Low-risk ways to start a business

Low-risk ways to start a business

As the full impact of the COVID-19 crisis hits us there will sadly be many people left out of work and looking for new opportunities. Whilst the security of employment will be attractive to many it could prove the perfect time to start your own business and be your own boss. In this article, we will look at some of the ways you can start up a business.

ICAEW Dinner, Vale Hotel
Picture by Nick Treharne:

Some initial thoughts

So, you’ve got a business idea, and you think it might be a runner. Before you start to spend money make sure you do some research to check you know the answers to these basic questions:

What will it cost to get up and running? How big is the market and how sure are you of demand? How will you market your produce/service? What are your alternatives?

You want to press ahead with your plan, but you also don’t want to be reckless, or take a fall and lose what you’ve already built up – so where do you go from here?

Of course, the answers to these questions will depend on what kind of business you’re hoping to start and where you are, both geographically and financially. But there are a few things you could do that might make it easier than you think.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or adding a new string to your bow, it’s not always necessary to jump into a new venture feet first, risking all your capital, your reputation or your sanity.

There are things you can do to get your new venture up and running while cutting out some of the risks and stress.

Test the water

There’s no need to commit to a five-year plan straight away. Can you trade temporarily, over a season, or on a short-term deal?

With a glut of shopfronts on the market, it’s easier than ever to rent a premises on a pop-up basis, for a week or a season.

Some owners of business and retail premises may even be looking to fill space at a peppercorn rent as this will save them costs on insurance and business rates.

Talk to your local council – they may have a staff member whose task it is to help revitalise high streets – or to the manager of a local shopping centre or arcade.

The premises may not be your dream spot, but six months of delivering great service in a temporary place could stand you in great stead for word of mouth, brand recognition, and maybe some great reviews.

These will all come with you if you do decide, later on, to invest in that dream premises and a longer-term business plan.

If you’re not looking at retail, think of other places you could test your business idea. Events, fairs and festivals can offer a large number of potential customers over a short period of time and provide lots of feedback on how your product is received.

Collaborate

Can you usefully work with another business to minimise risk?

Aside from sharing premises, could you think about working as a separate brand alongside theirs?

Could you hire a stand in their shop, or have your product promoted (and served) on their menu?

Can you pay someone else to produce your product, in a small run on their production line?

Does an existing business have unused office space that they would be happy to sublet?

On top of cutting costs, this can give you access to valuable business partners and customers.

As long as you’re not competing with your new business contacts, there are plenty of ways you can work together without treading on each other’s toes.

Communicate

It’s no use going to all the hard work of setting up a business without telling people about it.

You don’t need to hire expensive PR or designers – it’s easy and free to use social media, and lots of customers like the authenticity of talking to the actual business owner.

Don’t feel you have to sell all the time on your social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Most customers will be much more interested if you chat about your business, yourself, or your local news. They’re much more likely to give you their business if you seem friendly and willing to engage.

Lots of website providers offer cheap and cheerful options for business websites, whether you’re planning on selling online or just letting people know what you do.

And don’t forget traditional media – there are still lots of local newspapers and community publications going in most areas of the country, and many will often give you a write-up for free in exchange for a quote and a bit of your time.

Go online

Trading online isn’t an either/or thing. How many of you have seen something you like, decided it’s too much of an extravagance, only to wish, a few days later, that you had treated yourself after all?

If those customers who like your product haven’t got the means or the motivation to buy there and then, it’s really important that they can come back and find you.

On the other hand, if you’re selling something that might be a large-ticket item, it’s possible that a customer who likes an item they spotted online might want to pop round to check it does match that particular shade of orange in their carpets.

The more places you’re visible online, the more people will see what you have to offer. Don’t worry if it’s an image of your workshop, not a showroom – it all adds to the authenticity.

It’s also worth looking at what large generic platforms can offer a new or small business in terms of e-trading. As well as eBay and Amazon, there are also more niche platforms that cater to crafts, books, and records.

All these online platforms offer the tools to set up selling on a very flexible scale – from the occasional hobby product to much larger operations.

Think digital

The digital world has changed the way we all do business and how we communicate with potential customers. Suddenly you can connect with a global audience and target your content and messaging to specific groups in relevant sectors.

