I’ve always wanted to run my own business. I’ve dabbled a bit in the past but I’ve never been brave enough (or had an idea I was really passionate enough about) to really go for it.
One big barrier to starting a business is the cost of getting started. It’s just not possible to raise finance to start a business, grants are practically non existent, and who wants to get into debt for a venture that might not work out? There is another way though, there are lots of businesses you can start with little or no money at all, I think the hardest thing to do is to find an idea to get started. Today’s post is about generating ideas for your own start up.
Ideas for free startups
Maybe there’s a product you’ve found it difficult to buy in the past or a product you’ve been frustrated with or which hasn’t quite been suitable for your needs. You could buy a product in bulk and resell it through an online marketplace like eBay or Amazon.
You could set up a mobile version of your profession. Whether you’re a hairdresser, mechanic, personal stylist or a book keeper, you could set up a mobile business from the back of your car visiting clients, working in your own office or spare room, or even working at client’s offices.
If you’re great at baking artisan bread, you make incredible macaroons, you brew your own beer or you make traditional jellies, you could make and sell your food at markets and festivals. If you make amazing occasion cakes you could start a wedding cake company or make and sell cake pops for baby showers.
If you have a skill people would pay to learn, think about teaching. Maybe you play an instrument, you’re a photographer or you speak a language. Maybe you’re great at needlework. Maybe you can make your own clothes, you’re a calligrapher or you make delicious home made sausages. You could revive a traditional craft like embroidery teaching people how to make things for their homes with a modern twist, or you could show people how to write their own wedding invitations with beautiful calligraphy. You could run sausage making courses and even write an accompanying cookery book.
If you can’t teach your skills, maybe you can sell them. Fiverr is a great website for selling skills like SEO, marketing, book keeping, personal administration, graphic design or translation with people paying for all kinds of weird and wonderful assignments, just take a look for some inspiration.
Use the resources you have at your disposal, if you can cook and you have a kitchen, you could cater for parties, if you have a spare room or a caravan in your back garden you could rent it out as holiday accommodation through Airbnb.
If you know how to make a handmade product you could sell it on Not on the High Street or Etsy, market places for anything from handmade jewellery to custom drawings of family pets to incredibly scented soap. You could make funny greetings cards with silly slogans, customised t-shirts or herb garden kits.
What’s best for you?
A good way to work out what options are available to you for starting a small business is to brainstorm your interests, your skills and the resources at your disposal. My list might look something like this:
Interests: entrepreneurship, economics, Scandinavia, languages, aerobics, weddings
Skills: accountancy, German, saxophone, cooking, organisation, spreadsheets
Resources: kitchen, car, spare bedroom, computer
Then make links between the different categories to look for opportunities. The idea is to look for opportunities to start a business in something you’re interested in which you’re also talented in. Maybe I could cater for parties with Scandinavian recipes, maybe I could offer accountancy advice to entrepreneurs from my home, maybe I could sell language learning resources to students, wedding planning spreadsheets for brides to be or offer on line aerobics classes from my spare bedroom!
Selling a product
If you decide to sell a product I’ve got some tips to choose something which you can sell from day 1. Remember, this is a start up with no (or very little investment) so you need to be selling straight away.
Choose a product which people need now, a product they already understand, in a market that already exists and sell it in a way that customers expect whether that’s on line in a shop or on a market stall.
You want customers to need your product so they feel it’s urgent that they buy it, you don’t have time to explain why people need your product, or to wait for them to need it. You don’t have time to build a new market, you need to get selling straight away so don’t waste time by choosing a product that customers can delay purchasing as more than likely they’ll forget about it and won’t buy it at all.
Choose a product which is less than £20, your stock will cost you less and customers will be able to afford to buy your product without giving it much thought. Once you’ve set your price, don’t discount your product unless you have a really good reason to. If customers ever see your product on sale, they’ll be reluctant to ever pay full price for it again anticipating a future sale.
Ask friends and family to place advance orders. This should pay for your stock and friends and family who want to support you usually won’t mind waiting a few weeks to receive their product.
Next you need to decide how your product will stand out from others on the market. Your product needs to be better at doing it’s job, more fashionable, bigger or cheaper to get customers’ attention but still a product they need.
If you want to start your own business, just give it a go. Don’t wait until you have the money you think you will need, do it anyway but do it for free. If it fails you haven’t loss anything. What you will have done though is learnt about starting a business, you’ll have new skills and you’ll have the pride of knowing you tried and you gave it a go. And do you know, it just might work out.