Learning from startup mistakes

Zara Neild is a VSU ambassador and the founder of Zara Cakes, a business creating extraordinary cakes for every occasion - from imaginative cupcakes to beautifully-detailed birthday cakes. After the success of her first branch, Zara decided to expand to a new store - but it didn't work out as planned. Here Zara shares how she learnt from the experience.

I decided to open a second store just ten months after I opened my first shop in Prestwich. This time I decided to base it in the city centre, in Manchester Arndale Market. I strongly believed that it would be a success just like my first; however, I was wrong.

I did a basic business plan, ploughed £6k into it, and off I went. At first business was great, and for the first few weeks of trading I thought “I am smashing it!” But I certainly had to eat my words in the next weeks. I started losing around £500 a week - a significant amount when you're at any stage, but especially when you're a startup.

Admitting to failure is harder than the financial loss, but as Richard Branson once said, “Do not be embarrassed by your failures - learn from them and start again”.  That’s exactly what I decided to do, ceasing operations at the city centre store and deciding to focus my energies on the Prestwich one instead.

It wasn't an easy decision, but some positives have come out of the experience. Having a store in the centre of Manchester has raised the profile of my business. Last week I counted 11 customers who have followed us to our Prestwich store, I’ve moved all the Arndale staff to Prestwich, and I'm now expanding the business and  looking to generate at least five new jobs!

Yes I made a mistake and I’ve lost money, but I’ve gained invaluable business experience. Everyone makes mistakes but this doesn’t mean I’m a failure - failure would be if I stopped, and I’m still at the very beginning. I’m proud of my business, proud that I opened then closed a second store, and even prouder that I’m moving forward.  I’ve started Zara Cakes - now I’m ready to make it grow.

I urge everyone to set goals, write a yearly plan, and be amazed at your achievements. School of Zara Cakes is scheduled to open at the end of this year, and I'm already looking at new premises close to my Prestwich store. Watch this space!


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