The digital space is an essential part of your marketing strategy and it’s not as daunting as you might think with lots of online videos and courses at your disposal. The key is to start researching and find out what’s best for your business.

A website and social media are a good place to begin, but don’t commit to big expenditure without identifying the business objective and then research what will work best for you. There’s tons of information available, but here are a few of the key channels and platforms you should consider:

  • Paid social – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn are some of the main social media platforms and all will allow you to target specific campaigns directly to a designated audience.
  • Organic social – as above but not paid. Use creative messaging to connect with your followers and potential new audience.
  • PPC – Pay per click advertising on networks such as google. You only get charged when someone clicks on your advert and that click could convert to a direct enquiry via your website or phone.
  • Display placement – videos and adverts containing images and words that you can place across the digital networks to promote your brand.
  • Blogs – Using good content you can target specific audiences with content and information about your sector and become recognised as an expert in your area. This gives you credibility and allows you to build an audience that could buy future products and services.
  • Newsletter – Capture data and target your customers and contacts with the latest offers or updates about your business, brand or services.
  • Ecommerce website – typical examples are Amazon and eBay, but you too can sell online either through these platforms or indeed through your own website.

There’s lots more to think about, but these are the key starting points and an essential part of your business marketing plan. Think creatively, think digital and open a world of opportunity.

Go light

People often think that finding a venue, shop or office is the first step to take when it comes to trading, but there are other ways to do without this upfront cost.

If you’re offering services you may be able to work from home, but you will need the time and space to do so.

If you need to have client meetings but can also work flexibly from home, you may want to look at renting hot desking space.

Lots of these schemes come with meeting space, or as an extra to a basic package. Fees are often flexible and will be less if you only sign up to one or two days a week, rather than full-time.

This can give you flexibility as your business expands, and a professional look and access to services that you might not find working directly from home.

Go mobile

Don’t forget to think flexibly – there are other options, too.

Lots of businesses operate out of a vehicle, whether it’s selling coffee from a VW camper van or doing dog-grooming out of a Ford Transit.

You could even load up your services on a bicycle.

For some clients, the fact you can come to them can be a selling point gives you an edge over your competitors.

Plan ahead

Whatever your plans and outlays, it’s really important that you’ve thought it all through beforehand.

Do your sums – your startup costs and running costs and work out how many hours or items you’re going to need to sell to cover your costs.

Don’t plan on running on empty. Work out your cashflow, identify any pinch points, and how you might deal with them. The support of things like bounce back loans means it has never been easier to get the finance in place to get your business going.

Don’t forget your own time

Your time is a cost, too, especially if you’ve already got one venture up and running.

It’s no good devoting all your time to new plans only to see your established business falter because you neglected it. Think about how much time you want to spend on your new plans.

Every new business will take a little while to pay off – but be clear about when this should happen, and what’s reasonable for your other commitments, family and finances to sustain.

For more information on how to start a business. Please contact us on 01792 410100 alternatively email mail@bevanbuckland.co.uk

Bevan Buckland LLP

The Return to Work

The Return to Work

As we begin to reopen the economy, perhaps it’s time for a conversation with businesses and major employers about how we’re going to return to work, and what work looks like now.  Is there an opportunity to hang on to some of the things we’re enjoying about lockdown, whilst also holding on to jobs and productivity?  In my own experience, the shift to more online meetings is a gamechanger – cutting down travel, wasting less time in traffic, which means more productive time at my desk and more flexibility around childcare.  At 4theRegion it also means we can communicate more easily with people from right across the region, making our events and conversations more accessible and therefore more regional.  I’m sure we’re not alone in experiencing benefits alongside the challenges of these new ways of working!

What about working from home?  If the kids were in school, perhaps some of us would relish more flexibility in our working week, the opportunity to work from home more often, and less commuting.  Employers have been forced to adapt rapidly to enable remote working and embrace online technologies, and it would be interesting to explore how many of those changes might be here to stay. 

A New Website for Regional Food Producers

A New Website for Regional Food Producers

Food & Farming

Please check that the regional food and drink producers you know are listed in this new online index for South Wales.

In a new initiative led by Dr Ben Reynolds at Urban Foundry, food and drink producers across South Wales are being asked to add themselves to a new website that’s been designed to enable many more people to discover and access local produce during lockdown and beyond.

