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Eight steps to starting a business in 2016

If 2016 is your year to start a business, follow these steps from Enterprise Nation founder and small business expert, Emma Jones. They show how to come up with an idea, write a plan, get online, make sales and keep growing.

1) Come up with an idea

To find your business idea, ask yourself three questions; have you spotted a gap in the market? What’s your passion/hobby/skill and can it be turned into a way of making a living? Have you seen someone do something that you think you can do better yourself? The answers to these questions will give you the basis of an idea for a business.

2) Write a plan

A business plan acts as your routemap and will guide you from start-up to growth. It doesn’t have to be a long document and it’s easy to remember what to include as it spells I’M OFF.

  • I is for Idea– outline the business idea.
  • M is for Market– who are the customers you’re going to serve? As much as you know about your customer base, the better. Are they a particular age/gender, from a certain area or have a particular style? Research the market and show off your knowledge here.
  • O is for Operations– ie what kit do you need to get started. Most businesses I see need only an internet connection and business cards to get going which helps for starting on a budget. If you do need access to space/equipment etc, bear in mind three words that will come in handy on your business journey ‘Beg, Borrow & Barter’ie approach someone with the kit you need and ask if you can have access in exchange for giving them profile/footfall etc.
  • F is for Finances– which is two-fold; writing a cashflow forecast for the business which, at its most basic  level, is projected sales less your costs = profit for the first 12/18/24 months. The second element, which will stem from the forecast, is whether you need any funding to get going. If so, take a look at StartUp Loans (www.startuploans.co.uk), the bank of friends & family or crowdfunding, which are the most popular forms of start-up finance.
  • The final F is for Friends– or, slightly more professionally put, this is your support network of advisers and experts on whom you can call on the topics that may not be your strong suit.

3) Build a home on the web

With millions of customers online, it’s a good move for you to be there too. Start with a blog using free tools such as Blogger and WordPress.com or consider template websites like Moonfruit, Squarespace and Create.net to get a home on the web, within a small business budget. Embrace social media by creating profiles on the main platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) to raise profile and connect with customers.

4) Make sales

Start by making sales to friends and family and keep expanding from there. Sell online, via PopUp shops, through partners, and hand promotion materials to just about everyone you meet. Make your sales message as personal as possible and attract customers back through introducing email marketing plus offers and discounts that reward loyalty.

5) Manage the money

Cash is king so you’ll want to be sure it’s coming in at a faster rate than going out! Cloud accounting is an ideal solution with companies such as Xero making accounting software available for under £10 per month so you don’t have to spend all your time and budget on managing the money but you can sleep easy knowing the finances are in order.

6) Raise profile

Get to know the journalists that cover your trade. Follow them on Twitter, reach out with releases and, by building expertise in your field, become the go-to person that journalists call when they’re after an opinion or quote. And remember, when a journalist does call, drop everything else to respond!

7) Get support

Surround yourself with experts, advisers and supporters who can help and guide on your entrepreneurial journey. Find business advisers on the Enterprise Nation marketplace and access tech support from O2 Gurus who are on hand to help with everything from tech set-up to the best apps for business.

8) Repeat!

Keep repeating these steps and before you know it, you’ll be boss of your own thriving venture. There’s no better way to spend 2016.

Emma Jones is founder of Enterprise Nation

@emmaljones

Enterprise Nation is hosting StartUp 2016, the UK’s biggest start-up show of the New Year on 16th January in 10 locations across the UK. Visit www.enterprisenation.com/startup2016 to book your free place and become your own boss!

For free, impartial business tech help and advice, why not book a session with an O2 Guru? They’re available online, in store and over the phone.

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