Things you can do today to start a business

There’s no time like the present. When you have a brilliant business idea, percolating the idea over in your head is all very well – but actually taking concrete steps to start your business is even better. It’s easy to keep putting it off, but no more excuses!

"People underestimate how much ground work they can do on an idea before they need to spend any money on it," advises Nick Coates of the VSU Loan Panel. "My recommendation for someone who is genuinely at idea stage and haven’t taken any steps towards turning that into reality would be work out what the first thing they need to do is to get the idea off the ground, and do that one thing before anything else."   Here are some more suggestions from our team for things you can do today to get your business up and running.

Get informed

Samuel Lehane, VSU Loan Panel

Getting as informed as you can is an important first step. It will help you shape your ideas and stay up to date, inform new ideas you have related to your business, and discover relevant people to discuss things with or relevant events to go to. Immerse yourself in the industry you plan to get into, as it will facilitate better informed decisions in the long run – make yourself an expert.

Things you can do today:

Find key books or blogs you can read. Some particularly good options include The Lean StartUp by Eric Ries, and the StartUp Owner’s Manual. Reading how other people have approached starting up and getting inspired by their stories can spark your own ideas, and give you the momentum you need to create your own success story.

RSVP to one networking event. There are networking events all over the country – check out Eventbrite or Meetup to find local ones relevant to you. Many of them are even free! Making new connections can be hugely valuable when starting up, as well as keeping you motivated.

Follow 10 relevant influencers on social media. Social media is a great way to stay up to date with developments in your industry, as well as to get general startup advice. Pick at least 10 people who are influential in your space, and listen to what they have to say – and don’t be afraid to interact with them either. You might just get on their radar.

Pick a brilliant name

Jonathon Spanos, VSU Business Advisor

What’s in a name? Choosing the right name is the first step towards creating a memorable brand and the image you want to leave with your target audience in such a crowded market. Name selection is often an overwhelming, frustrating, and exhausting experience; however it can be the difference between success or being sued! When choosing your name, consider:

Your target audience. What’s a name that will resonate or appeal to the people you want to sell to?

Creativity. Generic and descriptive names can make developing a stand-out brand harder than it needs to be – and can also turn trademarking your logo, name, or other branding into a headache.

Availability. Is the domain name free? What about social media handles? Research to see whether someone else has the same company name, or one similar – you don’t want to get invested in a name, only to discover that you can’t get the domain name or Twitter handle to match.

Start getting market validation

Andy Fishburn, Head of Investment

Market validation is crucial - it’s really important to get feedback on your idea early on and not to develop everything in isolation.  It can also be a good way to get ambassadors to buy into your business early on as well.   Here are three things you can do today to start validating your idea.

Set up a landing page. Something like www.Strikingly.com is a great place to start and allows you to quickly and easily build a one pager where you can tell people about you’re business idea, and start collecting emails addresses from people who want to know more.  If you’re looking for logos, designs for your site, try something like www.canva.com or www.fiverr.com

Set up a social media channel. Even just starting a Twitter account in your business’s name makes the process seem more real immediately – and you can start engaging with the type of people you think are your target customers at once. If you’ve set up the landing page as per the previous point, try and direct people towards it to gauge their interest.

Set up a Facebook advert. Facebook ads can be a really cost effective way to reach your target market.  With as little as £20 you can start driving traffic to your landing page or site. How many people visit?  How many people sign up?  You can even try experimenting with different target groups – which gets the most traction?  Do different calls to action have more success than others?   The above needn’t take a long time, nor does it need to cost the earth.  It’s a great way to establish however if people are as excited about the idea as you are.  It also allows you to see the types of people who are interested in your business idea – aka, who has signed up, and from where? If you do get sign-ups, you also have a pool of ‘early adopters’ who have shown interest in your business – you can keep these people engaged through emails and even use them as a mini focus group to get feedback as you develop your idea.

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