Entrepreneurs offer their advice on striking out alone

Whichever way you look at things, the numbers simply cannot lie. Entrepreneurship is on the rise in the UK, with a 6.4 per cent increase in start-up businesses between 2016 and 2017, according to LinkedIn.

That statistic is even more impressive considering last year The Telegraph reported that 80 new companies were being born every hour in Britain. A phenomenal claim, this trend results from a variety of circumstances; some great - for example access to cheaper equipment, more flexible locations and greater efficiencies thanks to technology - others bad, such as the struggling jobs market.

For many people, setting out on their own is a dream come true, and despite being fraught with challenges, taking the plunge is the only path to true professional happiness. Or at least satisfaction.

"I am fascinated by business and always have been. I have dreamed of being a CEO since I was a little girl, because I am a product of the environment that created Working Girl and Wall Street (the first time round), those were my aspirational targets as a child," explains Natalie Campbell, who has headed up a fashion business in London’s Brick Lane, a lingerie shop in Soho, and, after selling both, is now establishing a sportswear company, mysportlondon, which launches next month.

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"Those were my 'influencers' so they formed the person that I became. Sigourney Weaver, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Rocky movies and the story of how they were made. I am from a group of children fed on capitalism and growth, taught that you can do anything no matter where you are from, so I remain obsessed with these things."

Clearly passionate about what she does, nevertheless Campbell is quick to point out that dedication and commitment are pre-requisites of business success. Not to mention energy. Trials, tribulations, stresses and strains being par for the course.

"The strains? I split the root of one of my back teeth, having a screaming nightmare one night and now it has to be removed. I have had a headache for two days. I am planning to shoot the collection in a little over six weeks and as of today I don’t actually have one single sample in hand... not even in the wrong colour! It’s exhilarating and scary, but I am trying to ignore those bits."

Read: How an adventure resulted in our business 

For Joe Gosling, Managing Director of Bearded Fellows, an award-winning creative studio based in Manchester, the road to professional independence, not to mention success, came out of necessity. Again, though, the rewards have been huge.

"We set up Bearded Fellows in 2012 at the back end of the recession, so for me it was to prove to myself that I had value and was better than the jobs that were available at the time, which were call centres and bars. I wanted a career, and wanted to do what I loved with people I cared about, so we set up to achieve those goals together," he explains.

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"A big obstacle for me was getting over imposter's syndrome early on. Not fully appreciating your value and understanding what you think is easy and straightforward is impossible for others to pull off. That was a massive learning curve for me in my growth."

Gosling also has sound advice for anyone looking to set out on their own.

"Learning from failure is important to entrepreneurs as each day is a new challenge and not being afraid to try new things helps you stand out from your competitors and makes you stronger as a business. The reward of being responsible for your own destiny and being able to do the thing you love every day is worth every moment of stress and strain."

Entrepreneurship is often referred to as 'taking the plunge', and Martyn Blacklock epitomises this. After years working a high paid job at one of the world’s biggest banks, even managing to keep his position during the darkest days of the crash, disillusionment set in, and he began looking for a new purpose in professional life. Today he runs a successful counselling and wellbeing practice, Self Coach, working with everyone from adults at the end of their tether to the education system - devising a primary schools programme to improve physical and mental health, having long since made the decision to only work on projects he feels inspired by.

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"I was frustrated at having to work for my money and living by others' questionable ethics and being part of a fear-led environment, where creativity was stifled and neither staff or clients were benefitting. I certainly had a fear of striking out on my own, but it's become about learning to control the fear to my advantage and not allowing it to paralyse me, like it did my former employer.

"I'm infinitely more fulfilled in every aspect of my life: I really help others, I know myself so much better, I look and feel way younger, I have amazing relationships that are so much more varied and deeper, I have loads of fun, travel lots and, almost as an aside, I earn more than enough to sustain this lifestyle (without trying). I don't fear much anymore, because I made fear my friend."

Again, he’s also clear on what others should consider before they make their own move.

"Always work from a place of passion, find that excites you and do that, then, most importantly, do everything with integrity. When you are people should be able to visible see through our actions, words, decisions, methods, and outcomes. Bring that same you wherever you are, regardless of the context and don’t leave parts of yourself behind, especially those you find hardest to show. Try not to have a ‘work you’, a ‘family you’, and a ‘social you’. Be you, all the time. People are attracted to genuine people."

Whilst all these individuals have completely difference businesses, there sentiments clearly echo each other. Entrepreneurship isn’t easy, but it’s almost always worth it - the feeling of freedom and being on a path of your own choosing far outweigh the fear factor. In turn, this allows people to express who they truly are within their work, something that many careers have a habit of stifling. Inspirational stuff, with such pros is it any surprise more and more of us are opting to ignore - or at least overcome - the cons involved? 

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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