Has there ever been a better time for a woman in the UK to start her own business? To begin with, we’re seeing the economy grow once again – it’s showing some very welcome signs of recovery after a tough few years. Many of us had almost become used to living in the recession, as though a state of financial pessimism was normal, and it was a little too easy to forget what life had been like before. The buying public is beginning to spend again and, for many, optimism is high regarding the future.
While it might be seen as a great time to take the plunge with that entrepreneurial dream you’ve had for so long, it’d be unwise to do so without taking the necessary precautions and putting all of the preparation work in.
Show me the money
Chances are, a lot of the worries and concerns you have when formulating your plans will centre around money, and that’s natural – it is, after all, one of the biggest decisions you’re ever likely to make. We have, however, come a long way in the last decade, and things work a bit differently when it comes to financing a business. It no longer has to be an ‘all or nothing’ case of putting your life savings on the line, buying the first available bricks-and-mortar store and hoping your thoroughly-planned idea takes off – you have more options available to you.
Technology: opening doors for would-be retailers
It’s difficult to look at the early signs of an upturn without seeing some kind of link to the massive strides made in the world of technology. According to figures released earlier this year by Ofcom, just over half of the UK’s adults now own smartphones, and in February it was found that 30% of all web traffic comes from these handheld devices. With various big-name manufacturers releasing new, must-have gadgets on what seems like a weekly basis, these percentages will have already grown considerably by now. You might well have firmly chosen your side when it comes to the Android vs. iPhone battle, or you may have gone with one of the other platforms, like Windows, but there’s a very good chance there’s some kind of internet-enabled device in your pocket right now.
So you have this magical touchscreen portal into the World Wide Web at the ready, 24 hours a day – what do you do? You shop! Advances in technology have meant that retailers and products are a doddle to find, transactions have become more efficient than ever before, and it’s now (technically) possible to launch a wide-reaching e-commerce business to an international audience of millions within the space of a day.
While I wouldn’t necessarily advise anyone to start a company on a whim, the speed, simplicity and frugality with which you can get things off the ground using sites like Amazon, Etsy and eBay says a lot about how accessible the world of business now is. You have the chance of starting slowly, with a small amount of money, and building your project up gradually as you learn more about what your customers want and what it is that will make you successful in the long-term. Of course, the products you sell are likely to cost something to source, even if they’re home-made, but the all-important platform from which to sell has all but lost its massive price-tag.
Social media as an inexpensive promotional tool
One of the biggest overheads you’ll likely experience when starting a new business will be promotion, right? Not necessarily. Linked again to Ofcom’s mobile growth figures, we seem to spend most of our ‘web time’ on various social networks – Facebook and Twitter being the most obvious examples – and only the very foolish would ignore the opportunities these sites offer in the way of boosting awareness of their brand and its products and services.
Of course, different companies experience different levels of success when it comes to promoting themselves using social media, and your own results will depend on a number of factors. For example, you could put 15 minutes a week into updating your profiles or you could spend an hour every day engaging with customers and sharing content – at their basic levels, both options will be free but you’ll need to decide how much time you’re able to dedicate and what other areas may suffer as a result.
To take things a step further on the social front, you could start paying to boost your posts. This will help you to get your message across to potential customers but the more you promote, the more you’re spending – so be sure to find a balance that works for you.
If you really want to go for it, you have the option of tasking a team of professionals with handling your social presence. As with most things, the help of professionals is sure to boost your chances of success, as they should know what they’re doing, but the assistance won’t come for free. It could, therefore, be a good idea to hold back until you’re through the initial stages and you’ve made some profit to invest. In the meantime, be sure to make the most of the expert advice you do have access to – you’ll find plenty of insider tips and advice online, you just have to know where to look!
Starting a business is getting easier
As any successful – or non-successful – businesswoman will tell you, starting your own company will never be a walk in the park, but there’s little doubt that it’s getting easier. One of the reasons we’re seeing so many small, independent enterprises pop up across the UK is that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to get started anymore. If you plan carefully and start out modestly with a long-term plan, there’s every chance you’ll be able to avoid the hassle of having to arrange financial help from your bank, or even from family members and friends.