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How to Start a New Business During Lockdown

Find out how you could capitalise on business opportunities during lockdown to start a new venture - or creatively expand your current offering.
How to Start a New Business During Lockdown

Updated on 26/06/2020

Have you, despite the challenges brought about by the UK’s lockdown and the solemn national mood, had your lightbulb moment? Have you been hit by a stroke of genius late at night or out of the blue in which you’ve had a great business idea that you can genuinely get excited about?

If you’ve spotted a business opportunity that you think could make for an enjoyable new project, then stick with us as we talk through some handy tips that could help you get your idea off the ground.

But firstly, does your idea have legs?

1. Begin your research

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A truly good idea can welcome challenges and scrutiny without fear. In fact, you should actively seek out criticisms and critiques of your idea to test whether it’s worth pursuing, or whether you’re better off parking it and thinking up your next project.

Supposing you’ve caught onto something special, the first step you might want to take is to do some research to build a basic understanding of following:

  • The potential market your product/service could operate in
  • The potential competitors you’ll face
  • The customer bases you could tap into

We have all seen the soul crushing moments when, on Dragon’s Den, a contestant’s look of pure excitement turns to horror as a Dragon pulls out an existing product that is virtually the same as the one being pitched.

Don’t be that contestant - do your research. A good place to start is with a SWOT analysis.

SWOT analysis matrix A SWOT analysis matrix by mindtools.com

A SWOT analysis simply involves identifying your business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to help you gauge how well you might be able to perform in the market.

A competitor analysis could also help greatly. Understanding how competitor products are positioned within a market can help you identify where your unique strength may lie. Typically, this is referred to as a USP (or Unique Selling Point)- and it would be wise to refine this as much as possible before going into business; enabling you to become a fierce competitor.

A common question associated with research is ‘where can I get honest feedback from?’. The answer is, well, from those you trust. You could start by asking your friends and family to provide feedback on your idea- presuming that you trust them and that you’re confident they’ll support you.

Sometimes asking people who are not particularly technically minded or in business spheres can help you identify whether there’s a real-world need for your product, and correctly interpreting this feedback (which will likely be in leymans terms) could help you to gauge whether there’s likely to be demand for your product when you hit the market.

On the flipside, though, there’s a good chance that those who care about you may tell you what you want to hear. So, perhaps seeking out a balanced mixture of advice by also talking to your trusted professional contacts could help you to make a well-rounded judgement on whether your new business idea is worth your time and effort.

2. Create a Business Plan

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Having completed your research and fully cemented your confidence in pursuing the business opportunity you’ve discovered, the next logical step could be to build a plan that’ll allow you to start taking steps towards that bright future.

A business plan should explain exactly what your idea is, how it works and the actions you’re going to take to make it a reality. It should also touch on the people and responsibilities involved; who’s accountable for these actions?

Bplans.com identify the six key steps involved in creating a business plan as:

  • Executive Summary – outlining and concisely explaining each element of your plan.
  • Opportunity – why is your new idea relevant to consumer needs? What opportunity is there for you to seize in market?
  • Execution – what actions will you take to drive your idea forward?
  • Company and management summary – who will be responsible for the execution of your plan?
  • Financial plan – sales forecasts, cash flow forecasts, etc.
  • Appendix – any additional information (such as images) that would take up too much space elsewhere in the plan.

Step five here raises a lot of questions around capital. It could be a good idea to develop an in-depth understanding of the funding your project will require- and an action plan that covers how you’ll acquire that funding.

Having a complete business plan could make your business more investable too, as investors may be impressed when seeing that your confidence is backed up by a water-tight plan that clearly outlines the steps you’ll take to position yourself for success throughout your first year.

3. Set yourself up for success

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The chances are that you aren’t planning on owning a new multi-million-pound company within the year. So, with a clear plan of action in mind, it’s time to start taking the first few practical steps needed to get your project off the ground.

The setup process may involve the following:

Finalising your branding

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Choose a brand identity carefully to ensure that the people you’re exposing your content and image to build a positive association with the visual imagery of your brand and the values with which you run your business.

Common branding elements you may want to develop include your brand name, a logo, potentially a slogan, your brand colours, and finally a URL- speaking of which…

Preparing your website

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There are two steps involved in setting up your own website. First, you’ll need to purchase a domain from a domain name registrar, which will grant you a URL that is unique to you – for example esmeloans.com.

