Book Review – The Start Up Kit by Emma Jones

Start up kitThe Start Up Kit by Emma Jones subtitled, Everything you need to start a small business, is a book that aims to give you the information you need to start your own business. Emma Jones, the author, is no stranger to the world of business and start ups. She is the founder of the small business network, Enterprise Nation (www.enterprisenation.com) and has written other books that have to do with entrepreneurship.

This is not a big book, it has just 141 pages and it consists of three main sections. Each section contains a number of chapters and these have been outlined below.

PART 1: PREPARE

1 – Coming up with an idea: Questions you can ask and answer to come up with a business idea include:

  • Is there a gap in the market that I can fill?
  • What is my passion/hobby/skill?
  • Is there something someone else is doing that I can do better myself?

Here are some possible business ideas:

  • Blogger
  • Vlogger
  • Social media adviser
  • Online store owner
  • Giftware maker
  • Giftware seller
  • Artisan
  • Cupcake maker
  • Cosmetic producer
  • Hair and make-up artist
  • Party organiser

2 – Research the market: Once you have your idea, turning it into a business requires some research followed by turning that research into a plan. Here are some questions your research should answer:

  • What is the number of potential customers you can serve?
  • How do the customers like to be served?
  • What are their core characteristics?
  • What are their spending patterns?
  • Who is currently serving your market
  • Where are your potential customers going for their goods and services?
  • What do they like about what they are getting?
  • What do they dislike about what they are getting?
  • What price can I charge for what I want to offer?

3 – Write a plan: A business plan will act as your map. It will guide the business from start to growth. The plan will include information about:

  • how you will start
  • your objectives

IMOFF is an acronym to remember what you need to include in your plan and it stands for:

  • Idea – what’s your idea?
  • Market – who are your potential customers and competition?
  • Operations – how will you develop the idea, promote it and provide customer services?
  • Financials – can you earn more than you spend, so that the business makes a profit? Do you need any funds to get started?
  • Friends – do you have a support network on hand for when you need business advice?

4 – Register the company: When you register your business you will need to contact a number of organisations. In the UK (as this book was written in the UK) these will include,

  • Companies house
  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

Before you can register your company, you need to think of the company status that suits you best, such as,

  • Self-employed: for people working for themselves. You are responsible for your own records and liabilities.
  • Limited company: The company exists as a separate entity from the owners.
  • Partnership: When two or more people wanting to work for themselves start a business together.

There are also business structures for people starting a social enterprise.

5 – Protect the brand: This is about protecting the intellectual property (IP) of your business. There are four types of IP:

  • Patents: These protects things you have invented that make things work. For example the chemical formula for a drink you made.
  • Trademarks: These are signs like words and logos that distinguish goods and services in the marketplace.
  • Designs: What a logo or product looks like.
  • Copyright: An automatic right that comes into existence for anything written or recorded.

6 – Take care of household admin: When you start a business you want to keep costs low. This may mean starting with your home as the office. You will need to make sure that you get the correct permission to use your home as the base for your business meaning you may need to answer questions such as:

  • Do I need planning permission?
  • Do I need to tell the local authority I am working from home?
  • Do I need to tell the landlord?
  • What about my insurance provider? Do they need to know?

You may also need insurance so make sure you do your research to get the right kind of insurance.

Don’t forget to create a good home working environment by finding dedicated space and investing in appropriate furniture.

7 – Your tech setup: Put together the right technology set up for your business at home. This will cover things such as a computer with appropriate software, internet connection, use of the cloud and the apps you need.

8 – Working 5 to 9: You don’t need to give up your studies or stop your day job to start your home business. According to Emma,

You can plan the business, register the business and continue to run the business successfully by ‘working 5 to 9’ – this is the term I apply to the five-million-plus people in the UK who are working or studying by day, and building a business at night and weekends.

While that is a good way to start a business, check your employee contract that it is not in conflict with the business you want to run outside of your work time.

9 – Starting on a budget and straightforward finance: Emma writes that,

It has never been more straightforward to build a business on a shoestring of a budget and keep on top of finances with basic spreadsheets or software.

To keep your costs low:

  • start the business from home
  • embrace social media for marketing
  • access free and discounted resources
  • make the best of good offers

For funding, think of:

  • friends and family
  • government start up loan schemes
  • crowdfunding
  • the bank

Also, make sure you manage your finances properly. Be clear about your expenses and income.

PART 2: LAUNCH

10 – Create a first impression: It’s important to create a good impression whether through face-to-face connections or on the web. To develop a professional presence on the web you should look into:

  • blogging
  • vlogging
  • your own website
  • presence on third-party websites such as Alibaba, Amazon Marketplace, eBay, Etsy, Facebook and Enterprise Nation Marketplace
  • Getting good ranking on search engines
  • Pay per click advertising

11 – Make sales: Sales is what will make your business grow. So, once you have a professional presence you need to decide how to make your sales. here are some actions you can take to make sales,

  • make a list of people you know ho can become customers
  • pitch your product to the people but don’t be too pushy
  • follow up later with and email or phone call
  • meet up with potential customers
  • make some noise after making your first sale

Also consider selling into physical stores, pop-up stores and your website.

12 – Make some noise: As more sales are coming in make yourself known in the press, online, through hosting events, entering awards and embracing social media.

PART 3: GROW

13 – Attract customers back: Develop a strong community of fans and followers. Give visitors and customers a reason to return with content that is regularly updated. There are so many ways you can create content that can keep people coming back to your website.

14 – Focus on what you do best and outsource the rest: As your business grows, don’t spend time doing what you are not good at. Outsource it.

15 – Keep the business in balance: Keep the business in momentum by concentrating on what Emma calls the ‘golden triangle’ Spend a third of your time on three key things which are,

  • customer care
  • new business
  • admin

16 – Support: build a good support network to help you on your business journey. Your support network can consist of peers and mentors.

Personal lessons

Here are three key lessons for me from the book.

  1. Three factors to consider when thinking about your business idea are:
    1. Looking for gaps in the market that you can fill that can come about by trying to buy something you can’t find or doing something the way you want and how others may want it too.
    2. Turning useful skills and hobbies to a business. Of course, they must be skills and hobbies that you can sell.
    3. Is there something you’ve bought or used that you feel you can do differently or even better? That may be a business opportunity.
  2.  The benefits of a niche: Niche businesses are good ideas to come up with because they involve meeting the needs of a very well-defined audience. This keeps your efforts focused and your offering clear in a crowded market. Two benefits of a niche business are that:
    1. You can keep marketing costs low because your audience is well-defined, you know where your audience is and understand the kind of marketing messages to which they will respond.
    2. Customer loyalty remains high as you become the expert in the field or the only provider of certain products. Customers will want to stay with you and benefit from the specialist product or service you offer.
  3. I really like the IMOFF acronym for remembering what needs to be in a business plan. This acronym is useful even if you are putting together a quick plan for a small side hustle. I have written about it previously but here is a quick reminder:
    1. I for Idea – What’s your idea?
    2. M for Market – Who will be your customers or clients? And who is your competition?
    3. O for Operations – How will you develop the idea, promote it and provide good customer service?
    4. F for Financials – Can you earn more than you spend, so that the business makes a profit? Do you need any funds to get started?
    5. F for Friends – Do you have a support network on hand for when you need business advice? Are there complementary businesses you’ve identified with whom partnerships are a possibility?

Those are my three lessons from the book. This book has lots of good information and even though it was not written for side hustles you can still learn a lot from it to help you with your side hustle.

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