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Why failure is an important part of your entrepreneurial journey

10th October, 2016 No Comments


The more successful entrepreneurs you speak to, the more you will begin to realise that failure is all part of the job. From Richard Branson to Steve Jobs, many of their great successes would not have been achieved if it wasn’t for previous failures.

Risky business

Being an entrepreneur is risky business; there’s no other way to put it. If you’re committed to being a successful entrepreneur you will need to take risks to both start and grow your business, with the potential of risks yielding bad outcomes.

When you have to take a risk in your business, don’t shy away from it. Learn as much as you can about all possible outcomes and make an educated move. If the risk you took doesn’t pay off, at least you know you made the most informed choice you could. You then need to move on. Get comfortable with taking risks and learn to live with your mistakes. It will make you a stronger, more confident business person in the long run.

Learning curve

As an entrepreneur, you are your own teacher. Unlike people who are employed by a business, you don’t have a structured role – your role is whatever you want it to be and your business success is a reflection of that. The decisions you make don’t have to be agreed by a board of directors or approved by management; however you can’t rely on others to pick up the slack if you’re feeling unproductive.

As a result of this, you will be forced to learn from yourself and the saying ‘try, try, try again’ will begin to ring true. If you try out a new idea, whether it’s a new product or a new marketing strategy, and it doesn’t work out, you will know what not to do next time. If you need to gain new skills to succeed, you are responsible for that too. Either outsource the weaker areas of your business, or up-skill yourself.

Be critical

You will most likely experience failure at some point during your entrepreneurial journey, but it’s important to see these failures as experiences you can learn from. Remember that yes, this is your life, but you are also building a business. Think critically and don’t let emotions get the better of you.
When you do experience failure, take a step back from the disappointment and think critically about what went wrong. Was it a problem with finances? Did you fail to train your staff adequately? Or was it something out of your control? Whatever the reason may be, spend some time finding the cause and create a plan to avoid repeating the same mistake next time.

What doesn’t kill you …

… makes you (and your business!) stronger.

While it is often easy for start-up businesses to go bust in their first few years of trading, this isn’t always the case. Luckily, every failure you experience won’t mean that you will need to start a new business from scratch, but it can result in some serious setbacks.

The way you handle your failures not only says a lot about your personal character, but of how you behave in the business world. You may be looking for investors, or working to develop partnerships, and you need to display confidence. If you’ve experienced failure and fall at the first hurdle when a new opportunity arises, you risk making people feel nervous about working with you in the future. It’s not the fact you failed that matters; it’s how you pick yourself back up and keep going. How you learn from mistakes and keep chasing success. And how you stay focused on your goals, realising that today is just the next step in your entrepreneurial journey.

Written by Amanda Orton, Marketing Executive for Business West, delivering business support in the South West.

For support to start and grow your business, contact the Start & Grow teams.


Pitching your business idea is easy.  Or is it?

9th August, 2016 1 Comment

Multi ethnic business group greets somebody with clapping and smiling

You’ve come up with a great idea for a new product or service and you need support, whether it be financial, technical, or professional partnership.  The next step is convincing the right person to give you that support.

So what do you have to do?

Finding the right audience to pitch to is the obvious first step (and there’s a few links below to help with the search), and then you have to prepare your pitch.  And prepare you must!  Your idea will be as clear as crystal in your own mind but you have to portray that idea to others with the same clarity.

Whether pitching to a friend or associate, a group of business angels, or a bank manager, and whether it be face-to-face, using a business plan, or online, there are some fundamental rules to ensure you make your pitch the best it can possibly be.

Be prepared

Make sure you have all the relevant facts and figures at your fingertips – have a print-out with you that you can refer to both at face-to-face pitches and when preparing a written or online pitch.  You should also consider producing a one or two page brief summary; use your business plan as a back up to your pitch (in some cases your business plan will form the major part of your pitch – particularly if you’re talking to a bank about finance); consider producing a PowerPoint presentation; and develop a 5-minute elevator pitch.

Investors are as interested in the entrepreneur as they are in the business idea (maybe even more so) so prepare yourself too!  Be confident in your idea and show a passion for the business.  Investors need to know that you are logical, efficient, quick-thinking, and able to see your idea through.  They also need to know who you are, so be yourself!

