Inspired by how much money I was spending on baby stuff, I started up my baby and nursery shop “Hello Baby” in 2007, about six months after my first daughter, Scarlett, was born. It has been an interesting experience and very hard work. Working for yourself is not for the fainthearted, but, if you can make it work, is a very satisfying experience. It also helps to have an understanding partner!
Anyway, here are a few tips I have picked up along the way:
1. It does not have to be ground breaking
TV shows such as Dragons’ Den give people the wrong impression that starting a business requires a great idea. The truth is that most successful businesses are actually rather mundane. Developing a new product is very risky and expensive where as setting up an online retailing business, taking my own example, can be done for only a few thousand pounds.
2. Be prepared to get your hands dirty
If you are not prepared to do almost everything yourself, you will end up spending a lot of money and the results will probably not be that great. Activities such as marketing and PR can be outsourced at great expense, but are fundamentally not that difficult if you are prepared to put in the time and effort.
3. Outsource to the Far East!
I employ two people in Thailand to help maintain my website. These employees cost about a third of employing someone in the UK. I have also used sites like Elance to find cheap web developers to build our blog and iPhone app.
4. eBay and Amazon are a great way to start
For selling stuff online, eBay and Amazon provide a great launching pad. These sites provide instant access to a huge, international marketplace and require very little technical knowledge. We do about 70% of our businesses through eBay and Amazon, 20% of which is from overseas.
5. Keep costs low and start small
Starting small on a low budget allows you to be flexible and make changes as you go along. If you spend a lot setting up your business only to find that the idea has no wings, you could be a bit stuck. Having been there myself, I also think that the self-reliance and attention to detail required by starting on a shoestring is a useful, though painful experience.
Trevor Ginn runs Hello Baby, the baby shop for parents who care.