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NOW CLOSED: Are you a Business Owner or thinking about starting one? Please share your top tips & advice - you could win a £250 Amazon voucher

(101 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 12-Oct-12 12:15:30

We've been asked by the team at Barclays to put the call out for all of you who own your own business or who are thinking about starting one - your business could be still a dream, in its infancy or all grown up and thriving.

Barclays would like to know:

~ What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)
~ What things you wish you could have known and would share with others
~ And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do

Please share your thoughts on this thread (it doesn't need to have a financial angle) and you'll be entered into a prize draw where one MNer will win a £250 Amazon voucher.

Please note your tips and advice (without MN name) may well be used on the Barclays pages on Mumsnet or in an email out to members.

thanks and good luck
MNHQ

whizzykidd Tue 13-Nov-12 20:08:27

Great thread. Very interested in how to promote a new product. Marketing side in particular. How to contact your customers without spending a huge amount on advertising.

totaldietfood Tue 13-Nov-12 07:36:55

Agree with a lot of the advice on here so far but there are a couple of things that I found really important and haven't spotted;

Goals - have goals and work towards them. When you get to one, stop, look back at where the business came from and where it has got to and pat yourself on the back. It is rewarding and easily forgotten in the hustle and bustle of everyday work life.

Be honest with yourself about what you are good at and what you are not. If you are terrible with the bookkeeping, get a company to do it. £150 per month for an expert to do it instead of wasting hour after hour trawling through it yourself is good value for money.

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 18-Oct-12 11:55:04

Thanks for all your top tips. turnipvontrapp wins the £250 Amazon voucher. Well done.

Thanks for posting that Wix link - I'm very interested in that for a new website. Squarespace are pretty good as well (and cheap) but not super dooper easy to use.

CheeryCherry, I set up my first business at the age of 14. I was selling band tshirts and cloth patches and little badges. Pre-internet.

I flogged them to all my schoolfriends and then got a stand in a local market doing it, ended up employing my mum to run it while I was at school.

It was a great adventure for cutting my teeth, learning about VAT/Tax/Profit Margins etc we walked away with a new kitchen for my mum and I had an envious wardrobe grin

I'd egg her on, you never know what she's capable of!

I agree with Nickel, I have been promoting my storytelling business by posting a short story each morning on FB, so people can see my storytelling style (and get a bit hooked on my fabulous stories). Word has spread through this so well that I was in a cafe last week and overheard my business name in a conversation between two people I don't knowgrin.
I have budgeted for a year's grace before I see any profit, and used my "notice period" wages as seed money for upfront business costs.
HMRC are actually very helpful when you call them, they don't actually want to fine you.
Have a short spiel you can just reel off when people ask what your business does, you are your "shop front", and it's not professional to appear to have no idea what it is you do. If anyone's an expert on your business it should be you!

skyebluezombie Wed 17-Oct-12 15:04:38

I agree with above - most of my clients come from word of mouth and I spend very little on advertising.

Good work spreads good word :-)

nickeldaisical Wed 17-Oct-12 14:46:46

Word of mouth is more valuable than any advertising you can buy.
Have a facebook page and "like" as many pages as you can - join groups in your local area. When you Like pages, they're likely to like you back, and it means anything you post can be seen by others.
Join Twitter and "follow" as many people as you can - especially in the same industry. (you can steal hints and tips from them!)(and let them steal yours in return, of course). The best way to get followers is by following.
Plan to update your FB page daily (or at least 3 times a week), and Twitter should be 3 or 4 times a day. (even if it's just "ooh, got a new delivery of stock!" or "we are open!" or "working hard this morning" - it's keeping in people's minds you're after)

For websites, I will always recommend Webeden - you can have e-commerce (they've recently designed a "shop" page, but you can still have "baskets" on every page), and it's all done by Flash with templates, but you have free-reign once you've set up your site. - you pay for the ecommerce "plan" but your domain name is included in it for 2 years. (and it includes an email account)

PosieParker Wed 17-Oct-12 14:27:29

Have to say www.wix.com are a great and easy website builder, basic is free but with your own domain name it's still pretty cheap.

