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10 Tips To Starting a New Business by Founder Charlotte

Have a dream but don't quite know how to make it into a reality?

Read Charlotte's top 10 tips below...

I dreamt up the idea for Charlotte Elizabeth in the winter of 2013/14, and can remember feeling a great disparity between the vision of my idea and the lack of knowledge of how to actually make it happen. I hope that these 10 tips can assist you in turning your dream into a reality with simple steps and advice.

1. Write a business plan.

It may take weeks or months or years, but simply connecting with your idea, and working out what it will be and look like will help to make things all the more real.

In writing things down, you may find that the business idea completely changes to your original idea. My best advice is to just keep going at it if it feels right and it's something you believe in. If you lose that sense of connection to the idea, go back to the drawing board and spend some time considering your idea and your goals with it.

You can find templates and guidance for business plans online which can be really helpful tools in assisting you in this step.

Personally I recommend The Prince's Trust Business Plan templates which you can view here.

2. Consider your funding sources.

Could you take out a loan, use savings, borrow from friends and family or seek investment?

Be frugal as much as possible here, placing your funds on the product or service you are offering, rather than external costs (such as PR or marketing firms) or taking a salary at first.

Once you grow you will then be able to fund more activities and a salary, but initially I would suggest putting everything into the business itself.

3. Show up every single day in some way for your dream.

Even if its just five minutes, it's so important to commit to yourself and your goals every single day, as it signals to your brain that you are committed to the project and are going to make it happen, no matter what.

Showing up, despite how busy your day is, for whatever time is available to you is important at creating discipline, creativity and determination within yourself which will help you in your future in running the company.

4. Find someone to support you in your journey.

We are social beings and whilst you may feel that 'you've got this', it's so important to have someone to cheer you on and help to figure out all of your challenges in a kind, supportive and non-judgemental tone. 

I was very lucky to have the support and guidance of my incredible mentor from The Prince's Trust for the first two years of trading.

It was such a crucial time in my business, and to have someone (metaphorically) holding my hand along the way and challenging my ideas helped me a lot.

I would also recommend joining groups or events that encourage entrepreneurs in their journey.

There are many hosted throughout the country, and it's a great opportunity to meet like-minded people who are all sharing the same challenges as you are.

5. Have patience.

Having a business of your own doesn't happen overnight, and whilst you may be bursting with energy for your idea, it's important to take the time to get things right and not race too much = burnout.

It's important to do this for not only yourself, your health and wellbeing, but also for your businesses health and longevity, as rushed decisions without properly thinking through the consequences (in most cases of my experience!) = harmful outcomes.

Take it one stage, one breath and one step at a time.

As the old saying goes, 'Rome wasn't built in a day'!

6. Go into business with people you trust and want to support.

Trust is the key word that I've learnt over and over in my experiences at Charlotte Elizabeth.

I really do believe that you have to have the same motives and ideas as others that you go into business with, or else everything crumbles.

In searching for suppliers, I recommend leading with your values, and finding those who equally want to support you like you are supporting them.

Quality, care and a healthy working professional relationship is so important. As is a bullet-proof contract between parties, so that everyone knows where each other stands and there are no grey areas.

As for business partners investors, employees, my advice goes the same as your suppliers - find people you trust and who share your ideas about the future. It's crucial that you are on the same page on where you want to go on your business journey.

7. Customer first AND reputation first.

These two are not mutually exclusive and if you fail your customer, so does your reputation.

Reputation is key to building a positive name for your brand, and it is built from how you connect to your customer/supply chain/audience etc.

Treat those within your 'business circle' how you would want to be treated. Keep things professional and in your unique brand voice, but also don't be afraid to connect on a more human level, too.

Also, whilst owning up to your mistakes is painful, it is at the centre of your reputation as a brand. With no ownership, you will no longer have returning customers and potential new ones, if their reviews are shared verbally or online.

Be honest, transparent, and always go that extra mile, because your customer deserves it.

8. Build a strong foundation for your business before you get too excited about the aspects you find easy or fun.

It's so important to build your business on strong foundations, and that's in setting up the correct legal structure for your company, appropriate bank accounts, getting your finances in line and being confident to know these day-to-day, not being afraid to ask questions about things that you are not sure on, and getting help with things that you aren't so strong at is a strength, not a weakness.

Money can be tight at the beginning of your journey but I do recommend seeking legal advice (where necessary) and having an accountant from the beginning, so that you aren't missing any key steps.

I also recommend protecting your trademark and domain for your website.

9. Have a strong understanding of what you are and aren't as a brand.

As you begin to grow your brand, you may have ideas or opportunities come your way that seem exciting to you, but it's so important to know what would actually work for your brand, because every brand (like humans) have different needs at different times.

It's not to say that the opportunity or idea won't work at all, but it may be that you should wait a few months or years to go down that route.

It's a really helpful task to sit and write down what you are and what you are not as a brand. Find your brand's voice, and get comfortable with connecting to it, understanding what it needs, when, and what how it sounds.

Remember you can say no, and it doesn't mean that you won't have any more opportunities, it simply means that you are staying connected to what feels right for your brand now, and that sets you up for a strong future.

10. Believe in yourself.

Being an entrepreneur is lonely, unpredictable, uncertain, unstable, time-consuming and holds a lot of risk.

That's not said to put you off of the thrilling adventure of starting and running your own business, but it is the reality of the rollercoaster of learning, growing and challenges to come.

There will be moments of self-doubt, of discourage, of uncertainty. The one thing that will pull you back is the belief in yourself and your idea. As long as you have that, you can achieve incredible things.

You have so much potential, courage and purpose in your dream. Go after it, learn a hell of a lot, and grow through your experience.

The worst thing that could happen is it not working out, but even if that first idea doesn't, I am a great believer that you will be losing it for the right reason, to make way for something far more positive, meaningful, authentic = success!

You will have days of hardship and challenge, but remember the strength of you, and dig into it when you need to.

I believe in you!

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