Surveys suggest people are more interested than ever in where their food comes from, and in the first few weeks of lockdown more than 3 million households in the UK ordered a local veg box delivery for the first time.  But with the closure of regular local produce markets across the region, many micro businesses that depend on them for customers have been left scrambling to find other ways to sell their local produce. 

While some were able to pivot to online ordering and deliveries, others have been struggling to get established in what has become a very busy online marketplace.  

The new website, https://southwalesfoodanddrink.com/ is intended to provide a central resource for producers to promote themselves and for people across the region to discover fantastic local producers who are able to deliver in their area.

So regional partners are calling on all businesses that make and sell food or drink in South Wales, to list themselves on the site.  From fresh farm produce, to local bakeries, to takeaway kitchens, to wine merchants and chocolatiers, the goal is to create a comprehensive directory of regional food producers with goods to sell in South Wales.

As the number of food and drink traders listed on the site grows, and with more people ordering via the website, there’s the potential to develop further support and greater collaboration, such as joint ordering and shared deliveries.  For now, the goal is to get everyone working together to support local producers and each other.

As a food producer – make sure you’re listed (it’s free).

And for everyone else – please use the site, discover some wonderful local produce, and support a regional business to survive.

Because as we emerge from COVID-19 and begin to feel the reality of its economic impacts, there is one thing we can all do, to support our region’s recovery – and that’s to buy regional.  A widespread commitment to keeping more spending within the region will be needed if we are to keep as many of our homegrown businesses alive as possible.

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Ending the lockdown – Bevan Buckland LLP’s View

Ending the lockdown – Bevan Buckland LLP’s View

The key factor in ending lockdown and other measures is the coronavirus reproductive number, commonly talked about as the “R” value. This is the number of people each individual case can be expected to transmit the virus to, effectively the rate of the virus spreading through the population.

What we know

Unchecked and with no social distancing in place, the coronavirus R value was calculated to be somewhere between 2 and 3, in the UK it was estimated around 2.4.

Currently with strict lockdown and social distancing measures in place the R value is being estimated between 0.5 and 1, in the UK its stands around 0.7.

1 is the magic number. Above 1 and the virus spreads exponentially, below 1 and the virus is “under control”.

What we don’t know

Understanding and knowing the R number of the virus requires having the right data to a level of statistical certainty. Because the virus is new, that data simply doesn’t exist and will take time to collect, at the moment the R number is a best estimate of scientists with no statistical certainty.

The challenges to ending lockdown measures

The main challenge to the government is that the current lockdown is a combined set of many different measures:

  • School closures
  • Different Business closures
  • Home working
  • Travel restrictions
  • Stay at home/ shielding
  • Social distancing when outside
  • Protective measures such as hand washing and masks and face shields
  • Ban on large gatherings and events
  • etc

The scientific data does not exist to show which of these measures have had the most effect on the coronavirus R value dropping from 2.4 to 0.7.

A current R value of 0.7 does not give the government much room for manoeuvre in testing out which measures to ease without risking the R value moving back up above 1.

Without clear scientific data, this therefore becomes a political and not a strictly scientific decision, factoring in not just the likely impact of easing on the R value but the social, economic and political value of which measures to ease. The government is understandably going to be very nervous about making such decisions:

Opening schools may be possible and not drive the R number above 1.

Opening some businesses may be possible and not drive the R number above 1.

However opening schools and businesses in one go may combine to drive the R value above 1.

It therefore becomes a political decision, opening schools has significant social benefits in terms of the education and wellbeing of children, but may have little economic benefit. Opening businesses would have more economic benefit but to the growing problem of social wellbeing with families still being mostly confined to home. These are the choices the government will need to make and the lack of a clear plan at the moment suggests there is still significant debate.

The best case scenario

Some form of social distancing and protective measures are almost certainly going to remain in place until a proven vaccine or herd immunity is in place.

The best case scenario governments around the world are working towards is that a combination of maintaining 2 metre social distancing, the use of face masks and continuing to shield vulnerable people would keep the virus at a manageable spread while allowing the rest of the economy to be reopened. However, that theory is unproven and it is unlikely we will get to that point in the next few months unless evidence emerges in other countries that such a policy would work.

