Four essential tips for new businesses starting out

It takes perseverance to remain motivated, especially when progress is slow.

Some of you may know that this year I started my own business – to develop absorbent washable leakproof underwear for pee, periods and perspiration.

It has been an exciting yet tumultuous rollercoaster. Today I wanted to share with you my four essential tips for those who are just starting out.

  1. Perseverance is key!

It takes a lot of motivation to dedicatedly work for yourself day in a day out. Particularly in the early days you must be the ‘master of all trades’ (the CEO and decision-maker, the strategist, the product designer, the investor, the marketer, the logistics expert and so on). Some tasks are easier than others. But when things get tricky it is hard to keep slogging away at it.

I have goals to keep me on track – work wise. But what keeps me – pushing forward – is a verbalised aspiration (that I’m committed to). You see, I found that I needed to be clear about what I wanted to achieve, and by when, because my family kept asking me when I was going back to work. So here it is: my aim is to give the business two years to break-even and three years to make a viable profit.

In addition to this, I let my family know what my boundaries are, to protect myself from risk. That is, when I have spent a certain level of funding, without any profit then I would stop and go back to full time work.

Three years to achieve my first big milestone is long enough for me to think “I’m in this for the long term”, which keeps me jumping over the short-term hurdles.

  1. Clarity is essential.

I never realised just how hard it would be to find the right specially fabrics for moisture wicking, absorbency, comfort and odour reduction.

It’s been a hard learning curve. My one piece of advice for dealing with any type of suppliers, is to be as specific as possible with what you want. If that means you must ask a million questions first to better understand the lay of the land. Then ask away. There is no harm in asking. I like to lay out my requirements in clear tables, or under specific headings. I then number each question and answer. I give my emails informative subject lines so that I can easily keep track of information down the track. But importantly, I never let myself stay in a position of doubt. I clarify immediately when uncertain.

  1. The 80/20 rule is beyond helpful.

It’s easy to waste time perfecting certain elements when it’s your own business. But taking the approach, where you keep working on something because you don’t want to risk getting it wrong, will slow you down unnecessarily. Try to accept that things will evolve rather than be perfect the first time. When you start to spend too much time on a task – STOP immediately and put some time restrictions in place. Because when you think of the time that people will actually spend looking at it, it’s just not worth your valuable and limited time. This is why it is so important that new businesses land a minimum viable product as the primary goal. Because perfection is impossible to achieve, whereas trial and error keeps you moving forward.

  1. Build a following.

As you start your business you will meet many people who will help you or take an interest in what you are doing. Make sure you add their email address to your contacts database and grow this list as you progress your business.  

It’s important to nurture this group by keeping in regular contact. One way I do this is to send out a monthly newsletter that provides a simple update on my progress and some interesting tidbits. It doesn’t matter how you keep in touch but just that you do. Your early tribe are your greatest supporters. Mine mean the world to me and I cherish their feedback and support.

If you are keen to show a fellow start-up support, I would love it if you could like or follow my facebook or Instagram page. Just go to:

https://www.facebook.com/vivobodywear

https://www.instagram.com/vivobodywear/

Thanks for reading! Catch you next time.
xxoo

Step 1 – in my entrepreneurial journey towards the world of ecommerce

It’s exciting and a feel silly for jiggling in my seat, but I’m also grinning with pride, because I have hit two key milestones this month.

Now I’ve got to say – there have been roadblocks. Home schooling during Covid19 lockdown for one! I have now walked around the block and played Monopoly Deal more times than I can count. Because my kids have a clear limit of patience and focus when it comes to schoolwork.  

And while I have felt pulled in many directions and have had to jump from one task to another in rapid succession, I am still moving forward. Mmmm, maybe I deserve a glass of wine!

Wine aside, the first milestone I hit was coming up with my brand name. I didn’t think coming up with a brand name would be that hard. But it was the HARDEST! Note to self – if this ever happens again – ask less people for their advice. Because everyone has a different opinion!!

The worst enemy to creatively is self-doubt.

