Thursday, May 24, 2012

Starting out with your Start-Up

Guest blog from entrepreneur Andrew Jervis, champion for enterprise and one of our incubator graduates.

Andrew Jervis speaking on entrepreneurship at University of Manchester Business School
So you’ve got that amazing idea? Check! You know exactly how it’s going to plan out? Check! It’s going to make you a millionaire with in 18 months? Hmmmm….. check!

Being (or aspiring to be) an entrepreneur is an amazing experience. It brings out a whole series of emotions; excitement, frustration, joy, worry, laughter, you name it! Inevitably you’ll meet a whole variety of extraordinary people. You’ll more than likely have no money (or negative) in your bank account at some point and you may even think “what the hell am I doing?”.  Well, if you're reading this and you’ve started a business and currently experiencing some or all of these symptoms, don’t sweat.  It's perfectly natural.

From a personal perspective, starting out on my first business was a hugely exciting period.  One that was approached naively but became a great learning experience. With aspirations of having the world of wheel trims eating out of our hands in no time, my business partner and I were ready to conquer the world. Our projected financials had many zeros at the end of the net profit line and we were already day dreaming about great success and riches. The reality was quite different. We launched and well… the sales came but not by the amount we anticipated… by a considerable amount.

Being positive, ambitious and optimistic are all very important traits in business. Some people who launch with this enthusiasm hit the jackpot first time and very quickly (Mr Zuckerberg would provide a modest example of this), but as the stats show the majority of start-ups don’t succeed and many of those who do get through the first couple of years go on to make modest incomes.

The point of raising these sobering facts is not to be negative and dampen the enterprise spirit but to prepare people for the journey ahead. The road is long, fun and enthralling but you have to be prepared for hard work and setbacks. That’s not to say that the journey wont be rewarding as it definitely will be!

From a more practical perspective, here's a few pearls of wisdom from others that I have found particularly useful, blended with a little bit of my own experience.

- Don’t settle on your first idea.  You are potentially stumbling through 100’s of great business ideas everyday. A really effective way to find a great idea is to look at the problems you encounter every day. I’m pretty sure your problems are not just isolated to you, so if you can solve a problem for yourself then you can solve it for whole bunch of other people.

- Undertake a feasibility assessment.  A very basic feasibility assessment on your business can quickly find out if it’s a goer or not. What’s your cost price, what’s your sale price, how many units do you need to sell to break even, how many customers will potentially and realistically buy from you (everyone and anyone doesn’t count!).

- Go niche.  This is not necessarily a pre-requisite for a successful business but it can be an effective method to get trading in the early days. Find a small particular niche market that no one else is focused on and really deliver great results for your customers.

- Be very good at one thing, not ok at 5.  I can be guilty of this, as can most entrepreneurs. With so many ideas flooding through your head it can be easy to get side tracked and before you know it, you can be doing an OK job with a few ideas but not really delivering to your full potential. This brings us back to don’t settle on your first idea…. be picky and choosy and when you know you’ve found the right idea commit to it.

- Network and drink green tea.  Regular tea and coffee is OK as well but make sure you talk to other entrepreneurs or freelancers. Starting out can be quite lonely especially if you’ve come from a big organisation so speak with other entrepreneurs, go for tea and cake, share experiences and contacts and help each other out!

- Get a mentor.  Someone who’s been there and got the t-shirt to give you pearls of wisdom along your journey can be priceless.  Ideally get a mentor linked with your industry and walked your proposed enterprise journey before.

- Learn from failure.  Failure is not bad. In fact,  if used constructively, failure can be a really good thing. It's much better losing a few hundred pound in the early days and learning a lesson, than losing £10,000’s later on having not learnt that lesson. Don’t be afraid to fail and if you do, dust yourself off, learn what went wrong and try not to make the same mistake again.

- Have fun, get passionate, work hard and play harder.  Your enterprise adventure is certainly not going to be dull and will bring out all sorts of emotions. It’s going to be important that you work hard when required and equally important to enjoy your new freedom and play when you can.

Most importantly enjoy what you do and get passionate about it!

About Andrew Jervis:

Andrew Jervis is currently on the Masters of Enterprise at the University of Manchester Business School. Raised on the Isle of Man, he attended school and undergraduate education in the north of England. Andrew worked in a graduate position in an offshore bank before embarking on his enterprise journey. Currently he is involved in 3 enterprises each with their highs and lows: check them out:,, . Andrew was a client at Isle of Man Business Incubator before moving to Manchester to study at Manchester University.

In April 2012 PieBoy won the Shell Live Wire Grand Ideas Award for March, a national award that has previously earmarked and propelled some of the UK's most successful start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Andrew has been accepted onto Entrepreneur First, the prestigious high-impact technology entrepreneurship start-up scheme along with 30 other young entrepreneurs from across the UK.  As part of the 2012 cohort, Andrew was invited to visit 10 Downing Street .  

Thank you from Kate at Isle of Man Business Incubator to Andrew for taking the time to share your tips and experience.