Rachel Lowe MBE is a successful Mumprenueur and the founder of Destination Board Games and She Who Dares UK. Here Rachel shares her top tips for achieving business success while doing one of the most important jobs of all.
- Formulate a Business Plan
If you've got a great idea for a business write it down in a logical format and work out what you need to get it started. Too many people start out in business without a proper business plan and although the specifics of it are in your head, a plan will help you see exactly how (and when) you will see a return on your investment.
It will keep you on track so be sure not to deviate from it. Of course, you'll adapt the plan as you go, but it will be based on your experiences, so the changes will be positive and will lead to the development of a strong business model.
- Access to Funding
You can either plan thoroughly to ensure your own investment will see you through the early stages, look for a bank to support you or seek outside investors. The latter however will take time to secure, and you will need a strong business plan to impress any investor.
Alternatively you could ease into your new business on a part-time basis until you know that it will make enough money to support you... and your family. Funding can also be available through local business grants and sponsorship. Look for local networking groups, Business Link and chamber of commerce as good starting points.
- Do your research
Is there a genuine need or appetite for your product/service? In addition to asking family and friends, talk to people you don't know. Join online business forums to ask for opinions and although the truth might be brutal, listen to what they say. It could save you a fortune in setting up a business with little or no mileage.
In contrast to that, if you truly believe in your business idea then ensure you have the commitment and drive to make it a success. I tried to get investment via Dragon's Den but the panel didn't believe in my Destination board game idea. I was convinced it would be a success and I'm so glad I didn't lose faith. After finally securing investment for Destination and launching it in Hamley's, the board game started outselling Monopoly.
You'll need to find the right supplier and at the right price so shop around and get referrals. You'll find people will talk about their suppliers, maybe not if you are competing with them but in general other people (especially other mums!) will pass on their experience. Online networking and Google is the best place to start!
If this is the first time you are going into business, tap into your network of contacts and seek as much advice as possible. Networking is the key to success, both online and offline networking is incredibly effective, make time every day to post on Twitter/Facebook/online forums. Ask your best friend's hubby, your dry cleaner or a Mum at the school for any top tips on launching and running a business.
Like-minded people provide fantastic networking and potential for referrals. Find out where there are some suitable seminars taking place and potential invest in a good business management book.
- Time Management
As business owners we have tons of plans and have every best intention of seeing them through, but think about how many hours you actually have in a day and what you can realistically do in that time.
Three pm comes round oh so quickly and if you have the school run every day, you'll soon be tired, exhausted and running on empty. You cannot run a full time business on part time hours so know your limitations and plan accordingly.
- Be patient
Setting up on your own can often take longer than you think. With children in the equation and a household to manage, unexpected illnesses and other priorities can often mean ordinary tasks are not finished as quickly as you'd like. If you can, take your time and get it right - it will be worth it in the end!
- PR Yourself
You're launching a new business so get a press release out and shout about it. Learn not to be modest about your success; believe in yourself and your product/service and get the word out. Build up a database of contacts from day one and keep in touch with them.
Send out a regular email newsletter with updates about your business and start collating feedback and testimonials from customers. Don't forget to promote yourself across social media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest are great ways to publicise what you do and get it talked about.
- Strike the Right Work/Life Balance
It can be difficult juggling family commitments with the launch of your new business but persevere. Get the work life routine under control early on so you don't have to make changes later on when you realise that your kids are growing up too quickly. It will happen on occasion, but look for signs that it's becoming commonplace - you may not realise until it becomes a problem! Don't miss a moment.
- Stay Focused!
If you work from home, be careful of any distractions - the fridge, the kettle, the TV, and surfing on the internet. You are your own boss now and have no one to answer to; this in itself can be a problem. You need to regiment yourself every day - get up at the same time, focus on the day's task and get it done. No surfing, limit your snacks and be careful of daytime TV!
- Be Decisive!
Learn to make a decision and quickly. If an opportunity comes your way, decide straight away whether it's worth pursuing. If it is, go for it, if not, disregard it and carry on without delay. Not making a decision can be worse than making the wrong choice, so evaluate everything carefully but quickly.
- Enjoy It!
Starting your own business is a massive achievement, especially when you are juggling kids! Enjoy every moment and constantly remind yourself why you are doing it.
Your job as the business owner is to develop the business so aim to reach a point where you have staff to take care of the more mundane tasks leaving you to work on the growth of your business.