Should you even be starting a start up and how you do know whether your business idea has any real value?
The FGC’s 2017 Programme kicked off this January with a panel discussion focusing on start up businesses. At 6.45pm on Tuesday 24th January, the room came alive with faces old and new, wishing each other Happy New Year, catching up and sharing introductions, all the while sipping on Malibu cocktails. Our FGC alumni had reunited for another session of girlbossing! Fifteen minutes later, four chairs set centre stage were filled by Sharmadean Reid of Wah London, Anisa Osman Britton of 23 Code Street, Cathy Cao of Gather and Phoebe Lovatt of The WW Club, sharing their tips on how to validate a business idea. And so it began.
1. WHAT TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE STARTING YOUR BUSINESS
“the truth is the most important thing to know that you’re not wasting your time." - Cathy Cao, Gather
Does your business idea solve a need? In order to check if there is a demand for your idea, ask complete strangers their opinion about it. They don’t know you so are more likely to give unbiased feedback, unlike family and friends who are judging you rather than your idea.
You could even create a website and put up a survey. Using a social media platform or a typeform, all with clear call to actions, allows you to gauge if people are attracted to your idea. Visits to your site, newsletter subscriptions or pre-ordering a potential product are all examples of idea validation. Hence, your brand can develop before the business has even launched, without any resources being wasted.
2. HOW TO VALIDATE YOUR IDEA TO YOURSELF
“do you actually want to run a business or do you just want to create a cool project?”- Phoebe Lovatt, The WWC
Check that this is a path you want to follow and that you actually enjoy working on your business. There might be aspects you don’t enjoy but how do you overcome that? To be sure that you can handle the times when you find yourself in a tough position, you need to really care about your business idea. Otherwise, you might struggle to keep going.
3. HOW TO GET PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS
“just go out and be you. don’t be overly formal, just be you.” - Anisa Osman Britton, 23 Code Street.
Social media is a powerful tool to acquire customers, whether through marketing on each platform or retrieving email addresses from personal bios. Tools like Tweepi gives the potential to acquire customers by following those on Twitter that follow your competitors. Therefore, you are able get in contact with individuals who are already interested in your industry.
Cold emailing is also important for customer acquisition, especially those that are personalised e.g. including the individual’s name within the email subject. It’s a numbers game when it comes to customer acquisition so the more people you email, the higher the chance of gaining a larger customer base. Afterwards, a newsletter is a good way to keep clients engaged and maintain customer retention.
4. WHICH COMES FIRST, THE PRODUCT OR VALIDATION?
“the validation process will help you create the right product.” - Sharmadean Reid, Wah London.
There is no better way to gage what your product should be than getting feedback and understanding the needs of your customers first. By talking to potential customers, you can get so many great ideas about your product from them. If you create the product first, you might waste time and money tweaking it later to fit your customers’ demands. Spend time building trust with the clients you’ve engaged with; take them out for a coffee and ask them what would be the best possible version of the product you’re offering.
5. THE IMPORTANCE OF STEPPING OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
“you have to step outside to get your vision back, otherwise it’s just tunnel vision.”- Sharmadean Reid, Wah London.
All the panelists have spent time travelling and working in different countries. While, travel is a means to “get your attention back”, it’s not absolutely necessary. What is important for a founder is to experience situations that allow you to learn empathy and see different perspectives. Get inspired by different cultures and the things you see from outside your comfort zone.
6. FITTING IDEA VALIDATION INTO BUSINESS PLANNING
“you can’t do a business plan without idea validation.” - Cathy Cao, Gather.
Idea validation needs to come first or at least at the same time as creating a business plan. As a start up, business plans will change several times so focused milestones are needed with clear, actionable goals. This can be included in a one page business plan to start with (see here).
A big thank you to everyone that came and participated in FGC’s first event of the year! Special appreciation goes to Malibu for sponsoring it. We can’t wait to see more of you ladies again soon. If you missed the January session, you can catch up on our YouTube Channel.
Don’t forget to join our MeetUp Group to be involved in future events. Next month’s will be on INCORPORATING YOUR COMPANY: SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR THE LONG TERM. See you there!