…The Challenge of Starting a New Business

Forget ‘foggy’—it’s a downright rainy day in London town, but it’s perfect for settling in to ponder and muse…

I’ve been reading—and actually thoroughly enjoying—Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and reflecting on the fact that I’m five months into a career change that is, in its own way, my personal happiness project that comes with its own set of challenges.

I recently discussed some of these challenges with my good friend Anne, who is a former colleague and current mentor, and also the creative genius behind Frances Annie Baxter, a line of vintage-inspired women’s clothing. Meeting with Anne is always invigorating, inspiring and also reassuring. She’s a good reminder that I’m not the only having internal monologues about the merits (or de-) of joining Twitter or starting a blog; that, sometimes, you just don’t know whether your latest gamble will pay off; that starting a business may be hard, but it’s also fun and exciting on a very regular basis.

We discussed the challenges we have both faced as we’ve embarked on our new business ventures—she in clothing design, me in photography—and it made me realise there are a few essentials for anyone who is considering launching their own start-up business.

The first step is to learn ‘which way is up’: that is, get oriented (or ‘orientated’ for my UK friends who, I’ve learned, are reading this).

Find out who else is around—in terms of competition, so that you can determine what the market will hold and can set your prices, but also in terms of networking. It’s important to find people you can connect with, whether it’s online (I’ve discovered that Twitter has been surprisingly good for this!) or in person.

Find out the most reliable forms of marketing for your area. It’s a good general rule that newspaper is not a reliable marketing tool if you’re only going to run an ad once or twice; it’s a long-term project associated with brand identification and increasing the public’s familiarity with your business. Is there a bag of weekly flyers? Are there public notice boards? Is there a buy/sell website that people flock to? My most successful marketing tool has ended up being Kijiji.ca—free, unexpectedly successful and relatively easy (except that you have to keep changing the photos and text if you’re going to post ads on the site for different cities). Find out what’s available, at what cost and decide what you think runs the best chance of having a promising rate of return.

Figure out where you want to go with your business. Basic, but essential. A good business plan, realistic cost and income projections, and regular goal-setting sessions will help with this. This also means knowing what clientele you want to attract – don’t advertise using media that will attract clients you don’t need.

Starting a new business is something that differs for every new business owner, but the basic element to success is always the same: talk to people. 🙂

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