Practicing your elevator pitch for face-to-face meetings will bring confidence but you also need to have answers to all the potential questions that might be asked of you.  Know your product, costs, market, and processes inside out and you will not be caught out by questions you cannot answer.

‘Knowing the enemy’ will give you an advantage too.  Research the investors wherever possible and use the information to your advantage to benefit your business – do they have experience in your industry? ; have they invested in a similar business before and how successful was this? ; how much time do they have to support you and your business?  Pitching to the wrong people is both a waste of their time and yours!

Pitching your idea

Spencer Waldron, presentation expert at Prezi, suggests that the best pitches tell a story.  Consider formatting your pitch with an introduction, a middle section of ‘chapters’, and an end where the main character in the story is your proposed market / customer.

The introduction could cover what is available now and the gap in the marketplace that your product or service will fill.  The middle chapters will cover your target audience and their needs; why your product will benefit them; why they will buy from you; who might stop your business being successful and how you will counteract this.  And the end would be the growth plan for your business and your exit strategy.  It would be worthwhile adding a brief summary which highlights the 3 things you want people to remember from your pitch – choose the 3 wisely!

Ensure your content covers all the issues that your potential investors will want to know about:  customer base; your team; costs and financial forecasts; competitors; and, of course, what exactly is it you want from the investor (and, where applicable, what do they get in return).

And finally your presentation should be well designed – smart, crisp, and to the point.  And make sure your personal appearance is as polished as your presentation.  In any printed or digital material keep text to a minimum; highlight important parts with ‘bold’ / text size / text colour; discuss one point at a time (in a PowerPoint that’s one point per screen); and use photos and images wherever you can.  Finally, maintain your branding throughout your presented materials.

So, there you have it – pitching your business idea is easy, isn’t it?

Written by Davina Young, Marketing Manager at Cavendish Enterprise


Cavendish Enterprise partners are able to advise and support you in writing your business plan.  Our business advisors can also assist with other skills and knowledge you may need to develop your business idea.

Some useful links:

Additional tips and thoughts on ‘how to pitch your idea’ from the British Library and from James Caan of Dragon’s Den.

Once you’ve got your pitch ready, the following links may be useful:

Pitch to Peter Jones

Pitch to Angels’ Den

Pitch on BBC’s Dragon’s Den

Launch your project on a crowdfunding platform

Looking to start a food and drink business?  Pitch on 16th Sept 2016

Pitch your business in Dundee, Scotland


Seaweed grows fast!

4th July, 2016 No Comments

Seaweed & Co. Ltd was established in 2015 to advise on, supply and accredit superb seaweed for the food, health and nutrition markets. In this time, the company has established a global distribution network, and world-class production that is proving its seaweeds to be the best on the market.

Harvesting seaweedOuter Hebrides

Above : The Outer Hebrides where the seaweed is grown and harvested.

Dr Craig Rose, Managing Director of Seaweed & Co, explains how the business support he has received has helped his enterprise to grow as rapidly as the seaweed it harvests.

“Establishing a business in an emerging industry presents its own very unique challenges. It takes a great deal of patience during the early months to educate and inform potential customers who don’t yet know about the potential of seaweed. At Seaweed & Co. we are not only trying to sell our own products but also work alongside other companies in our field to grow the industry as a whole.

“As a business owner this means that I had to go into the start-up phase with my eyes open. I knew there would be a significant initial outlay on equipment – such as the state-of-the-art technologies we installed – and my forecasts had to reflect the fact that we wouldn’t be selling thousands of pounds worth of produce from day one.

“With high set up costs and little awareness of such a niche industry, a new business like Seaweed & Co. requires access to both investment and proactive business support. And that was why I took the decision to approach TEDCO.”

TEDCO is the Cavendish Enterprise partner delivering business advice and support in the North East.

Dr Rose continues “I was already aware that TEDCO had a strong reputation for start-up support and when I first contacted business advisor Bill Hartshorne, he very quickly understood where we were and how we might look to meet the challenges and opportunities that we faced.

