Looking at this figure, it’s no surprise that we constantly hear about youth unemployment in the news; with images of overcrowded job centres, empty high streets and closing businesses.
However, things may not be as grim as they appear. Recent statistics suggest that the number of young self-employed workers in the UK has jumped this year by 6,000 to 4.1 million. Young people in the UK are fighting back against the current economic climate, against negative stereotypes and making the brave decision to start their own businesses. This kind of entrepreneurial spirit is admirable and inspirational. The ‘youth of today’ are showing that their skills and talents will not go to waste; if they cannot be employed by someone else, then they will employ themselves and with the right support in place, these start-ups can achieve great success. For example, Kigu, the animal ‘onesie’ company started by two young men, who went on to win the Smarta 100 award.
There have been hundreds of thousands of businesses started by people who made their hobby or interest into a money making haven. Although it must not be forgotten that starting up a business is not a walk in a park, it is also not something to be feared. Many people talk themselves out of starting a business from the outset; they fear the business won’t work, and so give in to their inhibitions before even giving it a go. Instead of thinking about the risks, think about what to do to avoid them.
Don’t let the fear of failure get in your way
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. If you tend to avoid risks, then it might be best to stick with the 9-5 job. The best entrepreneurs are risk takers, but they also know what risks to not dive into. You don’t need to be overly confident and narcissistic; the most successful entrepreneurs are leaders, good organisers, can make decisions easily and are not afraid to fail. You also need to be a hard worker; it is a fact that working for yourself will be harder than it would be for someone else. You need to be dedicated, driven and willing to work long hours.
Don’t think with your wallet
The first mistake too many people make when starting a business is that they think of what will be likely to make the most money, instead of what they know. Idealistic dreams about earning a fortune from a business will get you nowhere fast. Being motivated by money, whilst having no relevant experience, interest, knowledge or contacts in the industry, is a recipe for disaster. Instead, start with something you know about and something you are interested in.
Most successful UK small business owners set realistic targets and work slowly towards their goals. Also, be realistic about your product. Never aim for your product or service to be better than competitors and also cheaper. In theory this may sound like it’s the cash cow of products but in practice it won’t work. Be better or cheaper, but never both.
Don’t make assumptions
All good businesses start on the basis that you are solving someone else’s problem, but it’s all too common that people make naïve assumptions about their market and customers. Don’t assume you know customer habits and the psychology of purchase decisions, and beware of assuming that just because you have never heard of something, that it is a new business idea. If it is not out in the market it could be because there is no need for it or that other options are readily available. Research is key to knowing if your business will succeed. Researching the market you want to enter is crucial and allows you to get a handle of who the competitors are. Competitors mean you have an established market and you can challenge yourself to be new, different and better than the competition.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Meaningful feedback, whether positive or negative, will help you improve your idea or come up with a different one; but you should avoid feedback from friends and family as they will be biased towards your idea. Go to networking events, talk about your idea to strangers and find out their honest opinions. There are also many organisations in the UK that can help you start up a business. These organisations offer not only funding, but support, mentoring and guidance from business professionals. Don’t think that because you haven’t got the right qualifications or experience that you cannot run a business; these organisations will help you learn about what you need to know in order to run a successful business.
Overall, starting your own business does not have to be a pipe dream. You can make it happen and it can be a success as long as you avoid the common, easy to make mistakes. If running your own business is what you want to do, then nothing is stopping you but yourself.
[box]Lisa Gagliani is CEO of Bright Ideas Trust, the London-based charity aimed at helping young people, aged 16-30, who aren’t in employment, education or training to start their own businesses.[/box]