Starting a business at home is cheap and lower-risk. How can you make a success of it?
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Steve Jobs launched Apple from a garage. Mark Zuckerberg’s entrepreneurial journey with Facebook began in a university dormitory. Over 500,000 new UK businesses are created each year and many start life in a bedroom.
Given the financial pressures faced by young people, is it any surprise that bedroom entrepreneurship has become so popular? There’s little or no business rent and the zero-cost commute can be measured in metres. It’s a concept many battle-hardened rat-racers only dream about.
But starting a bedroom business comes with challenges which enterprise educators and advisors need to recognise. This article outlines how best to start your bedroom business and perhaps more importantly, how to grow it onto a bigger stage.
First and foremost, focus on what you want to achieve and plan-ahead. But be flexible. In your first year ‘change’ is constant and often quite rapid.
A business is nothing without customers. From the outset, be visible and gain traction with people who may buy from you. Building an on-line presence (website, social media etc.) is vital and low-cost, thanks to products like Wordpress and Instagram. It can also be great fun. You can also speak to an expert like Tinloof to help you build a fantastic website to promote your business.
But be careful not to be overly product-focused and become wrapped up in your own hype. Most start-ups only survive if the business owner is connecting with and meeting prospects and customers on a regular basis.
Get over rejection
If you prefer the cosiness and protection of your bedroom to the idea of people possibly rejecting what you offer, your start-up will stop quickly. Get out there and meet people. Nobody likes rejection, but don’t take it personally. Treat the feedback as valuable research to inform the development and pricing of what you provide.
Staying in your bedroom for too long can also lead to loneliness and feelings of isolation. That’s why it’s wise to look at the wider community for new connections, support and help.
There's a lot going on outside your bedroom
Get out there
People living in the capital can take advantage of a wide range of start-up support services, for example those offered by London South Bank University.
Recently crowned Entrepreneurial University of the Year, this institution offers drop-in services, a business lounge, a fabulous meeting café, expert advice, incubation units (when the bedroom becomes too small) and a chance to meet an array of experts and likeminded people. And much of this won’t cost a penny.
But if you’re not London-based, check out your local university to see if they also have an ‘Enterprise Hub’ or a ‘Gateway’. Chances are you’ll be able to connect with a community of people with different skills, talents and requirements.
Bedroom businesses may keep overheads low but the lack of space also restricts production capacity. No-one is likely to want to work with you in your intimate space; and there’s only so much stock you can pile between the dirty laundry and the wobbly bookshelf.
However, our internet-powered world allows you to connect with associates, contractors and other businesses that can help you grow your business. ‘Skype’ or ‘Hangout’ are excellent, free communication tools and a ‘chat or five’ a day keeps those feelings of loneliness at bay.
My base is a garden office and I work with people all over the world. It’s a great feeling when a colleague calls as it typically feels like they are in the same room.
But a word of caution. Working at the computer can be all-too-easy and without being aware, you become ‘screen-addicted’. Since you are free to choose how your time is used, get out each day – anything that gets you active and away from the computer.
If you know a local bar, café or hotel with good wifi, look to use the facility as a second office. If appropriate, the venue can double as a meeting place.
Assuming demand has been created for your product/service, you’ll want to consider how to increase sales and/or break into new markets. Improving on-line presence from your bedroom is easy and should be part of your strategy; even if more sales don’t result, the connections you make and intelligence you gather will inform decisions.
Get active on Linkedin and review their Premium service. This resource helps identify potential customers, partners and suppliers. Consider thought-through targeted advertising using Google and Facebook but ensure you monitor all results before committing too much money.
Apps can help you organise your business and reach a wider audience
And of course, use your phone to make connections and promote your business. The more people you talk to the greater the number of eventual sales. If you lack confidence and/or find rejection dispiriting, seek out quality training. Every start-up must address many new skills and you can’t expect to be brilliant immediately.
Developing skills will help you grow your bedroom business into bigger things more quickly. If you enjoy self-taught computer programmes, consider the business simulation ‘SimVenture Classic’. Starting from a bedroom, this software allows you to repeatedly start/grow a virtual company and learn how best to manage all aspects of the business over the first 3 crucial years.
What happens next?
As your bedroom business expands you’ll arrive at a point where you’ll need to engage with suppliers who can help with subjects like finance, relocation, legal issues and even export.
At this point it’s wise to seek help from local support organisations including your Council, Chamber of Commerce, University and/or business start-up groups. Through these sources you’ll be able to access networking forums and meet other entrepreneurs and potential mentors who have worn your shoes.
You’ll find time spent networking leads you down blind alleys but also guides you to potential goldmines. Like all other efforts to promote your business, you have to invest time and get out of the bedroom to make things happen.
Being a bedroom entrepreneur works well for some people, but for others it is a stepping stone to much bigger achievements. If you have an idea and want to make something from humble beginnings, then the desk in your bedroom and the device you are using to read this article may be all you need to start the journey.
Peter Harrington started his first business following graduation. Over 25+ years he has created and grown several companies both in the UK and around the world. Peter is also an Entrepreneur in Residence at London South Bank University.