One in five 18-34 year-olds has a business idea. Moreover, with young people nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population – the highest level in 20 years – and the volume of new companies rising each year, starting a business has rarely been more pertinent.
Setting up a business won’t prove the silver bullet for all, but the support available has certainly never been so good. So, without further ado, here’s our 9-point check-list to guide ambitious and courageous young people through the start-up process.
1. Be inspired and learn from others’ mistakes
Read the start-up stories of others on websites, in books, or at events for people starting a business. Every successful entrepreneur makes tons of mistakes and they’re often prepared to talk about them with the benefit of hindsight.
2. Get some experience
Gain an intimate understanding of the sector you plan to launch a business into. In his early 20sNicko Williamson, the founder of eco-friendly private car hire business Climate Cars, worked in the call centre of an established private car hire company. He learned how the business operated from the inside and discovered areas where he could make small, but critical, tweaks to differentiate what was on offer.
3. Know your customer
Researching the market that you are thinking of entering is essential and will tell you if you are on the right track. Talk to people within your customer demographic and get an idea of how they would react to your product or service. Very few ideas are entirely original, so you may not need a non-disclosure agreement – and by asking questions about the merits of existing products or services you don’t have to divulge what you plan to do differently anyway.
4. Know your competition
Market research also enables you to get to grips with your competition. What other products and services like yours are out there already? Not all businesses stem from a revolutionary idea and many successful businesses are borne out of an improvement to an old concept. However, you need to offer customers something noticeably better, cheaper, easier than what they are used to if you are going to draw them away from the familiar.
5. Write a business plan
Having a great business idea does not mean you have a great business. Write a business plan to encourage yourself to evaluate your idea in detail. Use it to make realistic targets for your business and consider all the costs of setting up and sustaining your company.
6. Find a mentor
Talk to people you know with experience of what you’re planning to do, attend relevant exhibitions and conferences, and speak to friends or family members who have started businesses.
7. Get a name
Find a business name that’s available and a suitable name by making a list of contenders. Then, draw four columns with headings for ‘Companies House’, ‘Domain name’, ‘Trading as’, and ‘Copyrighted’. Work through your list to find one available in every column. There are common name types, so think laterally about what you can call your business: 1. Something that says what you do (e.g. Shout Media); 2. Your name (e.g. Smith & Jones PR); 3. Something conceptual (e.g. Fizarro.com); 4. A play on words (e.g. A Cut Above). Try different combinations and see which one fits and makes a statement about your business. It is important to choose a name that will be easily remembered by your customers. Once you have the name, it’s time to build your website.
8. Design a business logo
A well-designed, relevant logo can have an instant impact on your customers and leave a lasting impression. It is important to choose a logo that suits the tone and role of your business and to have a clear idea of the message you want to convey before approaching a designer.
9. Promote your company
Hiring an expensive PR company can come later, but for now it is important to self-promote in every way possible. Social media is an essential tool for this, so get to grips with how to use sites such as Facebook and Twitter to maximum effect. Entering competitions can also help to get your company noticed and branding yourself as an award-winning company is a great way to appeal to customers.