Seven Simple Questions to ask before Starting your own Business…

Seven Simple Questions to ask before Starting your own Business…

Yesterday I was chatting to someone at the pool and they asked me what I did for a living.

I said “I have my own business”, to which they replied “That’s great, I would love to be my own boss”.

But is that all it’s about?

Definitely not – jumping into the start-up world is a big decision and you need to be completely convinced that you have a great idea you are passionate about.

Even with this belief, you risk a great deal getting started and there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed.

There’s loads of advice online and in start-up workshops, but basically you need to ask yourself seven simple questions before you take the leap:

1. Why do I want to start my own business?

If you simply hate your job, or you’re following a trend, it probably won’t survive. You need to solve a problem in an industry you love and this passion will help you succeed.

2. What problem(s) am I solving?

You need to provide something unique that will solve a problem for someone else. If they can do it themselves then there is no need to buy from you!

3. What lifestyle sacrifices am I willing to make?

It’s a big decision to give up a high-paying job to follow your entrepreneurial idea. You need to be brutally honest with yourself and ask what kind of lifestyle you would be comfortable with.

4. Will my family and friends be supportive?

The small business rollercoaster takes you up and down, and as you veer from ‘busy excitement’ to ‘tumble weed depression’, you need to have supportive people around you.

5. How much money will I need?

It’s good to have some savings to use in the early days, but don’t stretch yourself too thin. Cash flow can be a killer so make sure that you have loans or access to more cash if necessary.

6. Should I grow quickly or take my time?

If you have a great business idea, you should seize the moment and grow as fast as you can. This is best with funding so that your investors can realise quick and profitable returns. However, if you’re going it alone with your own money, you can take a little more time.

7. Am I in the right place to launch my business?

You need to either know, or get to know, your industry and make contacts by going to lots of networking and start-up events. Hearing about the experiences of other people is the best way to learn. This can help you work out whether you’re in the right place geographically to launch your product.

Remember it’s great to be your own boss, but it’s your passion and belief in your business idea, plus a strong and stable support structure that will give you the best possible chance of succeeding.

Start Up Loans – Changes to Eligibility Rules

Start Up Loans – Changes to Eligibility Rules

This March has seen a positive change to the legislation concerning Start Up Loans.

Previously, to be eligible for a start-up loan, a business could only apply if it had been trading for two years or less. Now loans will be available to businesses that have been trading for up to three years. This is a huge opportunity for lots of early stage businesses.

Borrowing money to start a business, as with most things, comes down to careful and thorough planning, with a hefty dose of previous experience to get you through the process quickly and successfully.

At Streamlion, we’ve got that experience in spades, so we suggest you let us take the strain when it comes to your funding. We will aid you through the entire start up loan application process, assist with your business plan and financial forecast and set you on the road to success right from the outset.

In addition, the term has been extended for a second loan. A second loan makes additional funds available to a previous Start Up Loan borrower against the same business idea. The term is now five years which gives greater opportunity for those businesses scaling up.

For a second loan you must be able to show positive trading for at least a three month period and you will need to have an updated financial forecast that mirrors trading to date. We can help you with this.

If you could benefit from this loan or have business associates or friends who are looking for funding, get in touch now.

What’s the best source of funding for my start-up business?

What’s the best source of funding for my start-up business?

If you’ve got an exciting new idea for a business, you’re probably aware of the minefield that is funding applications.

Should you approach your bank or choose a start-up loans specialist lender? Read on, and we’ll demystify all.

The choice

High Street Banks – traditionally, banks have preferred to loan money to established businesses as they like to mitigate their risk with some form of security (such as your assets) to underwrite the loan. This hasn’t really changed and, despite some claims that they lend to start-ups, once you get to the small print, they are only offering growth or expansion loans to those who have already started trading for at least 2 years and filed positive returns.

Start-up Loan Scheme – this is the government-backed Start-Up Loan Scheme. These loans are considered a personal loan but can only be used for business purposes. They are unsecured, which means there is no need for your assets to be secured against the loan. They are available to brand new businesses who have not yet started trading, and established businesses that have been trading for less than 2 years.

Alternative Lenders – there are some lenders out there who will lend to start-up businesses. Typically this will be industry specific and over a certain minimum amount. Can also be postcode dependent and the interest rates are usually higher.

The real choice

Once you start investigating what’s available, you are likely to find the start-up loan scheme is the only viable option for most genuine start-up businesses.

The scheme has been set up to focus on new businesses and there is no risk to your personal assets with this method of financing. Loans are available up to the value of £25,000, payable over 60 months maximum at an interest rate of 6%.

Don’t be put off by the narrative that start-up loans are “for would-be business owners who have struggled to secure funding from traditional lenders”. This doesn’t mean start-up loans are for people with poor credit ratings or high-risk businesses. It simply means that you need to try to secure funding from your bank first and if unsuccessful, then the start-up loan scheme is there for you. And you do need a good credit rating and eligible business idea to apply.

How to apply

Start-up loan timeframes vary hugely and that’s because there are so many different ways you can apply. From a completely do-it-yourself approach, to working with a broker or advisor, the key to a swift and successful application is to plan thoroughly and carefully.