“One of the key things that I was able to get help with straight away was funding through the Virgin StartUp Loans scheme. We were delighted to be awarded the maximum possible loan of £25,000, which enabled us to get the new technologies in place. Thanks to the marketing teams at TEDCO and Virgin StartUp we were also able to generate substantial press coverage through the trade press, newspapers and even BBC news.

“As part of the Start & Grow programme, Seaweed & Co. also benefitted from the one-to-one support of a business advisor, which is ongoing for up to three years after start. With the help of Bill Hartshorne, we were able to ensure that our business plan was up-to-scratch and that we had the right plans in place to grow the business once we had funding in place.

“Less than two years later we have a truly world-class and highly unique product offering that is now being sold around the world. But our relationship with TEDCO didn’t stop after those early few months. We have continued to work closely with them and the wider Cavendish Enterprise team to promote the business and realise our ambitions.

“In June 2016 Seaweed & Co. was one of just three companies from around the country selected to talk at the House of Lords. This event, a Celebration of Enterprise, was organised by Cavendish Enterprise and sponsored by Lord Wei of Shoreditch.

“It was a huge honour to be able to speak at the highly prestigious House of Lords, to an audience of invited guests that included some big names in the business and business support world. This type of exposure is only possible through the on-going support and networking opportunities made possible through TEDCO and Cavendish Enterprise. With their help we have been able to raise the profile of seaweed, as a natural and sustainable British resource that both benefits people’s health and the health of the planet.

“In starting a business there are many uncertainties, risks, time constraints and demands on resources. It was genuinely helpful to work alongside a support agency that understood the complexities and challenges of a start-up business. From the very beginning, both TEDCO and Cavendish Enterprise have continually provided a high quality business support offering, with a genuine interest in the business and a desire to see us succeed.

“I would highly recommend any business to make contact with a business support agency, and to see where it could go. It was one of the best decisions I made when starting out.”

With thanks to Dr Craig Rose, Managing Director, Seaweed & Co for his informative insight into starting a business.

More information on Seaweed & Co., and the immense benefits of seaweed, can be found on their website.



Time to grow

18th January, 2016 No Comments

Workers cutting pvc window profiles on a factory

To staff, or not to staff?  That is the question ….

So you’ve been running your business as a one-man/woman show for a while now. Things are picking up, word of mouth is spreading and business is good. In fact, things are going so well that there’s a chance you soon won’t be able to go on alone any more. It’s time to start thinking about taking on staff.

Making the leap and becoming an employer is a daunting step and being responsible for another individual’s ability to put food on the table isn’t something you can take lightly. Then there’s also the logistics to be aware of: tax and book-keeping implications, cashflow concerns, holidays, pensions; the list goes on.

The aim, of course, is that taking on staff helps an enterprise to grow revenues and improve profit. So let us look more closely about how you can give yourself the best chance of making it as a boss – and helping your business fly high in the process.

Do you have the time to manage?

If you’re taking on a second member of the operation then you are going to have to act as line manager, and that means offering a guiding hand when required. If you are lucky you will find someone who knows the field already, although that sort of experience is obviously going to cost more than hiring someone young and inexperienced who is eager to learn. Either way, you’d best be prepared to put aside your own workload, answer questions and be a mentor for a while.

Can you afford to pay staff?

One of the simplest but most important questions you need to ask is whether or not the business is making enough to support another wage. There’s also the question of just how much you should be paying the person you need for their time and skills in order to attract the right talent. There’s no point in hiring someone unable to bring anything to the business. Before making decisions on when and who to hire, you need to know exactly what you can offer and what you will expect in return.

Do you know your responsibilities?

Taking on staff will entail entering a contract – both literally and figuratively speaking. You have a duty of care to your employees and there are certain things you need to provide to make sure you are a good and fair employer. For a start you’ll be responsible for maintaining their place of work, equipment, managing the hours they keep, allocating holiday entitlement and holding the fort when they are sick. To understand the full extent of your responsibilities a bit of research, advice and even a consultation with a legal professional may be required.

Will they bring money to the business?

Yes it sounds a bit blunt, but there really isn’t any point taking on staff if they don’t contribute to growing the bottom line. It is down to you as the employer to consider how you want to deploy your staff most effectively to achieve success – be it bringing in leads, selling direct, generating ideas or simply offering billable time. Always be sure to give yourself breathing space when it comes to margins, though. The cost of hiring a staff member goes beyond an hourly rate.

