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Entrepreneurs share top tips for starting a business

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When you’re starting a business, getting advice from someone who’s done it before can be a huge help.

But if you don’t know anyone who’s become their own boss, you might not know the best place to get those valuable pearls of wisdom.

To help, we asked entrepreneurs from around the UK to share their start-up business advice with something they wish they’d known before creating their company.

Their guidance ranges from admin challenges to finding the right support network, and everything in between.

Meet the entrepreneurs

Virginia Méndez, The Feminist Shop

Alastair Bell, Irish Black Butter

Melissa Snover, Nourished

Carly Thompsett, Anaphase Store

Kate Findlay, Peach Perfect

Philippa Main, Three Sisters Farm

Paul Lenihan, OPEN Gift Card

Nathaniel Wade, Wakuda

Lucy Arnold, Lucy Locket Loves

Lydia Jones, Housemates

Miles Waghorn, TechSilver

Bradley Gough, Groubook

TheFeministShop.com - Virginia

Virginia is co-founder of The Feminist Shop

The Feminist Shop – Belfast

Virginia is co-founder of The Feminist Shop, a brand educating on gender equality.

After eight years in the corporate and small and medium enterprise (SME) world, she shifted her career to pursue her passion of challenging kids and adults to unlearn constrictive stereotypes through workshops, articles, talks and books.

What is something you wish you had known before starting a business?

“Being an entrepreneur is hard, harder than you imagine. It is also much more fulfilling that you could ever picture. That’s definitely something I didn’t know a couple of years ago.

“I wish I had known, straight away, the power of the tribe [being] a huge pillar of any business.

“Finding your people, in the same entrepreneurial path is key. They have your back, give the best advice, keep you right, celebrate your victories and, most of all, just get it.

“All of it – the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Irish Black Butter - Alastair Bell

Alastair Bell is the founder of Irish Black Butter

Irish Black Butter – Belfast

After attending Year Of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland, Alastair felt inspired by the local producers. This made him want to want to create a black butter preserve and launch ‘a new taste of Ireland’.

Since launch, the company has won several prestigious awards and appeared on Dragons’ Den.

What is something you wish you had known before starting a business?

“I wish I had known how challenging [starting a] business would be and how much time, energy and commitment is required. Having said that, I wouldn’t change a thing.

“The reality is that starting a business can be a bit like taking a walk and up ahead there’s a corner – you won’t find out what’s round that corner unless you are prepared to keep walking.”

Nourished - Melissa Snover

Melissa Snover is the CEO and founder of Nourished

Nourished – Birmingham

Melissa Snover is an award-winning entrepreneur and visionary in the world of food technology and 3D printing.

She is the founder and CEO of Rem3dy Health, which pioneers personalised solutions across preventative and curative health.

As part of that, she’s also the CEO and founder of Nourished, which makes 3D printed gummy vitamins.

What is something you wish you had known before starting a business?

“Through experience, I’ve learned that you can’t control everything and that the team you surround yourself with will be integral to your success.

“By finding fantastic people, who are experts in their own area and who believe in your vision, you give yourself and your business the best chance of success.

“Over the last few years, I’ve learned to delegate more and have brought on an incredible team, which has allowed me to focus on more top-line strategies and has made the rapid growth of the business possible.”

Anaphase Store - Carly Thompsett

Carly Thompsett is the founder of Anaphase Store

Anaphase Store – Cardiff

Anaphase Store is an online business based in Cardiff and has won 10 business awards.

Before starting Anaphase Store, Carly struggled with dyslexia and dyspraxia, but has now broken down so many of those barriers to live out her dreams.

She has become a successful business mentor and ambassador, helping other people who may have the same struggles she faced.

What is something you wish you had known before starting a business?

“How much information I needed to know to run a business, as I went in quite naively and as silly as it sounds how much time and effort it took to build a brand.

“I went in with no idea how a business ran, I was quite shocked at how much I had to work out, how much costs were, overheads, taxes, etc.

“I also found out very quickly how much information is out there to help build your business.

“I started my business through The Prince’s Trust in Wales. They had so much information and mentors on hand to answer any of my questions or to go over a subject I didn’t quite understand as many times as I needed and it really helped me and my progress.

“I am dyslexic and dyspraxic so I can sometimes struggle to take in information or understand it right away, and everyone was so understanding and patient.

“This has now helped me to be that person to someone who needs my help.”

Peach Perfect - Kate Findlay

Kate Findlay is the founder of Peach Perfect

Peach Perfect – Coventry

Kate Findlay set up Peach Perfect, an online gift boutique, while caring for her husband who sadly died in 2019.

Apart from needing a focus outside of her caring role, she was fed up with not being able to find good quality, interesting gifts for friends and family, so she set up her own business to help people when gift giving.

What is something you wish you had known before starting a business?

“When you’re thinking about starting a new business use your skills and your passion. Don’t be too reliant on others when you are setting out.

“My first business required me to hire manual labour – nightmare. Peach Perfect fits with my IT background and my passion for shopping.”

Three Sisters Farm - Philippa _ Jessica

Two of the three sisters, Philippa and Jessica

Three Sisters Farm – Essex

Three Sisters Farm is a family run boutique selling sustainable dried flowers and pampas grass.

After owner Philippa was made redundant during the coronavirus pandemic, the sisters set out to create something they could call their own.

Fast forward eight months and the business has generated nearly £200k in turnover, has a commercial unit, five employees and +20k Instagram followers who have been vital to their business growth.

