Turn your idea into a business with tips from Virgin StartUp
Ever wanted to launch a business but had no idea where to start? 2021 was a record year for new businesses in the UK and with those numbers continuing to rise, Virgin StartUp is here with some top tips on how to turn your small business ideas into a business venture.
Virgin StartUp is Virgin’s entrepreneurial foundation that helps founders start and scale the businesses they’re passionate about. Over the past nine years, Virgin StartUp has distributed over £55 million in Start Up Loans to more than 4,000 entrepreneurs. The team has learned loads from the founders they've worked with, which includes a few of the faces behind products available on Virgin Red such as Freestar, Billy Tannery and Saint Fragrance.
But before striving for success it’s important to lay the foundation for your business, and Virgin StartUp’s managing director Andy Fishburn is sharing his tips on turning a top idea into a reality.
There’s never a ‘perfect time’
A lot of people experience a lightbulb moment that has the potential to take them from a nine to five job to an entrepreneurial triumph, but the number of people who actually take the plunge and go for it is surprisingly low.
“Research has shown that over 75% of people, at some point in their lives, want to launch their own business, yet fewer than 5% of people start,” Andy explains.
“Many people are waiting for the ‘perfect time’ and while the last few years have offered up many reasons not to start, the truth is there will always be a reason to delay. Waiting for the perfect conditions is a sure-fire way to ensure you’ll never start.”
Find a great idea (for you)
While some have a brilliant idea hit them, others keen to get into business go searching for one. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but it’s sometimes better to come up with something good instead of something big.
One way to approach it is asking yourself, “What do I wish someone would make for me?” Another involves focusing on something that fulfils a need. If you can come up with a solution to an everyday problem that you'd be willing to pay for, it’s likely others will too.
But most importantly, you must find something you love. According to Andy, “Whatever idea you land on, be sure it’s something you’re passionate about. Starting a business can be hard, so you want to make sure it’s something that you’re still going to have motivation for in three years’ time.”
Build a business plan
You don’t need any formal qualifications to start – and there’s lots of free resources online to help you get to grips with it all. It can be daunting to know where to start and what you need to do. After settling on your initial idea, a business plan should be the next step.
“A business plan can provide a great structure to get your thoughts down; to see what you’re clear on and what might need more work,” Andy says. “It’s a key step in setting you up for success and it’ll help you identify your target customer – who they are and what makes them tick. Knowing this will help inform everything else, from price point to what marketing activities are likely to be effective.”
And don’t forget about the money: “It’s important to focus on the financial side of running a business, too. As well as developing a cash flow forecast, we also encourage founders to create a ‘personal survival budget’ which looks at your personal income and expenses and helps establish what you’ll need to draw from your business going forward to cover your living costs.”
Get a helping hand
Being a founder can be isolating even if you plan to build a big team, but Andy stresses it’s important to get as much support as possible in the early days.
“While feedback from family and friends can be helpful, there’s no substitute for the advice of an experienced mentor who doesn’t have a vested interest in your business,” Andy says. “At Virgin StartUp we have over 600 mentors who work 1-1 with our founders to help them on their business journey.”
As well as mentors, connecting with fellow founders and local business communities – virtual or in person – can be invaluable. “They can be another great source of business start-up tips, advice, guidance and general support,” Andy explains.
“At Virgin StartUp we run a free, monthly MeetUp event, giving people the opportunity to hear from a diverse range of voices in the start-up space, while meeting and connecting with fellow founders, too.”
Find out more about Virgin StartUp.