Startup Diaries: Top Ten Tips for Starting a Business

Helen Keenan launched Little Punk London children’s clothing label in November 2012.

 You can read her first Starup Diary blog here, which describes the start of her entrepreneurial journey. Below are the top ten lessons she’s learned along the way. 

Starting a new business ? here’s my Top Ten Tips

  • Register your business early and start building up your credit rating – for example, take out a mobile phone contract for the company, this will help you if and when you approach banks for loans/ credit cards/ overdrafts.

  • Register any intellectual property as soon as possible – the Patent Office has a great online service for Trademarks and Copyrights. If you are based around London make use of the British Library’s business and IP centre which offers an initial free consultation with an IP lawyer. And register your website name (domain name) at the same time.
  • Assuming you will need a website and – like me – are not terribly IT literate make sure you invest in a web building service that comes with 24hr telephone support in the UK (otherwise you’ll pay a fortune in phone bills).... I have found that it’s in the small hours that I am tapping away and have a question that needs an urgent answer !
  • Make sure you register early for HMRC services (online) for example VAT – it’ll help later when you need to put in a return and will avoid any delays in e.g. VAT repayment.
  • Don’t rely on the internet or social media – whilst they are great for creating awareness there is no substitute for seeing/ feeling or experiencing your product or service first hand... use local markets, seasonal fairs, exhibitions etc to get to your customers directly.
  • Write a plan – it really does help to set out everything in a simple, clear document that you can follow... aside from anything else, there are times when it gets so busy that you will forget something important unless you’ve written it down. There are free templates available (most banks provide a link on their websites) and some good packages that don’t cost the earth but that provide you with all the essentials for managing your business. Smarta business builder is one I use. 
  • One of the best decisions I took was to use a PR agency from an early stage and I would recommend that anyone who has a consumer product or service seriously consider building the cost of PR in from pre-launch phase.
  • Find out what people think about your product or service before you commit to production. And listen to what they tell you – they are your customers so they must be right !
  • Make sure you have some positive people supporting you – when it gets tough you’ll need someone who can encourage and spur you on from time to time and provide some practical help with children, chores, etc
  • Don’t give up – if you really believe in your product/ service work hard and relentlessly pursue your ideas... focus and determination will carry you a long way.

Helen Keenan is an ex public servant / senior policy maker turned entrepreneur. Having spent her early career in pharmaceutical sales and marketing, Helen moved into the public sector and has been involved in many high profile, complex and often political priority projects ranging from the restructuring of the UK's nuclear industry to running Boris Johnson's social policy division at City Hall. After starting a family, Helen decided to be a stay home mum but it wasn’t long before Helen’s inner entrepreneur called….and during the usual morning struggle to get her daughter dressed Helen had a eureka moment deciding to find a way of making getting dressed fun by combining stickers & clothing and ‘hey presto’ Little Punk London was born.

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