Top tips for budding Mumpreneurs
As seen on ITV’s Daybreak
Women are generally multi-tasking machines and therefore perfectly capable of raising a family while generating a second income. It might be a cliché but the sky really is the limit; all you need is a good idea, and the motivation to turn it into a viable business.
Jane Hopkins, creator of www.mumsclub.co.uk ; the free business club for entrepreneurial mums gives us these top tips on how to be a Business Mum.
1. Be realistic about your IDEA – Light bulb moments are often ideas that come from a need. As parents we identify so many potential products that would help our busy lives, but what we see as the next best thing, in reality...may not be. It may be a great idea, but think about how much it will cost to bring it to market, research production and marketing costs thoroughly, how much will you have to sell a single product for to cover its costs, and how much do you think people would pay in comparison to the benefit it will bring. Always look at the bigger picture and be realistic.
2. Be realistic about your TIME – Especially with family life to consider, time is rarely on our side. As business owners we have tons of plans and have every best intention of seeing them through, but think about how many hours you actually have in a day and what you can realistically do in that time. 3pm comes round oh so quickly and if you have the school run every day, you’ll soon be tired, exhausted and running on empty. You cannot run a full time business on part time hours so know your limitations and plan accordingly.
3. Research your product or service effectively – Is there a genuine need for your product? Don’t just ask friends & family! Those close to you won’t want to upset you; you need constructive criticism to get the product or service right otherwise you could waste a fortune before you’ve even started. Talk to people you don’t know - join online business forums to ask for opinions – you may need a thick skin but the truth is what you need. How many times have we seen people on Dragons Den thinking they have the next greatest thing, where both the dragons and we, watching at home can see the failings of the product but the entrepreneur in the den simply can’t? They are too close and too enthusiastic to see it’s not going to work... Is there a need? Is your price right? What are your competitors doing?
4. What is unique about your product or service? In a competitive world, a new business doing the same as its competitors will struggle. Find a way to be different, make your product or service stand out from the rest...find your USP (unique selling point) – it is essential to any new business. It doesn’t have to be an invention, you could sell a product that’s been around for years – just make sure you do it differently.
5. Manufacturing – you’ll need to find the right supplier and at the right price. Shop around, get referrals. You’ll find people will talk about their suppliers, maybe not if you are competing with them but in general other people (especially other mums!) will pass on their experience. You can use Alibaba to source overseas manufacturers, but again referrals will help no end. Online networking and Google will be your best friends!
6. Distinguishing who to sell to, and who not to sell to. Aggressive sales companies teach their new sales reps to go after friends and family first, although it’s a great tactic for the company to get the friends & family of every employee signed up, it’s not so great for a newly self employed person to constantly sell to those closest to them. You could end up a business bore and potentially alienate any referrals you stand to gain from your own personal network. There’s a fine line between networking and self promotion...get it right by making sure everyone knows what you do and you’ll be laughing.
7. You need to identify potential quality sales and time wasters. It’s not just in the car sales world; you get the tyre kickers in business too! If you have a skill, some people may want to pick your brains rather than actually pay you to do the job. You need to identify this soon on and only spend your time where an income is coming from.
8. Don’t give freebies to friends & family. In the early days you could be all excited about being in business and the freedom you now have; you tell your friends and family what you’re doing...’if you want my service you know where I am!’...Without realising the effect it’ll have on you, such people may expect discounts, if not for free. Set a ‘friends & family rate’ early on and offer a great discount if they supply a testimonial and refer you to their friends.
9. Get the Work life balance...to balance! Don’t forget about your family time. In the early days you’ll be so into your new business (and quite right too!) those early days are intrinsic to your success but you need to build in time for family. Get the work life routine under control early on so you don’t have to make changes later on when you realise that your kids are growing up too quickly. It will happen on occasion, but look for signs that it’s becoming commonplace – you may not realise until it becomes a problem! Don’t miss a moment.
10. Don’t forget your Marketing momentum. You’re launching a new business, you have your USP (unique sales point) so get a press release out and shout about it. Learn not to be modest about your success; believe in yourself and your product/service and get the word out. Build up a database of contacts from day one and keep in touch with them. Send out a regular email newsletter with extra tips about using your product/service, and get feedback and testimonials from customers.
11. Get your branding right. A professional website will not just say something; it will say everything about you and your business. Put across a professional image at all times and never ever have homemade business cards. Websites and business cards are inexpensive these days so the investment can be minimal so there is no excuse for handing out cheap cards!
12. Don’t get distracted! If you work from home, be careful of any distractions – the fridge, the kettle, the TV, and surfing on the internet. You are your own boss now and have no one to answer to; this in itself can be a problem. You need to regiment yourself every day – get up at the same time, focus on the day’s task and get it done. No surfing, limit your snacks and be careful of daytime TV!
13. Never underestimate the power of networking – but get it right! Networking is the key to success, both online and offline networking is incredibly effective, make time everyday to post on twitter/facebook/online forums. Like minded people provide fantastic networking and potential for referrals. But at face to face networking don’t ever deal out your business cards like playing cards. You need to be interested in others as much as you want them to be interested in you. But if you feel you’re being sold to by someone else, you need to know when to move on to the next person, subtly!