Sylvia Plath

I reached milestone number two when I finally choose the selection of fabrics that I’m happy with to progress to the next stage (prototype development). I have now tested hundreds of fabric samples. Not only have I undertaken all the scientific tests but I also borrowed a friends sewing machine and made some very rough prototypes to exercise in. Because that is the ultimate test! Running without leakage, especially after a day of drinking tea. I was so disappointed when the first few didn’t work. My bottom lip was out and I was not happy. But it didn’t take many mishaps to realise where I was going wrong. On the plus side – I have also somewhat improved my sewing machine skills, which – if I’m being honest – were absolutely terrible. But when I finally found the right fabric layers – I was surprised my neighbours didn’t hear my huge sigh of relief!

It’s early days yet and I know I have a long road ahead. But it feels rewarding to be stepping over the hurdles just the same.

How I started my entrepreneurial journey

Starting a new business venture is exhilarating! It brings out my creative side and makes me feel like I’m doing something with my life that adds value. With it – also comes self-doubt. Because its hard to know if you are making the right decisions.

I have asked myself many times if this is the right thing to do. Yet, in saying that – I don’t like to waste too much time on self-doubt because it takes my mind away from other more productive thoughts. Instead, I acknowledge the thought (when i have it) and remind myself of my three key reasons for doing it and then I swiftly move on.

Now – before I get into my recap on the key activities I’ve done in starting my entrepreneurial journey.  I must first tell you that I have never owned a business before, and I have no experience in designing a product. What I do have – is lots of motivation, dedication, and passion. I realise that – that alone is not enough. I will make mistakes (and I already have). My aim is to learn from my mistakes and not spend too much money on them. It helps that with Covid19 lockdown we have no money coming in – so it’s hard to spend when you have none to spare! All my knowledge is coming from either podcasts, google or the Creative HQ Incubator Program. Which is a tad restricted by the fact that the country went into lock-down one week before I was meant to start and we are still in lock-down.

That aside, I’ve still been able to find time to work on four key focus areas. The boxes shown below identify the key tasks that I have done. Some further insights are covered in more detail below that.


Guiding documents


Market research


Prototype prep


Online presence

1 Business Plan

2 Project task register

3 Marketing strategy

4 Forecast financials

5 Brand Framework

1 Online surveys

2 Competitor research

3 Problem and solutions review, incl: scientific journals, online research and chats to specialists

1 Sample materials purchased

2 Fabric tests performed

3 Potential suppliers identified

4 Pattern maker selected

Personal website: tamsinsomerville.com

Started a blog:
enablepositivechange.com

Guiding documents

I started my journey by developing a business plan. I used the template from the NZ central government business support agency. It gets you to cover everything from your timeline and market analysis through to supply chain, product creation and financial strategy. This document has been invaluable in making me think through the multiple elements required and I think it is an essential starting point for any new business.

I use Excel for my project task register. Every time I think – “owww, that’s something I should do”, I add it to my register. Its currently list over 100 tasks that I need to do under key themes. This is guided by goals that I have set myself to achieve over the next 1, 2, 3, 6 and 12 months.

With my marketing strategy I first started quite detailed but then I simplified it into a one A3 page that simply sets out my goals, approach, marketing pillars, product niches, and key messages. It is super helpful!

My brand development framework starts off with elements that I will retain throughout my business journey, such as outcomes, goals, vision, values, strengths, insights, and desired brand experience. But then it moves into elements that I will change over time once my branding is finalised, including words that describe the brand, brand name ideas, logo ideas, as well as colors and fonts I like.

Market research

I used Survey Monkey to test the market viability of my product. I avoided friends and family because I needed the results to be honest. I sent out about a hundred emails and received 40 responses. The results were clear – progress forward!

My second survey tested my six possible brand name ideas and the associated tag lines. The results were not overly clear. Everyone thought differently. The best advice I received was by reading a book called Hello my name is … Awesome.

Prototype development

Arguably my hardest task to date. I have ordered and tested more fabric samples than I care to admit. This has been my biggest expense to date, and I have now learned the importance of asking more questions prior to excitedly ordering the fabric of my dreams. Finding the right fabrics is so much harder than I thought it would be. Especially finding sustainable fabrics that will work.  Note to self – when designing my next product – hire a professional!

Online presence

I developed a personal website because I thought it was important that if people wanted to learn about me, they would be able to. I paid US$50 for a domain name and website hosting for a year. This included an easy website template, which had me up and running in a morning.  

I developed my blog so that I could share the reasons of why I was on my entrepreneurial journey and share some tips along the way.

My next website development, will be my online retail store. This will not be so easy or cheap. Eek! I’ll keep you posted.