Consider all of these factors and prepare accordingly, and you could find that your staff members become a huge asset to your business. And they may even allow you to re-establish the work–life balance you always promised yourself when you first set up!

Written by Carole White, CEO, TEDCO

You may have a new business idea which includes the need for staff at start up or the very early stages of trading.  If so, the above considerations will still have to be made.  You may be eligible for support and advice under the Start & Grow programme.  Contact your local agency to find out more.

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Ten questions to ask before you start a business

8th January, 2016 No Comments

Business plan flow chart
After creating your business idea there are ten things to do before you can start to turn your idea into a reality. These ten steps will ensure that you not only have a solid understanding of what sort of business you want to start, but also that you understand all aspects of the product or service that you will be providing. Once you have considered these steps you will also be ready to move your idea forward by writing a business plan and accessing funding.

Do you have the passion?
Starting a business is a big commitment and you will need to have a passion for what you do. You will be sacrificing many hours of your life to start your business and it is certainly not going to be an easy way out of working for your boss. You will have to ensure that you are mentally, financially and emotionally prepared and that you believe in your idea, because this is key to your start-up flourishing into a successful business.

Do you know your product inside out?
Being able to outline the key features of the product or service that you are planning to offer is a necessary exercise. If you can’t talk about your business in detail it means that you haven’t put enough thought into developing your offering. If you can explain not only what your product or service is, but what makes it difference from competitors, the benefits, how it is produced and why people should buy it, then you are ready to start talking to people about your idea.

Does your idea provide an effective solution to a current problem?
Your business should always provide some sort of solution to an existing problem, but does your idea provide the best solution? Does it provide a long term solution? Most importantly, does it provide the optimal solution? If not, now is the chance to tweak and change your idea until it’s the best it can be.

Does your product or service already exist?
You will need to do some research into your competitors. Having competitors isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you will need to identify them and highlight what makes your business different. Your business will need to have a unique selling proposition and be able to win and also maintain a profitable market share. You can also use this time to see how similar businesses promote themselves and which markets they appear to be targeting. Learn from their mistakes and recognise what makes them successful.

What is the ultimate aim of your business?
Although your business is just starting out, you should have a solid vision and overall aim. This will provide you with direction and give you something to work towards; without this you may loose direction and even end up heading backwards. Think about what you want to achieve, how you will measure your success and what is important for your business.

Have you asked your family for feedback or conducted a survey?
Before you release your business idea out into the public realm you should consult friends and family. Only ask people who will give you an honest answer, otherwise you will be wasting your time. After this you should start to conduct surveys with a wider audience that will provide you with much more well rounded opinions. Try testing your idea at community fares or markets, demonstrate your product or service and talk with people first hand to find out what they think about it.

Have you identified your customer base?
Begin by creating a simple website landing page with information about your business with an option to leave feedback or to ‘sign up’ to find out more. By taking out digital advertising through Google and social networks like Facebook, people will click on the link if they are interested in your business. Setting up an initial campaign such as this isn’t too costly and is a great way of finding out if your business really has a market.

How much capital will you need and do you need additional funding?
It is important to identify how much capital you will need to start your business, as failing to take every expense into consideration will be costly. Explore different funding options such as start-up grants and loans to assess your different options. Each type of finance has different eligibility criteria, so make sure you qualify.

Have you identified local support networks?
Starting a business can seem daunting, but there are a wealth of services out there to provide you with support and guidance – You aren’t alone! Industry experts can help you understand how to maximise opportunities and further identify the needs and characteristics of your target market. A mentor is a valuable asset to anyone starting a business and this avenue shouldn’t be overlooked. A mentor will work with you one-on-one and provide you with honest advice and guidance. They will likely have great knowledge and experience and will help you to avoid making costly mistakes. If you begin to feel stressed and overwhelmed, your mentor will help you to work through the problems that you may experience. Attending seminars and workshops is another great way to develop the skills and knowledge that you will need to get your business of the ground.  Get support for your start-up with Start & Grow.

Written by Tara Gillam, Business West


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