Everyone has a talent, and there’s never been a better time to turn your talent into turnover, which is what this book claims. Written by Emma Jones in partnership with Country Living Magazine, the goal of the book is to help readers who want to turn their passion, skills, hobbies or interests into a business. This is something you often hear touted on blogs and YouTube videos which turns out to be baseless self-promotion by someone trying to pass themselves off as the entrepreneurial wise one. But Emma Jones has the credentials to back her claim. She is passionate about small businesses and is the founder of Enterprise Nation and co-founder of Startup Britain. You can find out more information about both of these at: http://www.enterprisenation.com and http://www.startupbritain.org. Country Living Magazine has been working with Emma through the Kitchen Table Talent Awards to encourage people to earn a living from their hobbies.
Let me admit upfront that there is nothing new in this book, but what makes it special is the way Emma’s passion comes through in the pages and various stories of people who have started small businesses which ate used to illustrate particular points. Also the book is published to a very high quality and formatted in a way that makes it very inviting to read. The book covers 259 pages in ten chapters. Following is a brief review of what you can expect to learn from each chapter.
Chapter 1 – Making the most from hobby to business
This chapter is all about coming up with an idea. It gives some advice on how to do that, starting with a suggestion to focus on a niche market. Also you will read about how to research the market for your idea, research tools to use and how to name your business. There is a template which allows you think about the market for your product. There are also some short stories about people who turned their talent into a small business. Cakeadoodledo was started by Kate, a former health visitor and A & E nurse. She makes bespoke cakes and publishes baking books. Jonny’s Sister was started by Jane Field, she creates customised cushions. There are also six top tips from launching a craft related business from Joanne Dewberry, founder of Charlie Moos and author of Crafting a successful small business. The tips are:
1. Start with something you know
2. Decide where you will sell
3. Research what others are making
4. Pricing is vital
5. Test the market
6. Have fun
Chapter 2 – I’m off
This is a short chapter which deals entirely with business planning. The title of the chapter, IM OFF is actually an acronym for aspects to consider when writing a business plan.
– I for idea: what’s your idea
– M for market: who are your customers and who are you cvomprting with.
– O for operations: how will you develop and promote the idea. How will you promote good customer service.
– F for financials: will the business make profit? Do you need Amy start capital?
– F for friends: to you have a support network for advice? Ate there complementary businesses you can partner with
A business plan template is provided also. The story of Croglin designs started by Ian and Joe Butler who are toy makers is included.
Chapter 3 – The must a dose registering the company and protecting your brand
This chapter delves into some of the legal responsibilities associated with starting a business. Some of the questions answered here are:
• How will you register your business?
• What company status will you adopt? Options include, self-employed, partnership or limited company.
• How will you file tax returns?
• How will you protect your intellectual property? This covers areas such as, patents, trademarks, and copyright.
• What legal issues do you need to consider when setting up a home-based business.
The chapter concludes with the interesting story of Alex Johnson who had turned his writing skills into a business.
Chapter 4 – Create perfect work environment and top tech tips
Here you will learn about how to set up an office? There is a lot of information on technology needed for business. There is also advice on finding business space.
Chapter 5 – Starting on a budget and basic financial planning
It’s commonly said that one of the most common reasons businesses fail is due to lack of cashflow, so a chapter on money management is a necessity in any business start up book. Emma starts out by advicing that starting a business from home can save on the cost of renting office space, plus the benefits of no commuting. You may also be able to access existing resources that can help you save on costs, for example Alex Gooch benefited from an employer who let him use a kitchen when he was starting out. Emma also advice’s that a business can be started alongside employment and ran from 5 to 9, although a conversation might need to be had with one’s employer to avoid conflict of interest.