Next, having purchased a domain, you’re going to need someone to host your website on that domain. Take some time to review your hosting options and choose a host that you think will best meet your needs. Bluehost is a popular UK host, however there are plenty of different providers to choose from.

With your domain purchased and hosting set up, you’re ready to start building your website. Choose a CMS (Content Management System) that you can understand and work with. WordPress is the most commonly used platform in the world, you’ve probably heard of it already, however it can be a little tricky to learn and use so you may want to consider an all-in-one hosting/CMS platform depending on your needs and there are plenty of other options out there.

Pro tips

  • Be wary of incredibly cheap domains; check the fine print to see whether those prices change after a set period of time and beware of additional fees.
  • Check whether the hosting prices listed are only relevant for year one- as they may increase going into the second year.
  • Look into getting an SSL certificate to show your website users that you’re trustworthy. This is the ‘ https:// ’ part of a URL and indicates that a website is secure.
  • Watch some YouTube content to help you understand which CMS is right for you- comparison videos and tutorials are a great way of gaining an insight into these services before you make a purchase.

With your branding designed and your domain purchased, there’s one final step you may want to consider before announcing your business to the world.

Making your business official

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If you’re intent on owning your own business; a Private Limited Company (LTD), it’s worth looking into the process of legally registering your business. You can do this through Companies House, and follow advice on the Government’s website to guide you through this process properly.

You might be running into a few more complications than we’re able to outline in this overview today, but once you’ve completed the set-up process and legally registered as a company, you’re ready to hit the ground running and enter the early stages of your business’ operations. What does that involve?

Running your business in its early stages

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Each business will have its own requirements and set of challenges involved with taking it from being newly born to fully operational. You may find, though, that putting those first few steps into practice is incredibly rewarding. So, here are some ideas for the actions you could look to take in your first few weeks.

Produce web content

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One thing you’ll likely benefit from is building out your website with some good content. Why does this matter? Well, writing blogs that draw on your industry expertise could teach your audience about your product/service uses and benefits; establishing you as an authority in your field and build awareness of your brand.

What’s more, these blogs may also also rank in Google for certain search results- improving your visibility both to new prospects and influential figures in your industry. You could also look to start writing blogs about your business; informing your customers about your operations, goals and values.

It takes a while for Google to actually index your web pages and show them in the search results, so it may be wise to create yourself a content schedule and start writing content in a way that you can stick to. If five blogs a week is possible, start there- or if you can only manage one blog every other week- then that’s your schedule. The key is consistency; try to upload on a regular basis to indicate to Google that you’re a reliable source of fresh, useful content.

Define your supplier relationships

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Spend some time, before you have the pressures of a large set of active customers, building and defining supplier relationships. You could reach out to potential suppliers if you haven’t already and pitch to them if they’re essential to your product.

You may want to test different suppliers; have samples made of your product and find the right solution that allows you to deliver goods to your customer that you’re proud of and that match the offerings you describe.

Alternatively, if you’re an online business- perhaps content is your offering, then instead you could look to invest this time into networking and building relationships with publications or journalists in your industry that you could partner with in the future.

Reach out to new customers

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Your business plan should identify the key drivers behind your business’s success. Whether these are marketing objectives or sales strategies, you’ll want to connect with customers in a way that helps you achieve these goals and make conversions.

It may be wise to engage with your prospects; forming good, human relationships with them rather than treating them purely as leads. Think about their experience of your brand; what are the key touch points involved and how are you optimising those touch points to make their experience an even more positive one?

By engaging with your customer base in the right way and having a strong strategy for approaching new prospects, you’re positioning yourself well to start bringing in those first few sales- or to build a brand that will one day prove profitable.

We hope the points we’ve outlined today will help you find success in your new business ventures. We can’t possibly cover all of the factors you’ll want to consider when starting a new business in a single blog post - we haven’t even mentioned social media yet - but our blog content is designed to support small business owners with key information and practical guides so feel welcome to have a browse of our other blogs if you’re in need of support or extra inspiration.

How could Esme Loans help?

These are difficult times for many businesses, so it’s important now more than ever, to take good care of yourself and your team. If you’re concerned about your business being impacted financially due to coronavirus, visit our advice page for information about how we may be able to support you.