Welcome to the third blog in this series, all about opportunities that have emerged from lockdown. Things have certainly been different during lockdown and it looks as though they will continue to change with lots of talk of the ‘new normal’.
I’ve used Startups.co.uk’s list of ‘best business ideas’ published over the past few years to take a look at which businesses might make the startup success list in 2021.
1. Time is money
Apparently, we’ve all had extra time on our hands for the past few months and perhaps it is this which has led to an uptick in popularity of such crafts as macramé and such hobbies as keeping house plants.
In a blast back to the seventies, people are embracing both these retro trends. Houseplants have been enjoying a resurgence for several years now and macramé just happens to be a great way to display their lovely leaves. As the world gets busier, there are increasing numbers of people without access to a garden, so this trend is likely to keep growing….
2. Cocktails and dreams
Make your business dream a reality by investigating the new fashion for cocktails and premium mixers. Lockdown has added another twist to this tale as we’ve seen people partaking in mixing and tasting sessions virtually, and the delivery of ready-mixed cocktails to the home.
The money, however, might well be in the mixers as this market has been extremely lucrative for large premium brands. There’s therefore still plenty of space for startups to introduce something innovative. Consumers love provenance, natural ingredients, and local producers so there are lots of differentiators to cash in on.
3. Forget FinTech, FemTech is where it’s at
Finally, for Part 3 of this series, let’s take a look at women’s health. Clearly things like worldwide pandemics focus our minds on health and wellbeing more than ever and that’s certainly come at the right time for those interested in the women’s health tech space. Still crowded with topics that are a little taboo, women’s health is somewhat behind when it comes to technical innovation.
However, we sense that is about to change and we’re already seeing more airtime given to subjects including menopause, period tracking and contraception. Developing technology to help women navigate the ever-changing landscape of their health is certain to be a hot spot as big data, women embracing technology and a hunger to learn more about our bodies converge to create the perfect opportunity.
A great range of opportunities seem to be coming to the fore, post pandemic and we’ve still got a few to share. The fourth and final instalment in this blog series will look at living with less and the rise of the online business model.
Welcome to the second part of my blogging mini-series, all about opportunities that have emerged from lockdown. Whether you’re a furlough-preneur forced to try something new or a corona-preneur who has realised the attraction of working from home, there are plenty of great ideas for business start-ups.
I’ve used Startups.co.uk’s list of ‘best business ideas’ published over the past few years to take a look at what businesses might make the startup success list in 2021.
1. A sporting chance
Although somewhat interrupted during the coronavirus lockdown, sport is always going to be a part of our lives. Despite a lack of televised activity, the number of people currently getting out and about on pushbikes is estimated to be one of the fastest growing activities in the UK. Brompton, our largest bike manufacturer has reported a fivefold increase in online sales since the start of April and Halfords has reported a 23% increase in share price.
Startups.co.uk listed American sports, most specifically football, as one to watch in 2019, but perhaps sports-related businesses should keep an eye on whether lockdown trends look set to continue.
2. Alexa – don’t leak my data!
Crime, in respect of burglaries and car theft, may have reduced dramatically with everyone safely stuck at home but the criminals of the future exist in cyberspace. Predictions of an incredible 22.5 billion devices connected to the internet by 2021 mean a growing market has to be security for the Internet of Things (IoT).
There’s been no shortage of data breaches in the recent past and with more and more activity now moving to online platforms, devices need to be smarter and have increased protection. Cue the tech-savvy entrepreneur riding the wave of the demand for watertight security at device level over the coming months.
3. Plant Power
Veganism has been enjoying a high profile for some time now but two things have happened since we encountered COVID-19: firstly, we’ve all started to think about our health a little more seriously and, secondly, things that might never previously have been available can now be delivered to our doorstep. The outcome of these is no more excuses.
Plant-based foods are now entering the mainstream market as people hunt for the ultimate superfood and try to position themselves to avoid potentially harmful food imports post-Brexit. The fact that established research institutions have recognised the benefits of eating more plant-based foods surely signals the green light (pardon the pun) for business ideas in this sector.
From crisis comes opportunity, or so the saying goes. Watch this space for the next blog in the series investigating yet more post-corona business ideas including macramé, cocktails and yet more health apps.
If you missed part 1 read it here
As someone who is continually viewing and assessing new ideas for businesses, or helping successful business owners work out how to scale what they have, I’m always intrigued to see how trends move and what impacts the type of businesses that become popular.
Startups.co.uk have published a list of ‘best business ideas’ for the past few years so, over the course of a series of blogs, I want to investigate what this list might look like in 2021.
There is an amazing entrepreneurial spirit in the UK and, it seems a trauma such as Brexit, followed hot on the heels by a crisis such as Covid, have done nothing to dampen this spirit. However new business ideas, just as much as existing operational businesses, will undoubtedly need some tweaking to adapt to new ways of life that massive change inevitably brings.