There is a specific section on managing your money which looks at money coming in, money going out, insurance, managing cash flow (with a template), pricing products, sourcing supply and equipment and top ten finance tips for craft and handmade businesses (some are: choose your accounting system wisely, choose suppliers carefully and think about how much stock you should buy at a time). The final part of the chapter focuses on funding. Emma briefly describes various funding sources which include:
• Friends and family
• Fund 101 (apply to Enterprise Nation for this)
• Credit cards
• Crowd funding
Chapter 6 – Selling
The lifeblood of any business is sales and Emma chooses this chapter to discuss some basics of selling. This is a large chapter with about 45 pages. She opens the chapter discussing five steps to make online sales. They are:
1. Make a list of people interested in your product
2. Write to the people on your list telling them about your venture
3. Follow them up in a few days with an email or phone call
4. Meet up with potential customers
5. Once you’ve made your first sale, tell people about it
Next Emma discusses using promotional flyers and some tips for selling your products in physical stores. She then moves on to discuss online selling taking the time to give information about selling on other sites such as, Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, iStockphoto, etsy, folksy and Icraft. She writes briefly about how these sites work and actions to take if you want to sell on them. She also discusses how to sell on your own website which covers a bit about advertising, before focusing on building your own website and ecommerce tools.
Chapter 7 – Make some noise
I’m sure you guessed what this chapter is about based from the title, marketing. Emma goes through a mixed bag of marketing strategies for the small business owner covering:
• How to get known by the press
• Entering awards
• Hosting events
• Becoming an expert
• Promoting yourself online
• Using social media
She concludes the chapter emphasizing that you measure results to whats workng and and what isn’t.
Chapter 8 – Putting on a professional face
This is all about the face of your business and Emma believes that a good presentation of your business makes a difference. So what do you need to do to present your business professionally? Emma makes a couple of suggestions such as:
• Having a well designed logo.
• Thinking about the business address you use. It should project a professional image of your business.
• Ensure your number shows you are a proper business. You might want to use a call handling service.
• Get good business cards.
Chapter 9 – happy customers and a balanced business – a recipe for success
In this chapter Emma discusses how to keep customers coming back with four actions, update your site with fresh content, sell offers, invite guests to contribute to your site via blog posts or web chats and keep in touch with your customers using things like newsletters. Keeping the business in balance is about maintaining momentum and growing at a sustainable pace. To do this she suggests spending considerable time on customer care, new business and administrative duties. There is also a reminder to track cashflow carefully and be mindful of the time you spend on various tasks. This is a very short chapter.
Chapter 10 – Grow the business without outgrowing home
This is the final chapter and it has some information on how to grow the business. Emma provides three ways to do this:
1. Productising by expanding your product range.
2. Going global by selling your products globally. Emma doesn’t
contribute much here, rather she recommends a book she has written on the subject titled, Go global: how to take your business to the world.
She also discusses outsourcing which is about growing profits by focusing on what you do best and outsourcing the rest. Information on the types of things to outsource and steps to outsource is provided. Emma also advice’s us not to be afraid to ask for help. I like the quote she uses to emphasize this: asking for help does not make you weak, but it could make you a success. As usual she gives some tips on how and where to ask for help.
Overall this is a very helpful book, although I feel Emma tried to pack too much into it, so a couple of the sections are quite thin on information, but Emma does gives links on where to find further information. The great thing about this book is that it gives you an overview of what is involved in starting a business and backs that information up with some inspiring stories. Plus it’s an easy book to read. Below is a key lesson l learnt from reading it.
My start small lesson
There are many ways to market a business and one of those ways is to get known in the press and online by connecting with the media. Some steps to do that are as follows;
1. First write the script of what you want your message to the media to be.
2. Then research to find the right media contacts. You can do this by finding out about journalists who are interested in your type of business. Note their contact details from their articles, follow them on social media so you can get to know them and then send them stories about you and your business.
3. Write a press release about your business. You can use a press release distribution service to reach a wider audience.
Apart from writing to the press you can also give your business exposure with these actions: podcast, host an event, invite the press to come and meet you, promote your brand by attending trade shows, become an expert by publishing a book, present yourself to speak at events, host a webinar, produce a film, broadcast a podcast, deliver a training course, create an app and form a social media discussion group.