As a member of the small business marketing team at Dell, I get the chance to meet with a diverse range of entrepreneurs, small business owners and industry organisations. Through our support of StartUp Britain I’ve had the opportunity to get to know one of the campaign’s founders, Emma Jones. Not only is Emma the co-founder of StartUp Britain, but she also founded Enterprise Nation and was recently awarded an MBE for Services to Enterprise.
I recently had the opportunity to learn more from Emma about how she launched a successful enterprise and the advice she’d offer entrepreneurs with ambitions to start a business of their own:
What is your company all about?
Enterprise Nation is a company that helps people to start and grow their own business. We have more than 75,000 members in the Enterprise Nation community who enjoy daily blog posts, books, eBooks, kits, workshops, and an online profile through being listed in the Enterprise Nation Directory.
How did the idea for your business come about?
In 2000 I started, grew and sold a business in the space of two years. That was my first business and it was started and built from my spare room. When I sold the company, it made me realise there was a gap in the market for a website and information for people running a business from home, and that's how Enterprise Nation started out – as the home business website. Over the past six years we have grown into a small business community and helped thousands of people take an idea and turn it into a business from the comfort of the kitchen table/home office!
What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting your business and how did you overcome it?
Hope it doesn't sound trite to say but I don't see challenges, I only see opportunities! When starting out, there is a lot to do – write a business plan, secure customers, profile yourself and the business, perfect the product, keep customers happy etc. – so certainly a commitment to hard work is required but that's not really a challenge as, when you love what you do, you don't mind putting in the hours!
Ahead of this stage though, what many people question is 'when is the right time to go full time as your own boss' and this is why we are seeing so many people 'working 5 to 9' which is the term I apply (and the title of one of my books!) to the 5 million plus people who are holding down a day job and building a business in their spare time. It's a great way to start as you give yourself the time to build confidence in your abilities and cash in the business.
If you had to do it all again, what if anything would you have done differently in building the business?
I'm not sure there is anything I would have done differently. I learned a huge amount in a quick space of time with my first business and those learnings have been applied to Enterprise Nation. We have followed a plan for the past six years, I'm privileged to work with a great team of people, and we are growing the business according to plan. Some of our partnerships have not always developed in the way I hoped and my only ever frustration is the pace of growth but I think that's down to my terrible lack of patience! A solid business takes time to build!
What was your ‘Plan B’ if your business venture didn’t work out?
There was no plan B as I had total belief it would work – and it was down to me, plus the talented people around me, to make it work. Starting and growing a business requires confidence, dedication and passion. I love what I do and knew that if I committed myself to it, we would be able to build a business around helping others achieve their own business ambitions. Thankfully, it has worked as I'm not sure I'd make for a very good employee!
What key business advice would you give to entrepreneurs or start-up businesses?
- Come up with an idea that appeals to a niche audience of customers
- Keep overheads low by running the business from home, embracing social media, and borrowing and bartering resources
- Go global at speed – it's now perfectly possible with powerful online sales platforms – and stay nimble to make the most of all the opportunities that will come your way
What technology could your business not live without?
Lots! As a business, we have moved a good deal of our operations into the cloud so we use Basecamp (project management software), Gmail, Skype and cloud applications such as Dropbox. I'm also a big fan of social media for engaging with our community.
What’s the best perk of being your own boss?
The freedom and flexibility to work where, how and when you like. Oh, and to have an incredible sense of satisfaction in watching your business grow – and helping many others in the process.
You can find Emma on Twitter @emmaljones where she tweets about all things small business.