Simon Sinek was live on Facebook recently saying that coronavirus was probably the biggest thing to hit the UK business world since the launch of the internet. Think back; businesses were born specifically to exploit the new normal (Amazon), some adapted very quickly and made a huge success (for example the travel/package holiday industry) and, for some, it was just a change too far (Blockbuster comes to mind). So, what is the next chapter in the story? Which businesses will survive? Which will thrive?
1. As safe as houses?
I have heard the comment made that we can no longer claim “a hairdresser will never go out of business” because, it seems, there has come a time when people won’t have their hair cut even though it continues to grow. However, the safety and surety of bricks and mortar is surely one which will continue, price fluctuations notwithstanding, ad infinitum.
In particular, building for the ever-growing care market (as mentioned in Startups.co.uk’s 2018 list). The expected shortfall in care home beds is expected to reach 14,000 by 2026 and recent issues associated with coronavirus might even see some redesigning taking place to offer up better protection against similar crises.
2. Food for thought
Now, we might feel we can cope during lockdown with slightly longer hair, but there’s one thing we do all need to do and that’s eat. Interestingly, the somewhat niche area of ‘late-night food’ was being seen as a trend in 2018, with speculation that there was a new phenomenon known as ‘the fourth meal’. Fast forward to 2020 and there has been a popular pivot by pubs in particular to serve take-away food in order to keep the cash flowing.
As a nation who, despite being stuck at home, seems to be no less keen on a nice meal and something to drink, this has been gratefully received and the delivery of food has also been a bonus and a convenient way to avoid contact while we’re distancing from each other.
3. We come to you
Talking of take-away and deliveries, yet another benefit of being an online retailer has come to the fore during the past few months: with a highly efficient delivery service, Amazon and the like have (almost) not needed to blink. However, far from being left behind by the big boys, we’ve also seen lots of local businesses start delivering in order to keep their business alive while people are stuck at home. I’ve heard the phrase ‘letterbox gift’ recently, in response to handily-sized gifts being delivered; anything from specialist tea bags to cards with a wooden virtual hug token attached to them.
It certainly shows that with a little innovative thinking we can use what has traditionally been a very commoditised service for very bespoke services. The gig economy is there; drivers willing to put in the miles already exist. It’s just up to the smaller businesses to work out how they can package their goods to be attractive as a delivery item.
Winston Churchill once said “to improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often”. It looks as though this is a good mantra for today’s business owners. We’ve pivoted to cope with lockdown but what else will we need to do once we find ourselves in the ‘new normal’?
Most business ideas are borne out of a desire to change something; to do it better, faster, cheaper (or more profitably).
The energy around a start-up is always tangible and there’s no lack of enthusiasm when it comes to getting things ready for launch. But, it’s important to take the time to check your idea is sound and to take careful steps to ensure you build your dream and not a nightmare experience.
Building a business is one thing. Creating something that is likely to be successful and sustainable is quite another. We’ve seen, during crisis-hit 2020, that you never know what’s around the corner and your business needs to be carefully thought through and constructed to weather the storm.
Read on for my Ultimate To-Do List For Successful Business Startups.
Build Solid Foundations
This is a little bit about planning and a little bit about investing. For many entrepreneurs, the idea itself is the key to success and, in their mind, hard work will get them there. However, as with anything new, first impressions count. That’s why branding and messaging is so important.
Don’t skimp at this stage. The temptation to rush something to market may be strong but getting the wrong brand – or a weak look and feel – could well be the difference between success and failure. Jumping into the business world is a big decision. You need to be completely convinced you have a great idea.
Additionally, sound foundations and a deep understanding of why you’re doing what you are will stand you in better stead for meeting future challenges.
During the COVID crisis, businesses that were able to pivot quickly – to revive and thrive – were those who knew their brand and purpose inside out and could therefore visualise where they sat in the ‘new normal’.
Invest in a proper study, work out your avatars, understand your market and consider what your brand needs to be synonymous with. Ask yourself what problems your brand is solving; have you got a unique proposition?
Know Your Network
Often in business, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Who has the expertise that you need to tap into? When it comes to startups, the journey from concept to funding, finding expertise and needing to expand can happen rapidly. If you truly believe your idea has legs, you owe it to yourself to spend some time researching how you will achieve each of these stages in the journey. Ask yourself:
- What sort of funding do you need and where can you get it?
- What does your initial team look like? Are they in your network or do you need to find them?
- Have you got the business-wide experience or acumen to drive launch and expansion quickly or do you need to buy this in?
Experience of significant interruption to normal processes has highlighted the importance of business ecosystems and being well networked to survive. No business is an island and your support network comes into its own when the going gets tough.
Focus on Value
I’ve blogged before about how to create a unique value proposition and this concept is so critical to any business startup, even before the proposition takes shape.
With any new idea, you must be able to determine and communicate what value it is adding to the existing offerings in the market. If you can’t identify this, you will struggle to convince potential customers as to why they should do business with you. It is key for gaining the attention and buy-in of investors but also so important in ensuring growth. To grow and scale in as short a timeframe as possible, you need a frictionless business. One of the trickiest things to overcome (and therefore the biggest generator of friction) is competition and a lack of USP so make this one of the first things you think about alongside your new idea.
