Thinking Of Starting A Business?

Untitled designGuest Article by Anne Livesey

Being a Mum is a very busy job, always on the go, a million things to think of at once. Then all of a sudden you have a great new business idea and you think, ‘I’m going to be a MumPreneur!’.

Don’t be shocked at how you feel. Many mums, of all ages are turning their dreams of running their own business into a reality, but it’s still a huge change in lifestyle, so feeling nervous and excited all at the same time is perfectly normal.

Child care costs are soaring and actually finding the right kind of reliable child care isn’t always straightforward. It’s certainly horribly expensive. Add to this trying to find a truly child friendly employer who is happy to mix about your days and hours if a little one is poorly or your childminder lets you down is really hard. You also feel that you have meetings to go to, colleagues to support and rushing away because your toddler has stuck something up their nose and needs to go to A&E just makes you feel a bad employee AND a rubbish mum for not being there in the first place!

So if you have a hobby or an interest, why not start your own business and be your own boss. It means you can work around your family and if you need a few hours or a couple of days off to look after kids or go to the Nativity play or watch them play football, it’s fine because you know your new boss will say yes!

Many business can be started in a very small way. Others need a lot of investment financially, so it will depend on your circumstances what type of business you would like to start. It’s always best to walk before you can run, even if you have a wheelbarrow full of £50 notes to invest in your new venture.

One central focus has to be research. Chat to everyone you know about your business idea – LISTEN to their feedback. Friends and family are notoriously either hyper supportive or hyper critical. If you want to sell something through shops, go in and chat to some of your potential customers and see if they would be interested and how much they would pay.

If you’re going to sell direct to you customers such as at school fairs or Christmas fairs, visit some fairs and see how it’s done. Chat to the stall holders and get as much information about their experiences as you can. We all love to talk about our own businesses and experiences, even to competitors. It’s surprisingly friendly out on the fair circuit, although of course you always the odd awkward one!

So where to start? Researching your idea is the best place. You may be surprised that when you actually start your business it may be different form the original idea. My business started off as a knitting kit idea, and now I sell 12 different ranges of gifts, but I do also still sell knitting kits – in my two years of research, the idea changed considerably.

You’ll need to define what it is your business is going to do.

Find out who your competitors are: What are their prices? Where do they sell? What do their customers think of them? Is there some way you could do better than them?

Make a list of your types of customer. Give them names: Diane the Housewife, John the Plumber, Michelle the Student, that type of thing. Then list by each type of customer what they would buy from you and why, and where they buy from now and how you could offer something different to entice them away.

Then you need to get down to finances. What can you realistically start the business on? If you don’t have enough cash, it’s hard to get finance these days. You could produce a good business plan (which would have all the above research written down) and a two year cash flow and have a chat with your bank manager.

You could open a business bank account which quite frequently offer a free overdraft for the first 12-18 months, alongside free banking, which might give you enough working cash to get going.

Friends and family might be able to invest some of their cash into your business too.

I would always recommend putting your thoughts down on paper. It doesn’t have to be a formal business plan (although this helps raise finance), it could be a mind map, or just simply a notebook with everything that you come across written down – websites, suppliers, fair organisers, competition, website designers etc. Keep it all in one place – maybe by the bed so when you wake in the middle of a night with a bright idea just jot it down and get back to sleep!

I started my own business when I was 19 years old back in 1980, selling notices I had designed to shops to help them comply with the new Companies Act, and to help pay towards my studies. Then at 30 years old with two children under 3, I was a self employed Editor and Proofer which turned into research and writing in the business sector (it fitted perfectly with the kids as I used to work through the evening once they were asleep and spend all day playing). Now the ‘kids’ are 22 and 24, I run my own gift business, while also working part time as an Enterprise Coach and Start Up Mentor at the local Enterprise Agency, with some freelance writing thrown in for good measure!

Us entrepreneurial mums love to be busy, no matter how old the kids, if you have an idea, go for it! And get as much advice as you can – try your local Enterprise Agency if you have one, they should be able to help.

Good luck!

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