How to Start a Small Business for Yourself in 5 Steps (During Coronavirus – and any other time)

By Colin Crooks, CEO, Tree Shepherd

You may be reading this during lockdown and thinking, “why would I want to even think about how to start my own business?”

Firstly, if you have an idea and a passion for doing things in a particular way, this could be the best decision you will make. Whether it’s making face masks, becoming a florist, running a fashion business, selling cakes or teaching crafts online, there’s never been a better time to take the plunge. If you’re currently furloughed, you’ve recently become unemployed or you’ve been out of work for some time, this could be the ideal moment to become your own boss. If you’re caring for children or others, starting your own business gives you the chance to earn money from the things you like doing but in a more flexible way.

So…here’s 5 top tips on starting a business from home and getting ahead once lockdown is lifted:

Will Kerr, Blooming Brixton

Will Kerr, Blooming Brixton, graduate of Tree Shepherd business course who supplies flowers at top events and weddings across London.

1. Love what you do

What’s in your heart? What makes you laugh? What do you most love doing whenever you get the chance? What would make you want to work til midnight or get up early in the morning?  Find out where your heart lies. Plenty of people think about starting businesses from home because they think it could make them some money but without belief it soon grinds to a halt. Unless you have that belief it’s hard to keep going at 3am when the order has fallen through.

2. Talk to people who you think will buy your idea

If you love doing something and other people love paying for it then you have a business in the making. The trick is to find those people who like your thing so much they’re willing to pay for it. Try looking at your idea from their point of view. Find out what they think. Do some test marketing and talk to the people who you think are most likely to buy your idea. Who are they? What do they do? Where do they spend their money? What’s different about your product that will appeal to them?

3. Save your money until you really know what people will pay for

Keep your expenses really low! I’ve seen so many people waste their money on things they thought they’d need but turned out to be useless, so while you’re trying things out, spend the absolute minimum – borrow, rent, share instead.

Colette Thomas, Colster bags, selling at the Tree Shepherd Lambeth Country Show tent after graduation.

4. Get out there – carefully

Take the plunge – or put your little toe in. Find a place where you potential customers go and have a go. Don’t give away those bars of soap – SELL them – see how much they’re worth. Get honest feedback. Look at your pricing, try again, think of new ways to reach those customers. Is this still the right business idea? Do you need to tweak it?

5. Turn it into a business and get support.

Once you’ve tried your idea a few times you’ll know so much more about your customers, your products and your pricing. With that real-life knowledge you can do some proper planning and take the idea to the next level.

Colin Crooks (CEO of Tree Shepherd) and Jason (Tutor) with course graduate Maria Adestoye – Children’s Learning Advocate & Eye Brow Artist

Throughout this whole process every entrepreneur needs support. Tree Shepherd has been offering guidance and support for over 8 years to budding entrepreneurs from all walks of life who are looking at starting a small business.  930 people have now kick-started their own business with us.  We offer free expert training courses, mentoring, advice, not just on a one-off, but for months and years. No question is too small, too silly or too scary. If you’re wondering what our inspiration is for doing this – check out this video  where we explain all!

We’re now running a Free 8 week Employ Yourself course where we will take your through every part of starting a small business, focusing on the essential entrepreneurial skills; cashflow, test trading, marketing, developing your USP, dealing with what to do when things go wrong.

This ‘how to start a small business’ programme will offer you the insights and tools to launch your own idea within a classroom setting of other like-minded prospective business entrepreneurs. This is followed by 6 months of mentoring and support with experienced professionals. All free. Following that, we will trade together, you can join our network of businesses and we will support you for as long as it takes and benefit from leveraging the Tree Shepherd network to promote yourself and your idea effectively. If you haven’t yet had a chance to – please sign up and come and join us.

Need some inspiration? Hear from some of the fantastic traders who have graduated from our courses or take a look at our impact reports  which feature more stories from our network.

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