Top tips for starting your own business

With youth unemployment at record highs, one way for young people to get a job is to start their own business.

Instead of waiting for someone else to hire you, why not set up a company and employ yourself?

But how do you launch a business during an economic downturn?

LESSON 1: HARD TIMES ARE GOOD TIMES TO START A BUSINESS

The way the start-up entrepreneurs tell it, it is tricky to start a business at any time – not just during a recession – but their particular business idea is so niche, so focussed, and so special that they shrug off the gloom and just get on with it.

The upside of starting a business during a downturn is that things can only get better as the economic climate improves, and you will have learnt an awful lot in the difficult times that you can use in the easier ones.

Steve Barnes of the start-up internet fast food delivery service Appetise.com says he has only known economic gloom, but that has not stopped him.

“I don’t know what a boom feels like, to be honest. I don’t really know what to expect.

“When you’ve got such a small start-up business I don’t think it is really going to be affected at all. There’s plenty of opportunities in a recession.”

But what should your business actually do?

LESSON 2: FOCUS ON THE IDEAS STARING YOU IN THE FACE

Lots of people go about finding their niche by using business school tools such as market analysis or sector research. Clever, but remote.

Why not start a business based on a need you yourself have, that is not properly addressed by existing suppliers?

You experience the gap in the marketplace, and you fill it: easy-peasy.

University campuses are full of ideas for businesses. For example, David Langer was at Oxford University when he co-founded Group Spaces.

It started as a service for Oxford University clubs, and is designed to make life easy for secretaries and treasurers trying to do admin for clubs, societies, and hobby groups.

Group Spaces now has two million users worldwide, helping club administrators in more than 100 countries.
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It was purely to solve a problem that we had as students”

Steve Barnes Co-founder, Appetise.com

The company employs 10 people, working near East London’s start-up hub Silicon Roundabout and has recently raised £1m ($1.54m) in investment.

The fast-food delivery service Appetise.com was an idea borne by students from Warwick University which has now gone UK-wide.

“It was purely to solve a problem that we had as students,” says co-founder Steve Barnes.

“Trying to order a take-away, we used to order in groups of 10 or 20 people and trying to organise that over the telephone is a bit of a nightmare.

“Whereas now everyone can sit down individually at the computer, place their order and then submit it all in one order and it’s very easy to see an itemised bill to see who owes what.”

Keep it simple, and answer an in-your-face need.

If you have got the need, and the idea, then come the operational problems – but even they are less daunting than they used to be.

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