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To ask for your advice in starting a business(70 Posts)
Name changed for this (actually named-changed a few times in my MN history but didn't ever feel I needed to say so until now!)
So DP and I are starting a business, hopefully launching next year, but doing the work for it now. As my username indicates, I'm terrified of failure and posting here selfishly hoping any of you who have done this successfully or unsuccessfully in the past will be kind enough to give me tips/stories/advice!
It's fairly niche so I can't say here what it is. But there are 4 or so entities in the UK doing it successfully.
It will be website based, with people making bookings to participate in an activity for enjoyment, rather than a service to provide something that people actually need. Think something like....(wracks brain)...going on a website to book a pony-trek and then turning up and doing that pony trek (it's not that, but that is a good likeness!)
I should add that I was made redundant a while ago and have been a SAHM since then, so not leaving a job to do this...
I think the biggest reason for failure is not that this business is inherently set up to fail (ie there are people booked up who are doing this) but that it will fail because I am at the helm and I will fuck it up in some way....really scared and lacking confidence!
Have to turn off the internet now as I'll get no work done but will be back on later. I would be really grateful if you could help me out with anything you've learned or any success stories where you have done this
You are setting up a booking brokerage business? How are you incentivising people to go through you? Do you have businesses signed up? Sounds risky - would you be negotiating with companies?
No it's not a booking brokerage - we provide the service that people sign up for. We have the equipment etc to do it, and the expertise.
So much for me turning off the internet :-D
Imagine we have a farm and we have ponies. people go on website, sign up for treks and turn up....similar to that...
Build how you are going to take this to market into your strategy. So often clients come to me having spent £50-100k (easily done by the way) on developing the website/brand/etc and it's not fit for purpose, doesn't fit with or speak to their target customers and they are then very short of money for actually raising awareness the website (or whatever) exists. HTH if you want to DM the details.
Look at the whole experience and ensure it fits with the service and price point.
If your "pony trekking" is basic, a simple parking yard, a sign to the office and a loo is enough.
If it's luxury, then you'd expect a nice clean parking area, staff to welcome, warm comfy place to change/wait/store items, coffee machine etc
Emulate the best bits of your competition, a la Alex Pollizzi in The Hotel Inspector.
Do you have a back up plan if for some reason you can't provide the service? I was teaching adults and had to cancel a lot of classes very very last minute when I needed an emergency c-section followed by a lot of hospital time. If possible make sure that you can still function if key people are not available for any unexpected reason, but also holidays etc. It's easy to work yourself into the ground running a business.
If you can 'soft launch' ahead of time with some offers, explaining to clients that's what you're doing and asking for feedback that might be helpful in honing the experience. Hitting the ground running fully formed is nigh on impossible but if you reply on word or mouth recommendations or good reviews for custom you want all your customers to think you're ace. Giving a discount is one way to buy forgiveness for any little niggles. But do remember that there are always nobbers and you have to have a reasonably thick skin!
@WineIsMyCarb @BuzzShitbagBobbly @VeniVidiVoxi
I'll amalgamate my answers! Done a huge amount of market research via a form and offered discounts to those filling it in...so also considering "soft launch" via just doing it for people at cost so we can get their responses for putting on the website as reviews.
The back up plan is tough as you need a licence to do this via a course and it cost £1000 so thus far only DP has the licence. I'm aware I will need to do that course/get that licence myself...I think tbh even 2 of us will need the licence to take 1 "batch" of clients on this, depending on how many is in a batch. It is thus far so "niche" that there is no standardizing body saying "yeah you need at least 2/3/4 licenced people per X amount of clients"....so we kind of have to work that out.
Emulating the competition: we have been on this "experience" via our competitor and looked hard at what they are doing. On the bright side our only competitor nearby has just taken on an extra 2 members of staff so they obviously have the business....
@ghostylovesheets apologies I should have thanked you too! It's not a brokerage but kind of you to take the time to respond
Has anyone got any stories of how they did this? I guess it's hard to do that as quite rightly no one wants to post identifying stuff! Hard to tell a story and be vague!!
I know it's not fashionable any more but I'd do as much market research and people attending user experience sessions, as you can. Like a PP said, you can design whatever user interface you like, but the market will tell you if it's any good and people are getting to what they need as quickly as possible.
