‘Have faith people will love what you do’: startup founders reveal seven tips for success

Read Time:5 Minute, 55 Second

The Guardian

Do your research
You can wobble on the precipice of starting a business for some time, says Katy Davies, founder of Ecojiko, a plastic-free online store. It’s important to use that time to research your market, product range and target audience. “There’s a lot of work that goes on before you launch. It’s mainly about trying to find the right product. I got lots of different samples from all over the world,” she says. CBI Insights has found 35% of startups fail because they haven’t found a market need, focusing on a problem that’s interesting to solve instead. Once you think you have the right product, start small, adds Davies. “Just buy 100 of one item to test it. We started with our zero-waste kitchen starter kit and it grew from there.”

Put yourself out there
Caroline Bee says she was “shaking like a leaf” the first time she approached a stockist about her beeswax food wrap brand, Bee Retro. “But you’ve got to be proactive and have faith that people will love what you do. And the ones that don’t, don’t matter.” Founders should also be open to evolving their target audience, she adds. Originally she was approaching craft shops but has found high-end food shops make much more sense. And there have been surprises, too. “We’re in the Eden Project, Paignton zoo, Newquay airport. It’s not always [who] you think it’s going to be when you start out.”

Katy Davies took care to find products that aligned with her Ecojiko brand’s values

Build a network of support
It can feel lonely being an entrepreneur. Building a network of other founders and local business support can help push you forward on the days that feel hopeless, Bee says. She’s applied for lots of local grants and worked with business support managers through various startup programmes. “When you’ve got a question and you think your business is going under, it helps to have somewhere there to help you get your head straight again,” she adds. “So seek out that support. It is there and it’s often free.” Ankorstart, for example, is a free service run by B2B marketplace Ankorstore to support retailers in the early days of business. Ankorstore’s UK general manager, Tarun Gidoomal, says: “Running a business means navigating many complex and ambiguous decisions on a daily basis … and the burden of responsibility can often feel overwhelming. Here’s the good news: many others are in a similar boat and are willing and able to share their experiences. Seek them out. It helps us feel less alone and brings clarity on what to do.”

Move on when you make mistakes
Research by Fundsquire, a global startup funding network, found 20% of small businesses fail within their first year and 60% fail within the first three years. But founders shouldn’t become paralysed by a fear of failure says Jina Kwon, deputy general manager and country launcher for Ankorstore UK. “If you’re going to achieve something big, you need to take big risks. With growth comes a huge amount of learning and often that means having to wear many hats beyond your typical area of expertise. When things go wrong, I’ve seen many founders be quite self-critical but it’s important to simply learn from those mistakes and move on. It’s how you deal with problems that defines the moment and keeps the business evolving.” Gidoomal explains he has a mantra: “no mistakes made, only lessons learned” and adds: “I’ve found what differentiates good founders from great founders is not only their ability to experiment, but also their capacity to learn and iterate as quickly as possible.”

Stay true to your values
Small business founders have the freedom to create a brand that stands for something more than just profit. As Gidoomal explains: “Increasingly, people align to causes, not companies. So be clear about what you stand for and why. And embed that into everything you do – from hiring talent to product innovation.” Research has found 79% of Brits make a special effort to buy from brands that are aligned to their personal values, and 68% have stopped supporting brands that don’t align. When Katy Davies set up Ecojiko, she originally envisaged listing the products on an e-commerce giant. “But that didn’t align with my values and I knew that if I was selling to plastic-free shops, it wouldn’t align with their values either.” Kwon agrees that values are important: “Working in an extremely fast-paced environment can be really intense in any early stage company, so it’s important to keep coming back to the company’s values and mission. You know your customers and business plan better than anyone else.”

Co-owner Sophie McEwan ensures Quince & Cook flourishes by recognising and adapting to her customers’ needs. Photograph: Ruth Segaud Photography

Curate a unique experience
With the dominance of online retailers, independent retailers need to offer something a bit different to their customers. In Scotland, Sophie McEwan, founder of Quince & Cook, makes sure she curates a collection of brands that are interesting to browse through. “People can always find something different week-on-week. Shopping needs to be an experience. So much of the high street is just faceless and a bit dull,” she says. Kwon has seen a real trend towards this type of shopping: “Consumers are moving towards opposite ends of the buying experience to fulfil different needs. There are clearly efficient, low-price, high-variety online retailers that fulfil one need – convenience – but consumers also want retailers offering fewer choices because the options feel more educated and considered, celebrating a shared community and culture.”

Be agile and innovative
The importance of resilience and being able to adapt to external market conditions has never been so apparent as in the past two years. Many retailers have also picked up new customers, as the public recognised the importance of shopping small. Many retailers have also picked up new customers, as the public recognised the importance of shopping small: more than half of small businesses have seen a rise in the number of new customers in the first half of 2022. There’s an opportunity now to consider new ways of doing business, says Ankorstore’s Kwon. “With an increasing number of British customers shopping locally and seeking connection and community, there is a huge opportunity for independent retailers to be agile and innovative in the way they source, sell and connect with customers.”

To find out more or register with Ankorstore, visit ankorstore.com

August 17, 2022 at 03:04PM Emma Sheppard

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