Blog: Expert tips for budding entrepreneurs
Aly Davidson, an experienced entrepreneur who has founded more than 30 companies, is supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs in her role as Business Start-up Advisor for Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce.
Having already supported over 400 start-ups in the past two years alone, Aly will be sharing her expertise as part of Keele’s Exploring Digital Entrepreneurship workshops, which provide 12 hours of fully-funded support and guidance to help develop business ideas and build business knowledge.
Ahead of the next workshops, here are Aly’s top tips for budding entrepreneurs:
Dream big, start small
“I used to say I was a nobody from nowhere, but I’ve travelled extensively over 100 countries around the world, so I guess I’m somebody who’s been everywhere!
“As a young girl, I had a big dream to travel the world. There were so many places I wanted to see for myself, I could almost smell the air there, feel the breeze and imagine the sounds that would surround me.
“So, even though I didn’t have the means to travel, I created a big plan with the ultimate goal of swimming with the fish over the Great Barrier Reef. After setting up my first business at the age of 21, I took my first plane journey at 31. It wasn’t to Australia but to Majorca’s Caves of Drach. The first baby step in my big plan. Before I ever got to my big dream, I took many shorter journeys – for example I climbed down into a pyramid in Egypt, took a safari with the Masai Mara in Kenya and sang in a traditional Tokyo karaoke bar. Every journey brought me its own rewards, while I built my experience, knowledge and resource to get all the way to Australia.
“The best part was that, as my dream got closer, I began to dream even BIGGER, and once I had swam in the Great Barrier Reef, I went onwards to tour across South, Central and North America, Canada, the islands of the Caribbean and beyond.
“Adopt this approach to your business idea - formulate a roadmap that starts with your ultimate goal, working backwards to fill in the smaller, incremental steps that are going to get you there.
“Starting with your business plan, understand how you are going to make your first pound, who are your audience and how does your service or product meet their needs? Look at the feasibility of your business, both financially and operationally.”
Understand the odds and place your bet
“Occasionally I buy a lottery ticket, I understand the odds of winning are low, but for the potential pay-off it’s worth the £2.50 to try! I’m willing to lose that amount, trying to win.
“Your business is the same - you need to decide from the onset what you are willing to invest in getting your business idea off the ground. Key to this is understanding your finances; work with a professional accountant to put together some financial projections that will give you a good idea of how much you need to get from foundation to early trading stage.
“Work out where the money will come from and how you will start to generate revenue. Set your limits and know when to stop.”
Know the difference between nice and kind
“We often hear that you should approach friends and family for support and financial input when starting out but heed the adage of ‘never mix business with pleasure’!
“Your family and friends are naturally biased to support you no matter what, and whilst they desperately want you to succeed, they may be blindsided to any flaws or potential pitfalls in your plans, offering you ‘nice ‘words of encouragement.
“Surround yourself with ‘kind’ people, the ones who don’t have an emotional connection to you and can give their opinions honestly and clearly…even if it’s not what you want to hear.”
Listen to your gut
“Cortisol is the body’s response to physical and psychological stress, triggering a ‘fight or flight’ response to a situation. There are theories that ‘gut feeling’ may be a precursor to this response, the early warning to make us stop and think. Get to know yours!
“There is a wealth of advice and guidance that you can take advantage off to support your start-up journey - trust your gut instinct to filter the opportunities that feel and sound good to you and be confident enough to say no to the ones don’t meet your needs or values.”
It’s up to you to nurture your dream and turn it into a business
“The business idea that you have is your dream, your passion. You’ve probably had sleepless nights thinking about the possibilities…and potential pitfalls. How are you going to turn that dream into a reality?
“Before anyone else can be expected to invest time or money into your idea, you will need to prove it works by gaining traction and demonstrating you’ve done all you can to get your business up and running with orders on the books.
“Whilst the responsibility to do this is yours and yours alone, research any opportunities available to you. Perhaps there is a course to help improve your knowledge in a certain area, maybe there is a support programme or grant funding available – maximise these (relevant) opportunities to grow and nurture your dream into a business.”
Aly is currently delivering sessions as part of Keele’s Exploring Digital Entrepreneurship workshops, offering 12 hours of fully-funded support and guidance to help develop business ideas and build business knowledge. Discover more about how your business can benefit from this support by visiting keele.ac.uk/digitalbusiness.
Innovation Centre 7 and its associated programmes are part-funded through a suite of funders including the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) (as part of the England 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme), the Research England Development Fund, and UK Government funding through the Getting Building Fund.
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