Best way to be an entrepreneur? Surround yourself with them.
Entrepreneurs are people with a passion and a dogged determination to make it happen. Starting with a seed of an idea, their aim is to grow it into a fully-fledged, profitable business.
And while there are no limits to how big you can dream, the entrepreneurs who end up registering their idea at Companies House have often been helped by a lot of external factors:
Where you are
Where you choose to develop your idea is just as important as the idea itself.
If you’re from a small town without a mix of people and businesses, you’re going to find it harder to develop a network of fellow entrepreneurs, get access to funding and potentially struggle to recruit future employees.
But there’s a reason why Greater London was termed the ‘entrepreneurial powerhouse’ in Start Up Britain’s report earlier this year, with Birmingham and Manchester coming second and third.
Cities have a higher concentration of people. A larger potential customer base consisting of wealthier people buying more products creates a ripe environment to grow a business.
Building a network
However, whether or not you have a large potential customer base, you also need to know how to reach them.
There’s a reason why start up hubs have become ‘de rigueur’ in cities and towns across the UK. It’s hard to build a business without the support of others. Collectives, co-working spaces, startup hubs – whatever you call them, they’re a great help for entrepreneurs who want to build their businesses.
James Layfield, serial entrepreneur and CEO of collaborative workspace network Central Working in London and Manchester, spoke to The Chartered Management Institute: “Today’s entrepreneurs have access to a wealth of resources and government initiatives that exist purely to assist them. There are more accelerators, incubators and collaborative workspaces than ever. There’s really been no better time to start your business.”
Ben Davies, founder and CEO of collective workspace Ministry of Start Ups, based in Shoreditch, values the supportive nature of co-working environments.
“It’s all about surrounding yourself with other people in the same position. We’re all in the same boat and rowing together. Whether we’re at the same point in our business or not, we’ve all been through the same things so we’re in a position to offer help and advice.”
While he agrees there’s a lot of information on the internet to help budding entrepreneurs build their business, it’s hard to know what actually applies to your idea.
“The internet is brilliant but you can’t replace real life experience with impersonal information. Every business is completely unique.”
Speaking to us about the reasons behind his decision to set up The Ministry of Start Ups, he said:
“I saw an empty, disused building and knew lots of people who needed a place to work that had a good vibe for creative entrepreneurialism. And yes funding is more easily accessible if you’re in a larger city, but you can also get pockets of investment and make valuable connections if you set up in a collective workspace.”
However, while surrounding yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs can be an invaluable source of inspiration and guidance, “as Rocky would say, ‘it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows,’” says Ben. “New entrepreneurs can get overwhelmed by the number of opinions flying around and get even more confused about the best route to take.”
It’s completely unique to every company, though. While one may find real comfort in networking with lots of different kinds of businesses, others may get intimidated and begin doubting their original idea.
Having said that, there’s little doubt that surrounding yourself with people who could introduce you to investors is a good thing. Fellow entrepreneurs often share their experiences and help each other with funding applications. “Some of us ‘older entrepreneurs’ have even invested in younger companies after meeting through the Ministry of Start Ups,” says Ben.
And while government grants and start up loans can be applied for from anywhere in the UK, you’ll be exposed to far more private investment opportunities and bespoke advice if you set up in a location where other people are doing a similar thing.
It’s a buzz word, but networking really is good for business.
A good place to start chatting to other small business owners and be surrounded by some of the brightest Business Decision Makers is at Microsoft’s Future Decoded event in November. Find out more about it on their site.