Tag Archives: small business

5 things you need to know about starting a business

Start me up.

by KATE MATTHEWS

I came across this quote recently and it really struck a chord with me. Does it resonate with you too?

start to be great

Anyone contemplating a new business venture will appreciate that taking a ‘great idea’ to the next level can be very exciting but not without its challenges. I know too well; I’ve got more than one business plan on the table right now. It quickly becomes obvious having a bright idea is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting something off the ground and into the market place.

Here’s a quick guide to 5 things you need to know about starting a  business:

1. Coming up with start-up capital often be one of the biggest hurdles. Even micro businesses need a few dollars to invest in  purchasing materials,  stock and promotional media like a website, domain name, business cards, and the like. And if you intend to trade under a business name, you’ll need to register it (for a fee) with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC).  Of course if your idea is a little grander, then chances are you’ll need a substantial amount of money and borrowing and investing in a new business is not without risk.  

Financial choices can be limited and fraught with danger. If you don’t have any savings to draw on, you’ll need to apply for a loan or use a credit card. Before taking on any debt you’ll want to thoroughly work through your start-up costs and be realistic. Family and friends are another option as investors, but beware, disputes over money can cost more than the loan repayment so think hard before taking this route. Make sure you have a written agreement to repay the debt and the terms and conditions of the loan; take it seriously and stick to it.

2. Plan to succeed. That means putting together a business plan. Yes, even you. It can be as simple or detailed as you wish, but making a plan helps you to work out your ideas and should give you realistic expectations in terms of start-up costs. You are likely to need a thorough business plan if you want to apply for a business loan, and financial institutions will want some proof of security as well as a briefing on your previous experience relevant to your proposed business.

There are plenty of great resources for business plan preparation. In New South Wales, you can start with the NSW government site for Trade and Investment, www.smallbiz.nsw.gov.au

3. Be prepared for a lot of work before your great idea gets to market. Aside from all the hours spent planning your new venture, you’ll need to thoroughly research your intended market and your competition, as well as potential suppliers and the range of products and services currently on offer.

If your idea is based on your creative skills, once you’ve done your research you’ll need to start creating! Assuming you have enough capital to invest in materials and the tools of the trade, or you already have some on hand, now is the time to get productive – doing what you love! There’s a fine balance between having enough stock and having too much and only time will tell if you get it right.

And time is what you’ll need plenty of. Juggling a business around a family and possibly another job can be a challenge, but a very rewarding one if you get it right. Be prepared to compromise and negotiate. Not everyone will understand the level of commitment needed to get a business off the ground, especially those closest to you.

But if you develop good time management skills, learn to prioritise, and take time to spend with the people you love, hopefully you’ll find a great balance.

4. Insurance. Anyone wishing to trade a product or service, including market stall holders, will need some form of public liability cover. As with finance, there are many options. But just like capital, public liability insurance is an essential. While some market organisers provide an insurance option within the booking fee, many don’t. Try googling ‘market stall insurance’, or check out a quote from www.marketstallinsurance.com (please note this is not a paid endorsement and north coast markets is not affiliated with this broker in any way). Product liability insurance can be purchased at an additional cost.

5. Find a good business mentor, but don’t limit yourself to just one. A reputable accountant will help you navigate many of your financial and legal concerns. If you don’t already have an accountant, try to get a referral from someone you trust and when choosing one, look for an accountant who has previous experience in your line of business.

Your local chamber of commerce or business enterprise centre should also be able to point you in the right direction.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of online business mentors too. Find one or more that resonates with you. If you choose to follow a virtual mentor via social media, you’ll be rewarded with free tips and information, plus a lot of inspiration.

And your bonus point, number 6: Test your product or service at a local market. Being a stall holder, if only temporary, will give you the opportunity for direct feedback from your customers. It may be all the encouragement you need to develop your idea further and go into full production, or perhaps to refine your product or service to better meet the needs of your market. Here’s a link to the North Coast Market Directory, where you’ll find links to markets right across the region, of all descriptions.

Got any comments or ideas to add to the above post? I look forward to hearing from you.  You can follow North Coast Markets on facebook and stay up to date with what’s on when and where, from the Tweed to the Hastings.  You can also find NCM on twitter and/or subscribe to this blog.

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Ask questions, get answers…

Ask questions, get answers…

Wouldn’t it be great if you could network with other stall holders and small businesses?