Make sure you know what you are buying and that quotes you are given cover everything. Ie someone designs your website but you have to pay extra for signature verification.
Do you have alternative income as it sound like you would spend a lot of time worrying.
Hope it goes well for you
@GinDaddy thank you... absolutely...done the MR to see if there is a need but definitely need to keep doing it once we launch and see if pp think we did it "right"!
I know it's a free country and all that, but going on your future competitor's experience or course or whatever, and cribbing their hard work - that's emphatically not going to win you any friends amongst your peers. Don't expect them not to notice, they will. Do your own thing and make it yours with your own words, colour schemes, back-end systems, the works.
(Speaking from experience, I never work with people who have copied me and I warn my colleagues in the same industry about them too. Nobody likes it.)
@rose69 thank you I know :-( I already am worrying. Yes we do have an alternative income but the job DP is in is up for redundancy in the new year. So he will have to find something new and short-term prior to launching this. The one shining light is we have an organisation that helps small businesses like ours start up and have a kind of mentor in that backing us. Have an appointment with this person next week to show them how much we have done and discuss next steps. They are a bridge to potential funders if they think what we have done so far is worth it, as thus far it is our savings we have sunk in. I know it sounds full of risk BUT I have to keep telling myself that other people do do this and make it work....so unless there is something inherently crap in me (and I consider that possibility hourly!) then why could we not make this work??
Absolutely, it's usually at the months before launch stage/the "launch" itself, where businesses go "we've done it, website is up and running, lets go!"
This is of course just the beginning, as it's here where your customer base will tell you just what they are wanting more of, or the statistics will tell you where to adjust, so definitely factor user experience testing in. Doesn't have to be some weird mega pricey specialist firm, can just be you, a laptop and big screen, and some valued customers.
Ask them to find X on your website, or ask them to search in Google for Y. Record everything they say and do etc.
@nibdedibble I take your point BUT we went on one experience that our competitor offered, paid for and enjoyed it. If someone is starting a hairdressing business, do they then never go and have their hair cut?
Well it depends.
I know someone whose entire, highly specialised, holiday business was copied down to the last detail. The name was different but even the typefaces used on the landing page looked similar. Every bit of Business 1 was 'recycled', a few words changed here and there - it was so obvious.
Yes there was a market big enough for both businesses but it meant they could never collaborate or help each other out, because business 2 had shown themselves to be underhanded/clueless/lacking in work ethic/delete as applicable!
But I take your point in making it our own obviously :-) There would be no point in doing a carbon copy of theirs....why would people choose us over them if we did that?
Absolutely - I do see what you mean!
I feel bad even starting to to be honest, but businesses start every day offering something that a competitor does...
Of course - nobody's saying there is only room for one business of any type
But you asked for advice and that is mine: make it yours.
I just wanted to say that if there's only a small number of such businesses, be extra careful to do your own work. You never know when you will want to or need to rely on competitors so don't piss them off instantly.
(Actually customers can feel comforted by similar-sounding spiel and will probably often ask you why you don't do what X competitor does, or not in the same way.)
Please, please do not take on board anyone who indicates that because you are starting competition, you are somehow "doing someone else out of a living" or whatever nonsense.
You have a right to provide your expertise, which will most likely be very welcome to other people who want to book onto your experiences.
The very best people in their fields are often struck by anxiety or self doubt because they are perfectionists or they have such powerful ideas of what they want to do in business that it almost paralyses them in action.
Once those products/businesses do come to market however they tend to be ones I would want to purchase from.
Good luck with it all, don't let anyone dissuade you.
I'd say four things from my experience and mistakes... assuming it is a business that has a real need and not just a dragons den daft idea.
1) strong marketing - I found this the hardest to be honest
2) decent USP to add value to whatever you are doing
3) go the extra mile to ensure customers appreciate it and tell five people each (easy to lose customers and reputation and hard to gain it) - word of mouth is good. Also give them vouchers to encourage them to come back or give to a friend... if a friend takes it up, then the original party gets a £10 M&S voucher
4) keep on top of your paperwork ... that's the easy bit
Plus, make sure you do a decent business plan and stick to it. I can help you with that if you need any help (PM me if you do)
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