The likely scenario

The likely scenario for the UK is a step by step easing of measures every 3 weeks. 3 weeks because with an incubation period of 7 days or over, 3 weeks is the likely minimum period needed to be able to get some measure of impact on the R value of each set of easing measures.

Our educated guess is something along the below lines of a staged easing. This guess is based on both looking at what politicians have been saying over the past few days and weeks, the frequency with which they’ve been saying things, and the experience were seeing from other countries ahead of us:

Schools reopening

It does not seem likely that schools opening will be part of the first phase of easing or if they do it will be very limited. Schools would need time to prepare social distancing and health and safety measures before allowing pupils back into classrooms and this will take time. Based on government noises, it is likely that primary schools opening sometime in June may happen, but this may not be opening as normal but with controls like reduced hours or split classes, e.g. half the pupils in one day and half the pupils in the next. Older children may be unlikely to return before the September term. This is based on some evidence that the rate of spread between school pupils rises the older they get, and also on the basis that younger children are likely to be suffering more without the contact with friends and teachers as they are less free to make use of technology.

The decision to open schools may be complicated by the emergence of a slight increase in children suffering a rare immune disease over the last 3 weeks. This may not be linked to coronavirus, for example it could be because parents are not seeking medical help quickly enough for more minor conditions which are then able to deteriorate. However, the emergence of anything that suggests a rise in chid deaths will almost certainly take opening schools off the table for a longer period until the facts are understood.

Universities represent a greater problem as they are 24 hour social institutions and there is the added complication that they drive significant population movements in and out of university towns. Whether universities will be able to fully open for the new term in September is a big unknown currently.

Retail Businesses reopening

Reopening of some retail businesses and encouraging those offices and other workplaces who can maintain social distancing to open again is likely to be the first phase of easing, sometime in the latter part of May. This should include encouraging more restaurants to open for takeaway and delivery. Strict social distancing and protective measures will need to be in place, limiting the number of people in shops at any one time for example.

Leisure and hospitality businesses reopening

It is unlikely that reopening of leisure and hospitality businesses will happen in the first phase given the nature of these places encouraging social gathering. Our best guestimate is some easing over the summer, but only if we have not seen any flare up in the virus before then.

The stay at home order

This will likely remain in place for vulnerable people for some time. In the first phase we expect a loosening of the order but not a total relaxation. The amount of time people can spend outside will increase as well as the guidelines on what activities can be undertaken, but we do not expect a full easing. These may be eased further each 3 weeks depending on the R number remaining below 1. There have been reports of wider but still family groups being allowed to meet and socialise.

Work from Home

We expect the work from home if you can order is to remain the general advice to businesses for some considerable time.

Travelling outside your area

People are effectively limited from travelling outside their area by the current stay at home order. Population movement will be a significant challenge and unlikely to be eased in the short term. The big question here is whether the stay at home order may be eased but with other restrictions on population movement being put in place. This will be a major decision for the government to make before the summer holiday season, the impact on the tourist economy is already huge and we suspect if the virus is being contained come July then there will be pressure on the government to allow people to holiday within the UK, however we have heard very little on this topic so it is difficult to judge.

Large gatherings

These were almost certainly likely to remain banned for the best part of the year. We expect some easing allowing larger family groups to interact and visit each other in either phase 1 or phase 2. i.e. people may be able to pick 5-10 close family members or friends they elect to be able to socialise with. We expect the number of people allowed at weddings etc to remain limited.

Public Transport

Public transport is a major issue, as for cities it represents a bottle neck to social distancing. While shops and businesses may be able to maintain social distancing, for employees and shoppers to get to them may mean maintaining social distancing on public transport becomes a problem. We haven’t seen any suggestions to a solution on this.

Contact Tracing

The other variable factor in considering how quickly and how much lockdown measures can be eased will be contact tracing.

Contact tracing means that as soon as someone is diagnosed with Covid-19, everybody they have been in contact with in the previous 7-14 days is traced, found and ordered to stay in isolation.

Again, this is about reducing the R number. By contact tracing, while the first patient may have infected 3 other people, those three other people are isolated early enough to stop them spreading it to the next 3 people, reducing the reinfection rate.