Leafmould Wed 17-Oct-12 10:00:46

I know setting up a business is a little different from being self employed. I have a part time job and I'm self employed as well. I have 2 or 3 clients who use my services sporadically and I enjoy the work and it brings in a bit of extra money.

Did you know that if you don't earn a lot, I think the threshold is 5 grand, you can apply to be exempt from your self employed national insurance contributions? I am planning to do this. I already pay my nics at work, and it is actually quite a lot of money.

FerryGirl Tue 16-Oct-12 22:48:54

~ What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)

I was looking for advice on all the technical aspects of running a business (tax, payroll etc)
I could have done with a chat with someone who had done it before, to give me some insight into some of the likely challenges ahead

~ What things you wish you could have known and would share with others

Running your own business is exhilarating and exciting - it is also draining and exhausting (worth bearing in mind when you have small children too!)

I wish I had known how all-encompassing it would become, and how to create boundaries to keep the various aspects of my life separate

~ And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do

1. Get a good partner / sounding board - worth their weight in diamonds

2. Work out what you are trying to do and what success would look like for you - it is different for everyone and, in a world without boundaries, it is heplful to know yourself when you think you have succeeded

3. Employing and managing people is often the harest, but most important, part of any business - get good at it or find someone who is and hire them!

DairyNips Tue 16-Oct-12 22:45:23

I have started setting up a business in the past then stopped due to falling pregnant! I am considering setting up a business again now I am in a better place.
~ What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)
I particularly needed info on advertising, pricing of products and how to do my own books/invoicing Etc as well as how to work out what tax to pay and how to register as a business and get myself known. Also advice on what to do about national insurance and how to set up a business account would have been useful.

~ What things you wish you could have known and would share with others
I wish I could have known how much start up costs can spiral to mug more than you thought they would and how much longer it takes to set up than you originally thought.

~ And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do
Do do as much research as you can in to the area of business you wish to start up in. Speak to business link and other people in the same type of business. Get unbiased opinions on your product/service and have a plan for tax so you put money aside from the start and don't get any nasty surprises.

Xroads Tue 16-Oct-12 22:08:45

I've had my childminding business for nearly 7 yrs and I'm starting to think about my next business as my dc's are growing up and we'd like our home back eventually. I'm quite creative and have a couple of hobbies I'd like to combine and eventually open a shop but this is a totally different business to what I have at the moment so I'm researching and practising and I've signed up for a couple of tester stalls eeekk

What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)

I think the whole tax thing scares everyone, a hand with a business plan would have been good and a bank account for small business with benefits would have been nice.

What things you wish you could have known and would share with others

I was nervous, too soft, on a steep learning curve and I worked constantly, I'm used to the fact my brain hardly shuts off these days!

And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do

I would like a business I can shut the door on and come home from (don't know if this will ever happen) keep everything separate so you know if your business has money.

funkystars123 Tue 16-Oct-12 22:01:27

It would be usefull to know about tax, marketing and how to survive at the beginning whilst you are building the business?

CheeryCherry Tue 16-Oct-12 21:58:53

My Dd has started her own business, just selling to friends and family, but as a teen I am torn between helping her expand while the enthusiasm is there, and helping her concentrate on her gcses. We would need help with the tax and VAT, and advice on how to move her business forward, expanding her contacts etc. We are frightened to get the tax side if it wrong and will really need to work on this when she officially sets up her business. She found the name and logo side of it fun. We also wonder if it is worth her selling online, maybe with an ebay shop, but again we are unsure of how the paypal side of it works when she is only 14! Any advice like that would be welcome.

Lcy Tue 16-Oct-12 21:27:27

Also in my line of work a brilliant website is essential - it is my front door!

Lcy Tue 16-Oct-12 21:20:09

I would have liked more advice about the practicalities of starting up a buisness. However once I found an accountant my questions were all answered.

I wish I had know how much time would go in to the one hour I was paid for

Luckily my buisness was very low start up cost and soon became profitable. I would say just go for it - it is great to work for yourself

If the start up costs are low silverlace just go for it!

Silverlace Tue 16-Oct-12 20:56:04

I am planning on starting a party business and need someone to hold my hand. I have a great idea, premises, finance and think I have a market but just need to be brave enough to do it.

