How to set up your own business in 12 steps
Tried and tested tips from the front line 💬
#1 Business or hobby? Are you passionate enough?
The most basic rule at the heart of your venture consists of a very simple question: how serious are you about setting up your own business?
To be successful in what you want to do, you will have to be ready to breathe the business, live the business and be the business. Being your own boss means you will be thinking about everything every night and day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year, so it’d better be interesting!
Will you grow tired of your own product or service? Will you eventually get bored of knitting baby jumpers, wrapping them up, bringing the parcels to the courier company and waiting for the next order? Are you excited enough about offering consultancy services and stay interested in this topic for the foreseeable future?
To succeed you need to be non-stop excited about what you’re going to be selling.
You will need to be creating new baby jumper designs all the time. You will need to be innovating your consultancy services all the time.
Are you passionate enough?
#2 Determine your niche, check out the competition
Thinking about selling ice cubes, but there are already two other companies doing it? Then find out all you can about them and decide whether their ice cubes are any good. How is their service, do they sell online, do they have a shop in town? Do they offer take away and/or delivery?
There will always be competitors around. Whatever they do, do it better!
Find your niche. Answer a specific need that is out there and answer it. If no one else is offering what you are selling, and your business idea is truly great, you will be copied. Remember, imitation is the greatest form of flattery, however, you need to make sure that you always remain ahead of everyone else.
To be successful in what you want to do, make your product or service unique and offer the best possible service.
How about ice cubes made from fizzy water?
Think different. Don’t be another fish in the ocean.
#3 Identify your target customer, tailor your marketing efforts accordingly
Do you know who you will be selling to? What do your customers like? How do they prefer to make their purchases? Do you know where to find these clients?
Having a wonderful product or service is no use if you cannot find the person to sell to. You must know who to reach, and how to reach the consumer looking for exactly what you are selling. And for them to buy from you, they must be able to relate to your message.
Remember our baby jumpers from Tip #1? That target market is mothers, fathers, grandparents and anyone else with babies in their lives, right? But what else do you know about your customers?
Do an informal market analysis and consider for example: Where is that audience located? How will you get them interested in your product or service? How would you like them to perceive your brand?
Write a description of your ideal client and use it as a base for your marketing message. Then, create the marketing tools you need to present what you sell.
Consider that in today’s world, having a solid presence on the internet is no longer an option, it is a Must. Have a website, a social media strategy and place Google ads.
#4 Be a legal eagle – know your options
There are countless success stories of businesses that have been started up in a garage, at a kitchen table or in a spare room; often as a hobby to begin with.
While your business idea may still be in its early stages, it is now that you should lay the foundations for a long, sustainable future ahead.
Do your homework and find out all you can about what kind of different business models and company structures are available to you in Cyprus. Do you want to be self-employed? Do you want to set up a private limited company and be your own employee? Do you want to set up a partnership with someone?
To be able to make an informed decision on these options, you must also consider the local corporate legislation. What are the regulations on taxation? Do you need to register for VAT? Must you hold a license for the type of business you are setting up? What about insurance? Do you have to file annual reports?
You would not want to be on the wrong side of the law before you even start trading. Worse, if you’re in business already and haven’t got these vital details sorted, you could be fined with penalties and back taxes.
Information is power. Use it right.
#5 Write a business plan, set SMART objectives
To know what you want to achieve is not enough. Have a roadmap to show you the way to your goal, so that you know where you are going, and WHY.
A Business Plan shapes your overall strategy and helps you during any decision-making process. A clear Vision Statement provides the base from which you develop your Mission Statement – both are powerful communication tools for all levels of your organisation to ensure everyone knows what your aiming for, no matter how small or large your business will ever be.
Invest in your success by deciding on and committing to a set of SMART objectives:
S- specific, M- measurable, A-achievable, R-realistic, T-timebound.
Remember our baby jumpers from Tip #1? ‘To knit 17 baby jumpers in 3 sizes and 5 colours by 30 May’ would be such an example.
Evaluate how far you’ve come in due course. If you have not achieved the objective, re-set the direction and adjust the task accordingly.
As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
#6 Make a budget, get financial assistance
Money, money, money! To make some you need to spend some, this is especially true in the beginning as you’re setting up your business.