What is something you wish you had known before starting a business?

“The amount of self-discipline that is required when running a business.

“Competing priorities, family and life in general will always make it difficult to remain focused on the business’s long-term vision.

“Equally, setting boundaries and knowing when it’s time to take a break takes great strength and discipline. Acknowledging that rest is an activity has been difficult to accept.”

Open Gift Card - Tim Rooke and Paul Lenihan

Two of the co-founders of OPEN Gift Card, Tim Rooke (left) and Paul Lenihan

OPEN Gift Card – Leeds

Paul Lenihan, Tim Rooke and Greg Brant launched a new type of gift card that can be used at a wide variety of independent businesses.

The OPEN Gift Card is designed to give people a genuine alternative to big retailer gift cards, by allowing them to spend locally and in doing so drive additional revenue into small independent businesses, helping to support the local economy.

What is something you wish you had known before starting a business?

“I wish I had known how many times I’d get knocked back and then I’d try to convince myself my idea might not work.

“I also wish I’d had the advice – while you should keep the end goal in mind you should really focus on day to day, week by week.

“It’s so easy to get consumed by the long-term goal that you forget short-term goals.

“However when you focus on the short-term goals, a few months go by and then you look back and realise how far you’ve come.”

Wakuda - Nathaniel and Albert

Albert Larter (left) and Nathaniel Wade are the co-founders of Wakuda

Wakuda – London, UK

Wakuda is an online marketplace elevating and supporting independent Black-owned businesses in the UK.

Co-founders Albert Larter and Nathaniel Wade saw how the Black community was underrepresented in the business world.

They knew it wasn’t due to a lack of fantastic Black-owned businesses, but that they weren’t being seen through the fog of the mainstream.

So they decided to do something about it.

What is something you wish you had known before starting a business?

“That it’s pretty much a given that we wouldn’t get it right the first time.

“For us it was far more important to take that initial action, then pivot and make swift changes based on results, rather than work out every potential scenario of how things could go wrong and then due to overthinking, probably end up doing nothing.”

Lucy Locket Loves - Lucy Arnold

Lucy Arnold is the founder of Lucy Locket Loves

Lucy Locket Loves – Manchester

Lucy Arnold set up her business, selling eye-catching leggings, in 2017 by herself in her living room.

Since then, her business has expanded exponentially to a large warehouse selling a wide range of award-winning products.

In 2019, Lucy was recognised as one of the Forbes 30 under 30 winners in e-commerce for Europe.

What is something you wish you had known before starting a business?

“Starting out, I felt the pressure to learn marketing, PR, business development, financing for my business and this seemed totally daunting.

“Something I wish I knew would be to take advantage of freely available resources and classes to help me quickly develop these invaluable skills.”

Housemates - Lydia Jones

Lydia Jones is founder and CEO of Housemates

Housemates – Manchester

Lydia Jones is founder and CEO of Housemates. With seven years of experience developing platforms in fitness, AI, social, lifestyle and property, she has worked across a number of sectors and has previous experience of being in founder and project manager roles.

Outside of Housemates, Lydia was appointed International Partner for the UK at World Business Angels Forum 2020 and named in TechRound’s 29 under 29 2020 and Business Clouds’ 35 Under 35: Ones to Watch 2018.

What is something you wish you had known before starting a business?

“I underestimated the importance of surrounding myself with founders who are 18 months ahead of me.

“I read countless books and had a large pool of mentors but having those a few steps ahead in my network has allowed me to witness their scaling challenges and be better prepared myself.

“Those founders are also great soundboards, who can relate to your position and provide helpful insights from recent experience, which is important in fast-moving markets.”

Tech Silver - Miles Waghorn

Miles Waghorn is the founder of TechSilver.co.uk

TechSilver – Nottingham

Miles Waghorn is the founder of TechSilver, one of the UK’s leading online retailers for tech-based products for the elderly and vulnerable.

In 2020, TechSilver turned over £1m+ in sales, with a significant net profit.

While working in electronics retail, Miles realised that honest, friendly advice and guidance was lacking from modern day shopping.

What is something you wish you had known before starting a business?

“I wish I’d known that not everyone is going to think your idea will work – and that’s OK. I pitched my idea to the board of one of the major companies in my industry early in my entrepreneurship journey.

“The managing director practically laughed in my face and said ‘that will never work’ – guess he was wrong.

“At the end of the day, if everyone thinks it’s a good idea then it’s not that innovative, is it?”

Groubook - Bradley Gough

Bradley Gough is the founder of Groubook

Groubook – Nottingham

Groubook lets groups go online to book, organise and arrange nights out and take advantage of a wide range of discounts and rewards.

Bradley and his team had their plans put on hold as coronavirus closed down the hospitality sector.

Now, he is aiming to turn the pandemic into an opportunity as his app allows bars and restaurants to sell pre-booked slots to customers, allowing them to effectively control numbers when restrictions are lifted.

What is something you wish you had known before starting a business?

“It’s about providing an amazing product, not turning a profit. While you obviously need to turn a profit, your focus should be on helping your customers.

“Working smarter, not harder, is essential to surviving as an entrepreneur. You can get by working hard in many businesses, but you won’t last long running a small business without working smart.

“Roll with the punches and fail fast. Every journey is different. No two things are the same. You can’t control everything, and the world can change.

“You will make mistakes. Embrace the mistake, learn from it, move on, and try to not repeat it.”

Are you ready to be your own boss?

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