It takes a village to start a business

Running a business can feel like a never-ending uphill climb, and will make you seriously consider your life choices. Don’t give up though! After reaching the ripe age of five, we’ve compiled some of our top advice for navigating those early years so you and your business thrive.

Good Beans wouldn’t be where we are without business support early on. After spying an advert for an incubator The Trampery were launching, we cobbled together an application and delivered it after the deadline had passed. Thankfully they gave it a read and offered us a place at their new workspace in Poplar Docks. For one year we were able to nurture Good Apples as we were known then, and have access to advice, desk space and the chance to meet similar young businesses.

A couple of years later we landed a similar incubator at Allia, providing us the next step on our business journey. Having free office space was brilliant, however, the most valuable result of these programmes was the people we met, and if there’s one piece of advice when starting up, it’s to meet as many people as you can (and keep their details on file).

Let’s meet

We took this advice when Good Beans relocated to the West Country last year. A drink with an old business contact of Ella’s led to a big list of names and organisations to check out. We went along to a Good Business Club event to meet some local start-ups, and got part time desks at FutureLeap, Bristol. We also got in touch with organisations that worked in a similar field to introduce ourselves and ask if they wanted to meet, virtually or over coffee. Although it felt a bit awkward at first, everyone was more than happy to chat, probably because at some point they have been in the same situation. Sometimes, we would share our deck to gather their feedback, but mostly it helped us feel more at home and confident talking about ourselves.

There’s also a business side to these meetings, as the more people that know you and what you do, the more chance they pass on your details to a potential client. You never know what that meeting can lead to, so be open to everything.

Consider co-working

Anyone who has started a business knows that it can be all consuming at times. Since the pandemic, working from home is becoming the norm, which has its benefits (hello no commute) and drawbacks. Working from home restricts the people you can meet, which are not only valuable for your business but for your sanity too.

Co-working spaces offer a great way to get out of the house and change your scenery. Often there will be business courses and networking opportunities on offer, and flexible options mean it shouldn’t break the bank to try one out.

Business advice minefield

Businesses are often started by one or two founders, and until you can employ more people, you have to wear many hats. If you want to survive, you’ll have to be the graphic designer, accountant and customer service all in one. Working like this is almost impossible to maintain, and one of the reasons why 60% of all small businesses fail within the first three years. Business support is out there, and can help you fill skills gaps when you’re starting up. It’s a murky world though, full of scammers trying to sell you false promises of instant business success (for a fee).

If you think you need some advice, most areas have a local business hub funded by the local authority that offers free business advice and courses. Organisations like Cool Ventures that operate in South Gloucestershire, who provide training and support on all sorts of topics. Good Beans recently delivered a webinar for them on essential online marketing tools which was totally free for the attendees, and gives founders one more hat they can wear.

Just make sure to avoid online business ‘influencers’ and anyone offering get rich quick solutions – it’s not true and all they want is your money.

Social enterprise incubators

If you’re starting a business with a social or environmental purpose a social enterprise incubator might be a good choice for you. These programmes usually last a year and give you access to support, funding and contacts in one, and will continue to be your cheerleader after you graduate. Some of the biggest names in the world of social enterprise such as Football Beyond Borders, Fat Macy’s and Birdsong all went through incubators, putting you in good company.

The School of Social Entrepreneurs is a great place to start and their site (and newsletter) is full of advice and opportunities. Have an idea and need a little help? Get in touch with SSEN (Sheffield), Hatch Enterprise (UK wide), Beyond Business (East London) and Grace Network (Gloucestershire).

We’ll be running the Essential Online Marketing Tools webinar again on the 5th October.
If you’re in need of marketing support, don’t forget you can book a free consultation with us.