How much will you need for the first 12 months? Make a budget, evaluate your monthly expenses, include everything that is applicable to your type of trade, whatever it may be: raw material, your stock, operating expenses, printer cartridges, packaging, courier company, phone, petrol, electricity, water, rent, etc. You will soon discover if you’ve left something off your list.
You can’t keep the lights on if the bill is unpaid.
Have a plan to ensure you have enough cash to keep yourself in business until sufficient revenue starts coming in to sustain you. There’s no shame in getting help, what you want to avoid is borrowing at the last minute and having to pay high interest rates.
Remember: Cash is King.
#7 Register your business name and website, think BIG
‘If no one else is offering what you are selling, and your business idea is truly great, you will be copied.’ You will recall this from tip #2.
If you believe in yourself, then you should look far ahead and believe in the success that lies before you. Think BIG early on and protect your hard work from all the copy cats out there. Register your trade name or business name, and do not be put off by the small administrative costs associated with these trademarks and registrations at the Registrar of Companies.
Buy a website domain and create social media handles that clearly identify you. Even if you do not use all the different channels yet, claim the accounts that reflect your business early on, so that no one has the chance to pretend they are You.
And yes, it will happen. Case in point: it’s happened to us here with Mums in Cyprus!
Copying successful business ideas from one another is sadly common here on our little island.
Make sure you always remain identifiable and original, so that you can consistently remain ahead of everyone else.
Because you’re working hard for your success.
#8 Location, location, location – do you even need one right away?
Where to base your venture of course totally depends on the type of business you are setting up, but there are questions that will always apply.
Where is your target market located? Gather information about the demographics of the area you’re interested in. Do you need to be close to suppliers? Is the area business friendly and is it legal to conduct business there? Are there many competitors around?
What image do you want to convey for your brand, does it match the location? Will you have to make extensive renovations before you can move in? Will the premises still be suitable when your business grows?
Or, how about this: do you even need a brick-and-mortar location to start off with?
Sometimes a web-based business is the most economical solution in case of product sales or service provision. It enables you to serve your customers island-wide opposed to being restricted to one town only, and it allows you to test the waters before you jump in.
You can always move your home-based office to a fancy address later.
#9 Discipline yourself, especially with a home office
When you work from home, people often don’t believe that you’re actually working. They think that your flexible schedule means you don’t really work that much, because if you were more serious, you’d be in an office, right?
Wrong. Plus, it doesn’t matter what other people think (or so it should be).
Still, mindset is important, and your attitude will reflect on your productivity.
There’s nothing wrong with referring to your home office as ‘the office’. The more you respect your own set-up, the more others will.
Be tough with yourself, especially if you are working alone. Get dressed as if you were going to spend the day surrounded by colleagues. Working in your PJs is counter-productive. Schedule your breaks. Keep the TV off, your favorite book in another room, and the distractions around your desk area down to a minimum. Household chores can wait.
What’s that I hear you say? You have kids in the house? Oh well… 😊
#10 Network – don’t be shy
Networking doesn’t (always) mean a room filled with strangers and you in it – a glass of unchilled wine in one hand, business cards in the other.
To build your business, use your existing network first. As women, we are great at talking to each other, collaborating, conversing, and helping each other out. While you’re at it, tell people about what you do! Chances are that your network will want to contribute to your success, so that’s your ambassador team right there.
Practice your elevator pitch: a fact-filled summary about your business, clearly explained in under 3 minutes. The simpler, the better, so that your supporters can pass the message on.
And don’t forget to hand out some flyers or cards. Visual reminders are a great tool for raising awareness about your business.
Go on, don’t be shy!
#11 Never give up too soon!
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
If things don’t quite work out the way you planned it (and they will most likely not quite work out the way you planned it – it’s called ‘Life’ after all), don’t despair.
Remember tip #5 about having a business plan and SMART objectives which you regularly review? They really are so useful, allowing you to catch any mishaps early on and avoid nasty surprises half way through the year.
Evaluate your performance very month. Adjust the course. Rethink your plan. Set new priorities. Get a mentor if needed.
But don’t give up too soon.
#12 Have fun!
All work and no play? Find the balance and enjoy your project. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth it. Which brings us right back to tip #1…are you passionate enough?