Busting the myths around starting your own business
COVID has caused disruption in the business and education sector like nothing before. With the unpredictability of exam cancellations, the jobs market simultaneously seizing up and becoming flooded with job-seekers, and with some sectors unrecognisable to what they were this time last year, many young people are considering the option of ‘going it alone’ when it comes to taking their first steps in to the workplace. This year, Innovate UK gave an unprecedented 64 young entrepreneurs its coveted Young Innovator Award. These young innovators have been given a 1-year tailored package of support, including £5,000 grant, one-on-one business coaching and an allowance to cover living costs. We asked the latest cohort of Young Innovators to bust 6 myths of going it alone:
– Myth 1: You have to know everything about how to run a business
You’ll learn as you go! Not everyone has the confidence when they are starting out, but they build it as they go. The key is to talk to lots of people and surround yourself with people who broaden your own skill set and knowledge base. Network with similar businesses or those at a similar stage and read widely – from business titles to the leading trade title for your sector. You can learn how to write a business plan – you can’t learn how to passionately pursue your dreams!
One of this year’s winners is musician and founder of online music tuition service Starling Music Academy, Rhiannon Jeffreys says, “I have been amazed to see how quickly your network can grow, just by having conversations. Even people in a completely different sector may be able to put you in touch with someone they know who is in your sector, and I love the idea of being able to do that for others in the future.”
Similarly, Young Innovator Chris Elliot – creator of Untrapped, a onestop student rental portal – says, “I think the number of new skills you learn as an entrepreneur is surprising. In the last year I’ve gained more skills than any other period of my life.”
– Myth 2: You need lots of money
Of course money always helps but you don’t need to throw buckets of money at an idea. To start, it’s about testing on a small scale, identifying a handful of customers and building the relationship you have with those people. The oldest form of marketing is word of mouth and this is what your business can rely heavily on – not just in the early days but as you become more established in your sector too.
Sustainability entrepreneur Alex Newnes, who is producing a fully degradable and non-toxic alternative to plastic, maintains, “We started PlantSea Ltd with nothing but passion and an idea. Since then, we have won awards, networked, and learned an awful lot along the way! None of us knew what the road would look like for a biotech.”
– Myth 3: Your idea is your most precious commodity
No, you are! It’s important not to put too much stock in ‘the idea’. It can make you resistant to change. You need to test it, and be prepared to drop and change it. Instagram’s first iteration more closely resembled a gaming platform before turning in to the global giant in photo sharing. Some of the most successful ideas have been a result of innovators pivoting from one concept to another. Your time is the most precious commodity. It is important to plan your time to your best advantage in order to reach your goals. Don’t be de-railed by other people’s priorities, focus your time on your own goals.
Alexander Tep – designer of Bunsen, a free inventory management app – recommends, “Don’t be too precious with your idea – get out there and test it immediately and see if people want to buy your product. Your idea will probably need to change as you discover more about your customers – don’t waste too much time on a 50 page business plan. Sketch out a skeletal plan and hold it loosely. Once you’ve validated your basic idea, you can crystallise it and work out the finer details”
– Myth 4: The best entrepreneurs became a success overnight
There is no such thing as an overnight success – businesses take years of hard work. The Queen’s Gambit has been viewed by 62 million people on Netflix. Yet it took writer Allan Scott 30 years and nine rewrites to get the show on screen. The illusion that you’ll make it quick or not at all belies all the hard work it takes and can put people off if they have early setbacks. Keep going, you’ll get there.
Ben Bowler – Co-Founder of SendMusic which helps major music labels evaluate, sort and highlight potential hit tracks – comments, “I always say there is years of work behind ever overnight success. I remember my dad shared an article with me about a teenager who started an airline and being blown away – those are the stories you see often in the press – but when you dig a little deeper you see the work that has actually gone into getting to that point over many years with many supporters. You need an army of support and years of time to make your business and overnight success!”
– Myth 5: You can do it alone
No successful business person really does it alone – the most successful surround themselves with the right people to help. Even the most accomplished business senior leaders will have strengths and weaknesses. Collaboration is at the heart of innovation so it’s important to bring the best minds together to support you across the board.
Folu Ogunyeye – boosting social mobility with her student-led platform app Vamos – says, “I believe that there’s no such thing as self-made success. We associate successful entrepreneurs with unique individuals, and this can easily overlook how behind every successful individual is a strong support network. From family and friends to co-workers and investors — it takes a village!”
– Myth 6: It’s lonely
Actually, there’s more support than you think. There are so many groups and networks out there for aspiring entrepreneurs, and so much support – from your university, local community, social media networks and friends and family. The Young Innovators Awards, a partnership between Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust, recognise young people from across the UK with great business ideas who have the potential to become successful entrepreneurs and future leaders in innovation.
Antoinette Adams – founder of founder of JWEL, a bespoke jewellery company – details the support she’s relied upon while taking the first steps into entrepreneurship, “I have a really good friendship group who have supported me throughout all adversity. The Prince’s Trust and Young Innovators Awards mentors have really helped me make a solid structured business with regular support.”
If you’re an inspiring young innovator, check out how Innovate UK could support you here: https://ktn-uk.org/programme/young-innovators/