The government has developed and app and is hiring 18,000 people to act as contact tracers announced it expects this to be complete by mid-May. Contact tracing will not be ready in time to impact what we see as the first phase of easing, but if successful it would allow the government to further in easing in later phases. The success of contact tracing may not be statistically apparent until late June or July but might allow some of the easing such as allowing people to holiday within the UK to happen.

The reports of people being able to meet and socialised with an identified group of up to 10 people would support the government in their ability to contact trace quickly in the event of an infection in the group arising.

The success of this will depend on having a good process and technology in place and of course the will of the people to support it.

Worst Case scenario

The worst case is that even some easing of the lockdown causes another surge in the infection rate and we are back to square 1.

Extension of government support measures

Based on the above we expect most of the government support measures to be extended beyond June and into July at least. Support for the hospitality and leisure sectors may have to last even longer.

Bevan Buckland LLP

Stay Connected to the Regional Ecosystem

Stay Connected to the Regional Ecosystem

STAY CONNECTED TO THE REGIONAL ECOSYSTEM

In uncertain times, we are being advised to stay at home and distance ourselves from each other, close our doors and turn inward.  Which is problematic, because we know that our greatest strength, resilience and wisdom emerges when we are “in community”, when we work together and share resources. 

Here at 4theRegion we are focusing on the ever more important task of connecting the region of South West Wales – breaking down silos, connecting businesses, mapping the region’s strengths.

We are therefore encouraging people, businesses and organisations to connect with each other through our platforms, where we will be hosting empowering conversations and crowdsourcing the ideas, wisdom and strategy that will help us all survive and thrive in the months and years to come.

STAY CONNECTED TO THE REGIONAL ECOSYSTEM:

Zoom Conversations

Zoom is a video conferencing platform, and we will be hosting a number of events and conversations on Zoom over the coming weeks.  Check our Eventbrite page, register onto the events that interest you, and we will send you the Zoom invitation by email.

Our Slack Community

Slack is a group chat platform, and we already use it to host our Creative Focus conversations.  You can join the community and then add yourself to the “channels” that interest you, so you can share ideas and thoughts with likeminded people across South West Wales.

4theRegion Facebook Group

We have started a Facebook group for 4theRegion members and collaborators, as an alternative platform through which you can share your own news, views and updates.  We will share recordings of our Zoom events in this group.

4theRegion LinkedIn Group

Our LinkedIn Group is a forum for members and collaborators of 4theRegion to stay connected, share updates and be part of conversations about the future of South West Wales.  We will share recordings of our Zoom events in this group.

Community Resilience & Coronavirus

Community Resilience & Coronavirus

basic I think we need to talk about community resilience and social cohesion, because as the wide-ranging implications of COVID19 become apparent, it’s becoming clear that people are going to need support in all kinds of different and changing ways.

Essentially, I think we have two options when faced with a threat like a coronavirus epidemic.  It’s either an individual survivalist response, or a broader perspective based on the belief that we survive and thrive together, and that in times of crisis we need each other more, not less. 

What is heartening to witness in my own local community, and right across South West Wales, is that people are choosing the latter: ordinary people saying, let’s figure out how we can mobilise collectively to support those that might need help in the coming weeks, and activate those who feel able to offer help. 

Just with simple things, initially, like collecting medicines and groceries for people who don’t want to leave their homes; but if the virus spreads or the crisis materialises, it’s these community social networks powered by local people that will provide resilience and give us the ability to support each other and work together.

Our suggestion is that we work together to form a network of community groups specifically focused on developing social cohesion and community resilience – sharing ideas and resources, connecting people who want to support their local communities in this way, and hopefully creating a basis upon which we can start to build lasting regional resilience.

We are meeting with Swansea Council for Voluntary Services in the next few days, along with other partners who may wish to collaborate, to consider safeguarding issues and other logistics.  And we would love to hear what you’re doing locally, have you got ideas you could share with others, would you like to be part of the conversation?

We have created an open map as a starting point, which community volunteers may wish to adopt as a means of coordinating activity in their local areas, and to be part of a “community of best practice” to share plans, ideas and resources.

You can begin adding your community volunteers to the map, and, as ever, we welcome all feedback and co-creation.

http://bit.ly/CommunityVolunteersMap

Contact us with your ideas and expertise, by emailing dawn@4theregion.com

Click here for basic map instructions.