My biggest worry is insurance and health and safety issues which I really could do with some help with.

I will not be employing anyone so will be on my own so just need the courage to actually do it!

GW297 Tue 16-Oct-12 20:37:58

This is a great thread! I am currently in the very early stages of setting up a small business. Although I am still very passionate about my idea, everything is taking so much longer than I anticipated. It has been a very steep learning curve and I still have so much more to learn! I bought a couple of how to start a small business type books that were helpful to a certain extent and always look out for magazine articles and online for advice and inspiration. The thing I would most like is a mentor to guide me through the process, ensuring I have done everything properly. I too worry about tax issues and insurance, as well as the best way to go about creating a website and logo etc.

zipzap Tue 16-Oct-12 20:26:58

I think lots of people under-estimate how important it is to think through how user friendly their website is - designers often like designing pretty things or Wow designs - forgetting that the objective of the site is not to showcase their artistic skills but to sell your company or your products. Testing it out beforehand to make sure that it is easy to use for your target market is really important.

Remember to harness the power of social media locally and network like mad.

remember that not everybody you deal with will be honorable or pay you on time - have strategies for what you will do when that happens.

MissMillyJewellery Tue 16-Oct-12 19:58:29

I own a wholesale business called Miss Milly; I supply costume jewellery to independent retailers all over the country, and do a handful of retail events in the run up to Christmas.

When I first started, I was hungry for general business advice, such as what I needed to do officially to be a legitimate business, how to manage the payroll, etc.

My advice to start-ups would be to look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. If cash is king then being frugal is queen. Spend your money on only the essentials…a plush office or a company car is not crucial to running a successful business and I have known companies fail because they wanted the status before they could afford it. And, as previous posters have said, most definitely keep putting your VAT and tax away on a monthly basis.

Now, my business is well established and I’m exploring expansion options. I think I have identified three options, which are:

1. I grow and franchise the retail arm of the business
2. I recruit a complete national network of regional self-employed agents for the wholesale business
3. Or I recruit WAHMs to create a network of Jewellery Party Planners

All three options have their pros and cons, and if anyone has any relevant experience, I’d love to hear it!

Bertiebiplane Tue 16-Oct-12 19:50:15

What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)

I wanted to know what my legal obligations were in terms of accounting, PAYE, VAT and corporation tax. I would have loved a checklist that made sure all of my legal obligations were covered in terms of accounts, employees, banking and insurance.

What things you wish you could have known and would share with others

It’s really important to keep an eye on cash flow, chase your invoices down until they are paid. Some large organisations won’t pay until you’ve issued an invoice and then a follow up statement even if you are a small supplier. If you’re on 90 days payment terms but have to pay your suppliers in 30 days, you could have a cashflow problem.

And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do

You must have a business plan, whether it’s handwritten or umpteen sheets of an excel spreadsheet. This helps to focus the mind on the business and whether your proposed product/service is commercially viable. There’s no point in even starting if it isn’t going to make money.

Make sure it’s something you really want to do, then you won’t mind the many extra hours it needs to make a new business a success. The rewards of having your own successful business are fantastic and if your business plan stacks up, go for it and reap the rewards!

glitch Tue 16-Oct-12 18:36:44

~ What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)
Tax, VAT, NI contributions, how to start up on a small scale. A straightforward simple guide would be great with questions answered depending on the size of your planned business. It all just seems so complex for a small business.
~ What things you wish you could have known and would share with others
I would like to know who can help, helpful websites, advice from people who have done it themselves.

onmyhonour Tue 16-Oct-12 18:32:35

I am looking in to starting my own business at the moment and it is hard.
however business plans are invaluable not only if you are looking for funding but to help keep you on track even if they are changing, it's fine to keep updating them as you get new ideas but make sure you have one so you know where you are going as it can all get a bit overwhelming sometimes.
I wish it was easier to access funding for idea's, there are grants available for younger business people looking to start up but once you are past a certain age bracket it becomes slim pickings and as my idea is a fairly small business I would like to try to start out with as little to no debt as possible, the princess trust were helpful with giving me other places to try for funding.

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