It’s often tempting for inspired and enthusiastic entrepreneurs to come up with lots of ideas and continually increase their scope. However, the business world these days is much more of an ecosystem. For true success, it’s better to be specific and excel in one area rather than trying to be the expert across a spectrum of areas. Creating a niche and then building a strong presence within it is critical to success.
There are several areas where it pays to be specific. One is in creating and understanding your ideal client avatar. By being clear about who you want to do business you will be far more likely to attract those people. Saying you want to focus on female entrepreneurs is woolly. Saying you’re keen to work with female entrepreneurs in the finance sector who are aiming to exit their business successfully within 5 years is really going to speak to the right people.
Get comfortable outside your comfort zone
Building a successful business was never meant to be easy and it seems the world in which we operate is becoming more complex. Risks are harder to see and assess, yet still need to be calculated and assessed. As an entrepreneur you are highly likely to need to make judgement calls here and there without necessarily having the clarity that you’d like as to what the future holds.
Back in 2017, I wrote a similar blog, Seven Simple Questions To Ask Before Starting Your Own Business. Not much has changed in terms of my advice but the reality in which you read it has been turned on its head. As I concluded then, factors such as your network and the way you build the foundations of your business remain of paramount importance. In addition, we now need to add flexibility and on-the-spot innovative thinking to our ever growing list of skills.
Starting a business is a learning process, no matter how many times you might have done it before. Although it’s sometimes good to learn from your mistakes, you don’t want to fall into common traps if a little research and guidance can help you to avoid this. So, with that in mind, here’s our list of the top 5 mistakes made by startup entrepreneurs, and a little guidance on how to avoid them.
1. Not putting in the right amount of planning
There are entrepreneurs who totally underestimate the amount of planning it takes to get a business idea off the ground but there are also those who never quite make it to market and miss the window of opportunity to successfully launch their new idea. Neither are ideal.
Planning may get in the way of an exciting idea but it’s essential if you’re going to get it right. Every area of the business has to be researched, from understanding the size and opportunity in the sector to knowing as much as you can about your target audience. This needs to be balanced with accepting that sometimes you have to go to market without everything being perfect.
That’s why, at Streamlion, we offer a free initial consultation to all our prospective clients. It helps us – and you – fully understand the scope of the project and, as we support businesses at all stages of their startup journey and through their growth, we can make sure you’ve not forgotten anything.
2. Not prioritising money matters
Again, there are two ways business startup owners can make mistakes when it comes to money. Firstly, many simply aren’t aware of the raft of different funding arrangements that are available to them. Not having the right information at the start of their journey will instantly put an entrepreneur on the back foot. It’s impossible to plan a successful business if you don’t even know the scope of what might be possible.
Secondly, and perhaps for the same reason, entrepreneurs will often either spend too much, too soon or assume they need a huge amount of cash upfront in order to be successful.
Starting out on a business journey is stressful enough so we’d recommend working with an experienced organisation like Streamlion when it comes to accessing funding. Our previous experience speeds up the process and increases your chances of a successful application.
3. Neglecting the nuts and bolts of policy and process
Maybe because this is another ‘dry’ topic, but it’s surprising how many entrepreneurs take risks when it comes to things like legal protection, contracts and the implementation of proper processes. These things are like foundations for your business. Growing with them in place is a lot easier than retrospectively adding them.
Start by filing for the proper legal structure and business registration and follow this on by enforcing contracts, processes and protection from the outset. At Streamlion, we have helped many new businesses by optimising their processes and ensuring their business is efficient as soon as it is launched.
4. Failing to embrace change
For some business owners, their idea is their baby and woe betide anyone who questions it. Being too ‘in love’ with your idea can be a recipe for disaster as it’s likely this will lead to the wrong ways of working. It might mean you try to do everything yourself, so as to get things exactly as you dreamt them; you might become resistant to change and therefore unable to evolve when you need to or you could become over-confident and expand too quickly.
Whichever way you look at it, it’s always good to seek and consider the opinions of experts, whether they are a part of your team or someone you pay for advice and guidance. In our experience of change management, we have found that it is one of the most important things for a business to get right. The trick is – and this is where our experience comes in – to effect change with the minimum of disruption to the business.
5. Starting without considering the end of the journey
Every good business plan should have an exit strategy. If you feel certain of success, why would you not decide how you will maximise the benefit of that success? As part of the initial planning phase, it’s really important to scope out what you think success looks like and, therefore, at what point you might want to cash in and move on to your next project.
Of course, exit strategies don’t necessarily mean leaving the business. Many entrepreneurs like to keep a guiding stake, perhaps as Chair of the Board or as a non-executive director. Exit plans are particularly important if you’ve started the business with the help of an investor, of course, and your strategy for this will need to be a part of the initial plan requesting investment.
At Streamlion, we’ve worked with new and established businesses to understand the best time to sell and move on. We like to think of it as a succession plan for your business journey.
Ultimately, launching a new business involves some risk and every entrepreneur will view this differently. If you’re armed with research, plans and have consulted those whose opinions you value, you can at least make your risk assessment in a calculated way.