful and we over-reached our £5,000 target, which was an amazing way to show demand for the product. We also raised enough funds to be able to purchase our next batch of products.

Tom Bailey, founder of Succeed UK

Succeed UK offers coaching, training and events for entrepreneurs, small business owners and startups, focussing on clear communication, public speaking, and building a personal brand.

We validated our business idea by going out to our network before we had created any products. We did this by offering free discovery sessions and discounted one-to-one coaching packages out to our network. This allowed us to build up lasting relationships with a number of business owners from across a wide range of industries. These coaching conversations allowed us to really understand what our typical clients wanted and how we could help them grow their business.

Michael Owen, founder of Always Wear Red

Always Wear Red is a fashion brand based around the power and confidence of the colour red, focussing on high-end fabrics and premium quality.

The world of premium fashion is very demanding. 

We validate our idea by pre-launching ranges across social media and telling the stories of how we got from concept to product. As designer Tom Ford says, ‘never forget that no one actually needs anything that he makes – it is his job to make them desire it.’

In short we start to tell stories way before the product reaches the market. In fact, we started storytelling six months before the brand launched. We listen to responses, and we learn. There is a global conversation in session yesterday, today and tomorrow on the Internet – so we join in.

Just 6 months into the Always Wear Red business (we launched in February 2016) we are splitting our brand and extending our ranges in ways that we didn’t plan for and never imagined. It is only by seeking validation in the social media space that we have been able to shape-shift in such an informed way.

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