Starting a business has been a huge learning curve for me and I frequently find myself learning from my mistakes, which is a rather painful way of doing things! However, besides that old friend Google (to which I owe everything I’ve ever done in Photoshop), there are actually loads of ways to learn new skills in a pain free way. For anyone thinking of starting a business, here are a few I’ve found useful:
1. Talk to people
People are genuinely so generous with their time and knowledge. I talk to everybody about Quoats and its incredible how helpful people are, be it advice from people who have run their own successful businesses, to people starting other food businesses facing the same problems we are, to friends and family who have spotted something on our website that needs improving. I am sometimes a bit reticent to talk about Quoats because it feels a little self involved, but actually people are normally really interested so I would say don't be shy, just ask!
2. The British Library
I know what you're thinking but The British Library has a Business and IP Centre where there is a huge amount of advice and resource, for example you can look at market research data which would normally be unaffordable for start ups. It also has a great cafe. I’ve already spent more time in the library for Quoats than I did as a student for my degree!
3. Go on a course
The brilliant Enterprise Nation run “StartUp Saturday” courses at the British Library, as well as having all sorts of useful webinars and events for start ups. For example, last week I went to one on blogging (thanks Natasha Courtenay Smith, trying to follow your advice!) and our name Quoats was actually suggested by another attendee at the StartUp Saturday course we went on (we were going to call it Quorridge!). Virgin Start Up also do some great stuff, recently I went to a “how to do business with big business” course they ran which was really useful. These courses don’t cost the earth and are brilliant value for money.
4. Read all about it
Google does comes in handy here, there is a huge amount of information “on the line”, as Rob’s Grandad says, though I’ve found you do have to pick your way around the results. There are also some brilliant books for start ups – I’ve found Tessa Stuarts books really useful for starting a food business.
5. Practice makes perfect
One of the things I find most challenging is putting what I learn into practice – I go on all these great courses and read all these inspiring articles but struggle to find time to actually implement them. If you change nothing, nothing will change, so for me scheduling the time and consciously making the effort to put into practice what I’ve learnt really helps - and this blog is the proof!
Starting a business can be daunting but there really is loads of advice and help out there – you just need to go and find it! Whilst I feel like I am mostly learning from my mistakes I know all of the things above have helped save us time and money which is so important as a start up. I’d love to know if there’s anything you’ve found useful starting a business – comment below, all advice always welcome!