That’s where Streamlion comes in. To date, we’ve helped our clients with over 500 applications and secured them over £7.7 million of funding. To do this, we partner with the UK’s number one start-up loans provider, Transmit Start-Ups, and we can work with you in different ways including:

  • Have an initial discussion with you about your business idea and the viability of your plans. We have a great deal of experience in many different industries, so can help you create a business model that works for you.
  • Explain about the importance of the credit check and guide you to the secure start-up loans application page so you can begin the process and complete these important checks.
  • Help you submit your business idea, financial forecast, loan expenditure and ‘personal survival budget’ (this is the main loan application process, and we can also check all your documentation to ensure you have the highest chance of success)
  • Work with you through the review of your loan application to approval and receipt of your funds.

If you’d like to know more about accessing funding for your start-up business, why not get in touch for a chat? You can contact Helen, Streamlion’s founder, on 07790 493033 or email helen@streamlionconsulting.com

Realistic Expectations as a Start-Up Founder

Realistic Expectations as a Start-Up Founder

I’ve been having a lot of fun recently working with some serial entrepreneurs – on their business strategies and helping them get start-up funding for their next new ventures. These founders have already started, managed, grown and sold successful small businesses in the past and have the appetite and know-how to do it all over again… And again. They are pretty awesome.

So, how do they do this? How do they land on a good idea and make it a reality? How do they spot when to get financial help, when to spend on expert advice and with whom, how much to spend on marketing, PR and Social Media, which manufacturers and suppliers to use and when to take on staff? I can tell you how – they set themselves realistic expectations and aren’t afraid to take out finance in the start-up phase to give them the boost they need to get going.

I’ve heard many a small business owner say – “Oh, I don’t want to borrow any money – I’ll keep on working full time and put what I can into my idea and take it from there”. The problem with this is that many great ideas “seize the moment” and are the answer to current business or social problems or indeed current phases/trends. If you wait too long, the moment will have passed and you will have missed it.

So, how do you set yourself realistic expectations? I believe in these 5 golden rules:

  1. Know your market; know your customer; know your business – this is the KEY. Successful entrepreneurs know exactly who they are selling to and what those customers want to buy. Get that right and you have your business.
  2. Have enough cash to set up – take out a Start-up loan or other means of finance so that you can do what you need to do in the start-up months. Start-up loans are unsecured and each Director can borrow up to £25K.
  3. Take time to do a proper Business Plan and Financial Forecast – pay an outside consultant to do this for you if necessary as they will accurately capture your projected order book and record all expenses. There may be hidden costs that you might have overlooked that would give an unrealistic margin expectation. To have an independent view adds great value.
  4. Monitor your expenses and spend when you can afford it – we all know that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, so make sure that you have a sensible roll-out plan in accordance with your business plan. As revenue comes in and grows, then fixed expenses can be taken on.
  5. Be confident, resilient and enthusiastic – if you don’t love your business and have the staying power to make it succeed, then it is hard for others/employees to feel the enthusiasm.

So, back to my entrepreneurs. They have got it and it’s this realism that will make these small businesses grow, at pace, to become buoyant, lucrative and successful future companies.

The Rise of the Street Food Truck

The Rise of the Street Food Truck

Don’t you just love street food? I do. The smell of the cooking wafting towards you and like the Bisto kids, you naturally follow the smell to the source – usually a fixed pitch, gazebo or truck selling delicious, freshly cooked street food from a simple menu.

I’m obviously not the only person who appreciates good street food – today food trucks are the fastest-growing channels in the food service industry with revenues reaching a whopping £1.8 million.

Summer is finally here, so more and more people will be out and about, and this is great for those in the street food business.

It’s all about location, location, location. Getting a static pitch can often be tricky and limiting so why not expand your business and get a truck? This is a relatively inexpensive option to widen your reach and can be done for less than £50,000.

So why are food trucks so popular? They give you the flexibility, diversity and ability to quickly and easily test new concepts, menu items and recipes. They can also cater to various tastes in different locations.

My client Mac to the Future has a terrific business running from a static location in Brixton Beach and now also a vintage truck. He’s now out on the road selling his very successful Macaroni and Cheese in various different locations, including London Zoo.

We have just returned from two weeks in France and I saw some great street food trailers in the local village markets, ranging from proper barista made coffee to a cake stall where the owner actually made fresh cakes from scratch at the market and the smell of the cakes baking was just heavenly. Rotisserie chickens are also very popular – but you have to order yours early on otherwise they are sold out!

These are good small businesses selling a quality product and they take pride in what they produce. This is why the street food business is booming at the moment – we now live in a society that is less tolerant of poor quality – if we pay for something fresh it needs to be delicious, otherwise we might as well just make it ourselves!

Top Tips:

(1) The flexibility and diversity of the food truck makes it an attractive entrepreneurial venture as start-up costs are relatively low

(2) Make sure that what you make and sell is delicious so that customers come back for more

(3) Embrace and enjoy the foodie culture