14. Get a business plan...and stick to it. Too many people start out in business without a proper business plan. Yes, it’s in your head but remember your goal is to make money so before investing your own money and time, a plan will help you see exactly how (and when) you will see a return on your investment. It will keep you on track so be sure not to deviate from it. Of course, you’ll adapt the plan as you go, but it will be based on your experiences, so the changes will be positive and will lead to the development of a strong business model. But do not let ‘new opportunities’ cloud your judgement. New opportunities will pop up all the time, just be careful how they could affect your original vision of your business.
15. Do not procrastinate! Learn to make a decision and quickly. If an opportunity comes your way, decide straight away whether it’s worth pursuing. If it is, go for it, if not, disregard it and carry on without delay. Not making a decision can be worse than making the wrong choice, so evaluate everything carefully but quickly.
16. Don’t focus too hard on the profit. You are in business to make money of course, but you need to be value led to get more business. Provide a good service at a fair price and you will be rewarded. For instance someone may set up a children’s clothing website. The owner works from home, has their spare room as a stock room, no overheads, no staff but still think they can set prices to compete with a high street stores. Keep your prices realistic, whilst making a fair profit for yourself.
17. Do you have enough money? These days the cost of setting up a website is minimal, especially if you’re prepared to do it yourself online. But there are other costs – stock, marketing, advertising, leaflets, business cards, brochures, etc. Make sure your business plan does indeed plan correctly.
18. Create a lean mean business machine! The early days are critical to business, the first sale is wonderful and indicates you’re on the right track but you need to build on that success, don’t allow yourself to become complacent after a success. Keep the momentum going, think about how that lead was generated and turned into a sale and repeat it, straight away.
19. New business can fail because they run out of money. Cash flow is critical to a startup business, don’t spend too much on items that are not essential to your business and once the customers start rolling in don’t let them take too long to pay you. Do you really need a new desk, phone system…an iphone… new car…?
20. Access to Funding: You can either plan thoroughly to ensure your own investment will see you through the early stages, look for a bank to support you or seek outside investors. The latter however will take time to secure, and you will need a strong business plan to impress any investor. Alternatively you could ease into your new business on a part-time basis until you know that it will make enough money to support you…and your family. Funding can also be available through local business grants and sponsorship. Google will be your best friend here, but also look for local networking groups, Business Link and chamber of commerce as good starting points.
21. Always enjoy what you do – the moment your business becomes a chore you need to re-evaluate. Don’t forget the reasons you decided to go into business in the first place. It’s for more freedom, to improve your life and enjoy being your own boss. Your job as the business owner is to develop the business so aim to reach a point where you have staff to take care of the more mundane tasks leaving you to work on the growth of your business.
So business really isn't as scary as it may seem at first, and there is a wealth of help and advice out there for new businesses, you just need to know where to click. But once you get started, it is important to realise that while your potential is being unleashed with your fabulous new venture, the pile of ironing may well get close to reaching the ceiling...
· www.BusinessMumWeek.com– the first week of October every year is business mum week. Find your local event here or start your own. All support is free and here and waiting for you...
· www.Mumsclub.co.uk - The free to use business club for mums. Has business start up information, competitions, media information, new business opportunities and a thriving online community where you can meet other entrepreneurial mums.
· www.MumsBusinessClub.com - This is a growing network of face to face networking clubs around the UK. Currently stands at 24 local clubs that are free to join, you can find your local group here.
· www.Business Link.gov.uk – The government website business – a great starting point for any new or established enterprise.
· www.Everywoman.co.uk- Information for getting businesswomen in touch with each other, facilitating valuable relationships and helping women build business contacts.
· www.Start ups.co.uk– An online magazine for business start ups – find information on how to start a business.
· www.britishchambers.org.uk -British Chambers of Commerce is the national body for a powerful and influential Network of Accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK.
· www.bl.uk/bipc - British Library Business & IP Centre supports entrepreneurs and inventors from that first spark of inspiration to successfully launching and developing a business.
· www.DesignCouncil.org.uk is funded by the UK government to promote the use of design throughout the UK’s businesses and public services.
· www.englandsrdas.comare helping to create prosperity across England. They are strategic leaders, bringing together views of the people who live and work in each region, and combining these with a unique set of business and economic insights to make the most of the opportunities globalisation brings.
· www.fsb.org.uk - The Federation of Small Businesses is the UK's largest campaigning pressure group promoting and protecting the interests of the self-employed and owners of small firms.
· www.NFEA.com is a network of independent, not for profit, Local Enterprise Agencies and similar organisations committed to responding to the needs of small and growing businesses by providing a range of appropriate quality services.
· www.WEConnect.org.uk is the leading UK supplier diversity initiative spearheading the connection of women-owned business and multinational corporations. It is the UK's leading advocate of women-owned businesses as suppliers to global and national corporations and government bodies.
The national mumpreneur census is running now, contribute to the survey here and help build a complete business mum profile of the UK.