Three tips for young entrepreneurs looking to fund their idea

Having a business idea is one thing, getting the funding to make your idea a reality is something else. Having recently announced the winner of The Formations Company Entrepreneur Award 2017 after receiving hundreds of applications CEO, Piers Chead, provides his tips for aspiring young entrepreneurs looking to take their business idea to the next level.

Apply, apply, apply

Entrepreneurship in the UK is at an all-time high - according to government figures as many as 80 new companies are being registered every hour. Competition is tough out there, but with new challenges, technologies and trends emerging all the time, there are real opportunities to come up with something groundbreaking in the UK today.

That’s exactly why you should apply for every business grant, innovation award and funding programme there out there. It’s not just about winning the money - the added benefits of being recognised by a credible body or organisation are equally, if not more, valuable. By drawing attention to your business, whatever stage you’re at, you’ll open up opportunities to gain new contacts, get featured in the press, collect feedback and potentially even longer-term mentorship.

Our recent winner for The Formations Company Entrepreneur Award was Terence Chung, whose idea to turn waste fruit into natural cosmetics really caught our attention. His business idea makes use of surplus and waste produce including fruit and coffee by turning it into cosmetics and toiletry products. This innovative and environmentally conscious idea impressed us due to its eye for issues facing both business and the planet, including sustainability and use of finite resources. This business idea and company, named FRUU, aims to target the UK indie cosmetics market, and is looking to specialise in fun, sustainable fruit-derived skin care products that are vegan-friendly and cruelty-free. Terence received £1,000 worth of business funding from our competition, a free company formation and a start-up package from Barclays which includes professional guidance and mentoring. Not bad for a free to enter award!

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Delve into detail

When you do apply for a grant, make sure you set out a detailed plan explaining how you’d spend the money. Come up with a timeline and factor in everything you’re going to need to set up your business, such as equipment hire, professional qualifications, commercial premises, market research, staff wages, prototypes, or whatever it might be. Don’t be vague – people like to know where their money is going to end up.

A good way to start is by dividing your plan into sections, to help you work against clearly defined goals and objectives. We suggest including 10 sections, to pin down things like the nature of the market you’re entering (including competitor analysis), the type of organisational structure you want your company to have, and, of course, your finances: including information about expenses and overheads, and a balance sheet.

It takes a fair bit of time to do it properly, but think of it as creating a reference sheet to help you sharpen and formalise what your business is actually about, and how you plan to drive it forward.

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You are your USP

The ideas that stood out in the applications for our Young Entrepreneur Award last year were those in which the applicant used their position as a young person to their advantage. Earlier this year, we interviewed Indian Street Kitchen Kolkati co-founder Kate de Lord about their process for creating their business, and it really did start with just an idea! 

Kate explains, "We set up Kolkati after a five-month trip around India, wanting to bring back the little known Kati Roll product back home to London. After we returned from our travels, I worked for a few months on other street food stalls. This gave me the confidence to believe it was something I could actually pursue. Our first market was about six months after we returned from India, and we fully launched two months after our test trade. Until that point we were still tied to other jobs."

Kate’s experiences highlight that creativity, a grasp of current trends and critical thinking are often stronger in young entrepreneurs than older businesspeople, so don’t try to sound older or more experienced than you are. You aren’t expected to have all the answers right at the beginning. Your youth, energy and commitment can be your USP.

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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