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From Creative Spark to Business Plan: 5 Steps to Get you Started ~ by Emma Dalton

Introduction by Martine Cullum

Hello again,

Today, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Emma Dalton, the 27-year-old owner of Cocomo, a successful, Knightsbridge based image consultancy, life-coaching and counselling business, and the main protagonist in my urban fantasy series The POISE Archives.

Emma has always been very focused on getting what she wants in terms of building her business, and today she will be sharing some of the actions and practices that enabled her to become so successful.

If you are wondering where to start in building your own business there will be something here to help you. After all, that’s what she does. Emma is writing this post in character.

Kind Regards,

Martine.

Thanks Martine and Welcome to my blog post, Reader,

I hope you will find it useful and fun. We will explore where to get ideas from a little further on, but let’s assume for the moment that you have an idea already. How do you know if it is a good idea?

A Business Possibility or a Crazy Idea?

The short answer is, maybe it is both. Lots of crazy ideas have turned into successful businesses. Consider the Slinky, for instance, from the mind of Richard James, a naval engineer who accidentally knocked over a spring in 1943 and saw the potential in the experience.

Being open to developing ideas is essential, as we will explore in the next section, but before we go any further, I need to make you aware that running your own business is no easy option. It takes hard work, dedication, a lot of time and above all, resilience. Happy to read on? Great, let’s go.

So, you want to start a business?

The first area to explore, before you even come up with an idea for a business, is to look long, hard, and honestly at yourself. Do you have what it takes? Are you willing to put yourself through the effort and the setbacks you are likely to come across on the way to success?

Do I sound negative? I don’t mean to be, but this is important. If you can look at yourself honestly as say, ‘Yes, I am prepared to dedicate my life to this,’ you are in with a chance of success. If you can’t, then be kind to yourself and take a regular job where someone else has all the pressure.

Some of the questions you should be asking yourself.

  1. Do I have a good understanding of finances and financial management?

  2. Do I have sufficient marketing skills and an awareness of modern marketing techniques?

  3. Am I confident in the world of digital technology?

  4. Do I possess good communication skills?

  5. Am I able to remain calm and positive even when the pressure is on?

  6. Am I good at managing my time and being able to delegate tasks to others?

  7. Do I really want to do this?

If you are still confident that this is what you want, that’s great. If you are feeling a bit concerned that maybe your skills are not quite up to scratch, there are a great many courses available, many of them free, that can help you to build on what you already know.

Just one more thing before we leave this section. Being an entrepreneur is a risky business. You can do all you can to reduce the risks, but you cannot eliminate them completely. Check out this link to explore some of the risks and what you can do about them.

So, if you are still with me, let’s move on.

Finding the business that you want to start.

As in the ‘Slinky’ business mentioned above, you never know when you are going to be inspired by something, so if you keep an open mind, pay attention to the world around you and let your creative juices flow freely, ideas will come soon enough.

Some ideas will fizzle out and die as soon as you start to develop them, but some, like a good glass of red wine, will have legs. These are the ones you should hold on to. Write them down before the idea fades away and use the list below to see if the idea stands up to these questions.

  1. What is the problem your business will solve, what need will it fill?

Try to think of your business in terms of either what problem it will solve or what need will it fill for your end user. The ‘Slinky’ didn’t really solve a problem, but it filled a need for a simple and original, genderless toy that provided fun activity and stimulated curiosity about the science behind its workings. What will your business do?

  1. Where is your market?

Who will be buying your product or services? Will your business just be available locally, or will it be international? What age or gender will discover that they need your product when they hear about it? Is that market big enough for you to make a business out of it?

  1. Is there anyone out there already doing what you plan to do?

Start with a basic Google search. Ask the question. For example, if I were going to start a local business running a Pizza shop in the Knightsbridge area of London, I could search for ‘Pizza SW1X’ and I would discover that there is a lot of competition out there. Competition need not put you off starting your business, but you need to be aware of it and make sure there is something unique about your business that makes you stand out from the rest.

You may have to go through this process with many ideas before you find the one that ‘has legs’, but if you have the resilience to be able to run a business, you will certainly have the resilience to be able to do this as many times as it takes.

You have a winning idea. So what now?

Research

This is my least favourite part of any business venture. It’s hard, it’s time consuming and it’s absolutely essential. You have already started of course, because you have been looking to see if anyone is doing exactly what you want to do, but you need to go much deeper than that. So what do you need to research? The list below represents the bare minimum.

  1. The Type of Business

  2. Your Competition

  3. Your Target Audience

  4. Your Company’s Name

  5. Your Brand

  6. Financing

  7. The Legal Stuff

This Quick Books blog, goes into detail about all of the above, and more.

Once you have gathered all this information, you can move on to the next stage.

Putting it down on paper (or screen) – Otherwise known as The Business Plan

This is where everything really starts to come together: your idea, how it is going to work, what it will look like, where you will find your customers, how the start-up is going to be funded, what sort of employees you will take on and how much profit (or not) it is going to make. It’s all there, in one document, but guess what? You are going to have to do some more hard work to get it there.

You can download a free business plan template here.

Assuming you have read this far, it is likely that you have also been interested enough in business to have watched The Apprentice on TV. Remember how the candidates present their business plan and it gets ripped to shreds by Karren or Claude? Yes, I know, that makes for good entertainment, but heavens, couldn’t they actually put a good business plan in now and again, where we all learn from the expert comments.

But I digress. My point is that you want your business plan to be ‘shred-proof’: no missing information, no mis-calculations, no shoddy research. If you want your business to succeed, you need to make sure the plan is as good as it can possibly be.

But what if, when you put it on paper, it doesn’t work?

It happens. It’s a great idea, you’ve done your research, you’ve made your plan, but it just doesn’t add up. There is a gap. Areas of weakness are visible now that didn’t show up before. You feel distraught.

OK, so go shout at the sky then make yourself a cup of tea and let’s look at what you’ve got there, and what choices you still have.

  1. You still have a solid piece of work which could have saved you a fortune further down the line. Or you could have something that can be adapted.

  2. You could scrap the whole thing and start again with another idea (it may come to that but let’s not jump the gun).

  3. You could highlight the areas that are not working (or are missing) and explore ways to resolve them.

  4. You could think about a different approach; a different company set up, downsizing, upsizing, going online, setting up elsewhere, making better use of automation… the list goes on.

  5. You could consult with an expert about the area that appears to be lacking.

Even if you do end up scrapping this idea, another will come, you are an entrepreneur after all and we are nothing if not full of ideas. And you will have learned so much from the work you have done here. Nothing is ever wasted.

Well, that’s as far as I’m going to take this post for today, and I don’t get another blog spot for about 3 months as I have to share the space with the rest of Martine’s cozy crime and urban fantasy characters. But I don’t want to leave you without a way to move forward from here so please check out this information on starting a business from the UK Government website. (Other Government websites are available).

Good luck, and please let me know how you get on and don’t forget to subscribe below if you want to be sure to get my next post.

All the best,

Emma

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