Today I took a rare 30 minutes off to do some gruelling physio exercises for my poor old hip (don’t ask!), and needed to watch something engrossing to take my mind off the pain. In the absence of an afternoon TV thriller I channel-hopped and stumbled upon an interview with James Caan.
The former star of Dragon’s Den gave two tips on starting your own business, with some important questions to ask before plunging in.
1. Is your idea really a business – or just a hobby?
2. Have you spoken to potential customers who are prepared to buy?
When brainstorming business ideas with my clients, I always say that these types of questions are vitally important because however much you believe in your idea, if it will not bring in enough money to cover all your costs and make a profit, then the venture is not a viable business. But if it doesn’t make the grade completely there’s no need to be disheartened, you might be able to try the idea ‘on the side’ to give yourself another income stream, maybe on top of a part-time job.
Looking into the likely demand from potential customers who will actually buy your product or service (not just Auntie Flo who will say anything to be supportive!) lets you assess whether there is a market for your idea.
I would say the best way to test it out is to rent a market stall, for example at a craft market, table sale, boot fair or seasonal fair. Another good idea is the ‘pop-up’ mall. I know that the latter are springing up in various locations in London (I recently heard about one near Hoxton – a particularly creative area) where a stallholder is resident for 3 weeks and then another business takes over the unit for a further 3 weeks.
Any of these options will allow you to interact with potential customers, give them the chance to try out your product and – most importantly of all – ask for their feedback.
Do they like the product, the flavour, the size, the packaging, the price?
If not, what would they like to see instead? Get as much information as you can from everyone who stops by the stall. Give them your contact details for re-ordering, and preferably take their details so that you can put them onto a mailing list and keep in touch with them. When you have incorporated all their suggestions, have perfected the product and are ready to start your business, then you can inform them of the ‘relaunch’ and invite them to buy. Make sure they know that you have listened to all their suggestions and have created the product for them!
Of course there are many more questions to ask, and a lot more planning to do before launching your idea into the world.
If you need friendly, down to earth advice on starting your own small business, brainstorming a business idea, testing it for viability or marketing it on a shoestring budget, get in touch!
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To your creative success!