A place to grab a (virtual) coffee at any time of day or night and have a chat about things that are important to you? Somewhere to ask questions and get answers?

North Coast Markets is preparing to launch the Australian stall holder and small business network and if you’re a small business or stall holder anywhere in Australia you’re invited to join in the conversation.

We’ll start with a platform we’re all familiar with: Facebook groups.

The Australian stall holder and small business network will be a closed group, which means your posts remain private to those that are within the group, and individuals can only join the group by invitation. It also means that your personal info remains protected, that is, when non-friends are in the same group as you, this does not allow them to see any more of your profile (timeline) information than your privacy settings allow.

There’s no membership fees, and you can opt out any time you like.

To take part in this exciting new forum, contact me and let’s start talking.

Is your website costing you business?

What is the true cost of your website? Is it turning your potential customers away?

by KATE MATTHEWS

Does your website stand out from the crowd?

IS YOUR website making a great impression? Is it engaging? Does it reflect your business brand? Can people find it? And if you don’t have a website, why not?

So many questions… but they all need to be answered if you are going to have a successful online presence for your business. According to Google, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online.  Can you afford to NOT have a great website?

We thought we’d take a look at a few common mistakes that can turn away your potential customers in minutes, as well as a few of the things that (we think) make a website stand out from the crowd.

1. Visual design

There are several elements to visual design, but together they create your brand, deliver your message, and sell your product. Or do they? Don’t turn your potential customers away by creating a bad first impression.

Now I’m not saying YOUR website is ugly, but I’m sure you’ll agree that there are far too many websites out there that do suffer from (a term I have just coined): Ugly Website Syndrome (UWS).

Common mistakes include poor layout, difficult site navigation, clashing colours, hard to read fonts, flashing lights, typos and ugly images. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. And don’t think that being on a shoestring budget will allow you to be forgiven for such faux pas! It won’t. A bad website will just make you – and your business – look cheap.

Even if you don’t have web programming skills, or a big budget, you can use a variety of templates and FREE website builders to help get you started. We love Wix, Blogger, and WordPress. But there are many more out there.

2. CURRENT CONTENT

When is the last time you updated your website, or even checked the information is still current and effective? We recommend checking your website over thoroughly at least once a week, and updating or tweaking it as necessary. Keeping it fresh will also help you rank better with search engines, something every business should have high on their priority list. There is no excuse for out of date content on your site. If you haven’t updated your website recently, you can be sure it is hurting your business, so do something about it, today.

3. ONE CLICK POLICY

One of the most important pieces of information on your website is your contact information. Is it easy to find? It should only ever be one click away from ANY  page on your site. In fact, all key pages of your site should only ever take one click to find.

4. INTEGRATE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA

The marketing world agrees: social media probably the most important tool right now for reaching out and connecting with your past, present, and future customers. Make sure you link your website to your preferred social media platforms. It should be easy for your guests to find the link and connect with you in ‘real time’.

If you haven’t created a business page on Facebook yet, what are you waiting for? It’s dead easy, and very cost-effective (free). Here’s a great post which highlights the value of Facebook marketing for all types of businesses, written by Lisa Marie Robinson on her blog, The Market Place.

But a word of warning. Don’t put all your marketing eggs in the one social media basket. There’s no doubt Facebook is a great marketing tool, but it shouldn’t be your ONLY one. You don’t own that little piece of Facebook real estate, no matter how well it’s working for your business.

At the very least, you might like to consider using a mix of media platforms. The ones you choose are up to you, but with many people actively using Twitter and Facebook, it would be wise to at least investigate your options.  By linking them to your website or blog, you’ll have a completely integrated media package.

5. Register your business with google MAPS

Sounds simple, right? But many DIY webmasters skip this step and wonder why their business website flounders in a sea of online content. Click this link and follow the steps.

RELATED STUFF:

What is holding you back from blogging your biz? One of my favourite virtual business mentors, Karen Gunton, has written a great article on why blogging is a great tool for small businesses. A great and informative read, will definitely get you thinking.

QUICK TIPS:

Ask a friend (or three) to look at your site objectively. And beg them to be brutally honest. Give them a checklist.  You may like to include things like;

  • Is my site easy to find with a search engine? What key words worked best? And what didn’t?
  • Is my site easy to navigate?
  • Are my contact details easy to find?
  • What was your first impression?
  • What are five words that you would use to describe my site?

Got a few seconds to take our poll and/or leave a comment?