I did something pretty big last week. I ran my first ever market stall.
After approximately 14 years of wanting to start a food business, I finally got the ball rolling, rolled my sleeves up, and all the other ‘rolling’ clichés, at Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market.
It’s not that I hadn’t done anything at all towards this goal over the past 14 years. I did the ‘Food Business Start-Up Boot Camp’ weekend course with the brilliant Monique Borst, I’ve done countless cookery courses including ‘Food Styling’ at Leiths School of Food and Wine, been to heaps of business start-up talks and events, and of course, I’ve done a hell of a lot of thinking about it. But I never felt quite ready to make the leap.
And therein lies the problem. I don’t think I would have ever felt ‘ready’. Not fully.
However much you prepare, research, and pore over the detail, there’ll always be something niggling away in the background. ‘What if I change my mind about the name?’ ‘What if I don’t sell anything for the first month?’ ‘What if people hate my pretentious-sounding roasted carrot, chick pea, black venus rice and cranberry salad?’ (They didn’t, by the way. They loved it).
Whether it’s lack of finance, fear of failure, not having that killer idea… there are so many things that could put a budding business person off, it’s a wonder anyone goes ahead and does it at all.
We actually did some research on it at Moonfruit. We surveyed 2,000 workers across the UK and found that 56% of them had come up with an idea or invention but hadn’t turned it into a business owing to a fear of failure, while 22% said they’d come up with two start-up ideas.
And that’s why it’s worth just giving it a go on a small scale. Try it out (whatever ‘it’ is) on friends, family (remembering mums and dads aren’t always the most impartial of guinea pigs) and then the general public in a way that suits what you do.
So. What’s stopping you?
Over the course of the week we’ll be asking you the question: what is it that’s stopping you from doing something with your idea? The hope is, you’ll tell us, and the rest of the community, and we’ll collectively help and motivate you to overcome it.
If you’re selling a product, pop-up venues, markets, fairs, fetes and festivals are the perfect way to test your idea. They’re not just trendy. They’re easy to start, cost very little to run, you can do it without giving up your day job, and they’re very low-commitment in terms of branding and the like (check out my chalk boards, ahem). So low, you could change your proposition every week if you wanted to (not advisable if you’re looking to build a following).
They’re a great way to try new ideas, get feedback, and iterate accordingly. Which is what I’m doing. You can run it as a weekend/sideline business and only take it further if the idea proves itself and you can say for certain there’s a market for what you do, whether that’s to investors, or to yourself to justify taking it further.
A couple of things went horribly wrong on my first attempt (turns out it’s quite difficult to prepare a huge salad without a knife, running water, or the star ingredients from your recipe), and I now know what not to do next time. All valuable experience.
For years I thought I had to have everything nailed before starting out. But speaking to the huge array of small business-owners with Moonfruit for the past couple of years has enlightened me to the fact that you don’t have to have everything nailed before diving in, and you don’t have to give up your day job to get started.
It’s beneficial, even, to get started on a small scale and iterate. Fail fast. Learn from it. Get better.
Wish I’d realised this a while back.
So, who else out there is in the same boat? And what is it that’s been holding you back? Share your thoughts and experiences and we might just be able to help each other out!
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