Ambassador James Eder shares his advice on starting a new business in the United Kingdom.
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There are lots of challenges involved in setting up a business. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. But one of the most difficult things is actually getting started. So, you have an idea. Now what?
I’ve just returned from speaking at the One Young World conference in Johannesburg, where over 1,250 young people from all over the world were inspired to take action.
When I was just 22 years old, we had been rejected for a loan by the high street banks, but in the end received a low interest loan from The Princes Trust which set us on our way to start up studentbeans.com.
My advice for anyone thinking of setting up a business is:
Take action. Ideas are cheap but it's those that take action who can really make a difference in the world.
Learn by doing. There is only so much you can learn by studying and preparing, the real learning begins when you take action.
Keep going. Drive, commitment and determination are all essential ingredients to helping make any idea a success.
Universities are a breeding ground for young talented individuals who have great ideas for businesses. However, many students have a fear of giving things a shot and taking a risk. They think that their lack of knowledge, finance and support will hold them back.
You may think that you're on your own, but here in the UK there are a growing number of resources around to help you – you just need to make the most of them.
If you are reading this and you are not 100% sure you want to set up a business, that’s OK. You can still get involved in the entrepreneurial world and take what you learn into the workplace. To do this, the most important thing is being proactive and taking responsibility for your contribution in the world.
Access people rather than pounds
Rather than access to millions of pounds, what you really need to start or develop a business is access to people, relationships and strategic networks.
By meeting, speaking and listening to those who have ‘been there and done it’, you can gain the knowledge and support to take that first step in setting up your own business.
Google Campus: If you’re in London don’t miss out on a visit to Campus, powered by Google, which offers seven floors of flexible work spaces, free high speed internet and all the support you need to fuel your ideas. They regularly host mentoring programmes, speaker series and networking events.
Silicon Drinkabout: is a regular after work drinks for start-ups every Friday 'round the Silicon Roundabout! Founded by Mind Candy, and run by 3beards, Silicon Drinkabout is open to start-ups of all sizes as a place to meet like-minded people, have fun and relax.
General Assembly: is a great hub and has a wealth of education programmes and networking events. There really is something for everyone; from marketing and design to development at the heart of the community.
StartUp Britain: is a national campaign by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, harnessing the expertise and passion of Britain’s leading businesspeople to celebrate, inspire and accelerate enterprise in the UK.
Over the years they have been an amazing support to thousands of people up and down the country and regularly put on events, many of which are free to attend.
Enternships: for those just starting out this is a great place to explore getting experience in a start-up. Gaining some more experience in the start up world can be hugely beneficial before going it alone or landing your dream job.
Take part in university clubs and societies
If you are at university, you could join the Entrepreneurship Society or find out about National Association of College & University Entrepreneurs (NACUE.) There is also a wealth of knowledge and experience to be gained by getting involved in the different clubs and societies; whether it be skiing, film or sports.
Managing the finances, recruiting and managing a team, organising an event or trip – these are all transferable skills that should not be underestimated, whether you start up a company or go and work for someone else.
I was involved with AIESEC, where I got some amazing business development and sales training. I also gained skills managing, recruiting and training people and I was sent on sponsored placements to work in The Philippines and Colombia – all before I graduated.
When we first started out almost 8 years ago, there was nothing like the support networks available today. It is invaluable to have the advice and support of people who have gone through the experience before you.
Funding is available
There are a number of schemes and organisations that you can turn to for funding.
The Prince’s Trust: When we were looking for an initial start up loan to get our idea off the ground – and had been rejected by the bank – we were able to turn to The Prince’s Trust and, after pitching our idea, received a low interest loan.
We were part of their Business Programme and the advice and support from them in the early days was invaluable. It wasn’t just about the funding, but the additional support structure. We were assigned a mentor from the law firm DLA Piper who I would meet once a month to review our figures, successes, failures and our next steps – these were vital in the process of continual learning and development.
Startup Loans is a fantastic scheme led by James Caan and Lord Young where young people starting a business can apply for a loan of £2,500 and get access to personal support and mentoring.
As well as the money, it’s important to see what other young people have achieved and understand that setting up a successful business is something that can actually be done.
We need public figures like James Caan and Lord Young to bring entrepreneurship to the forefront. When the programme first launched I was appointed as an ambassador, I helped show students a real life example of someone who is working day to day to build a brand and grow a team around them.
I was delighted to be able to share my story and inspire others to take the same leap I did when I set up studentbeans.com when I was 22.
Student Upstarts run by Christian Jakenfelds and Matthew Stafford, who really know and understand what people need. They invest up to £15,000 in exchange for up to 8% equity in student teams, to create and build businesses.
The criteria is simple – one member of the team must be a full-time student at a UK or European higher education institute, or have graduated from one in the last 12 months. This applies to undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD students.
Student Upstarts was established in 2012 with the aim of investing in 100 student businesses by the end of 2015. The motivation for this is the huge potential of the talent that we see in the UK’s universities, together with the belief that with investment, support and their network, Student Upstarts will discover the next generation of entrepreneurs who will become the UK’s business leaders and change the world.
Of course, no success story comes without a lot of hard work behind it. So be prepared to work, take responsibility and most importantly enjoy the journey.