Once you have identified your business idea and the problem your idea will solve, it’s important to test out the strength of your solution. Researching the competition is a good way to test your idea and benchmark what you will provide against what others may be offering. How will your business stand out and attract customers?
The internet can offer access to market facts and trends which can help you shape your business idea. You can also check out competitor offerings online too, although there is nothing like feedback direct from consumers. Make the most of your existing contacts – friends, family, colleagues, ex-colleagues and suppliers can all be valuable sources of help and insight. Gaining their views can help you avoid making costly mistakes and ensure that you are on the right track. Plus people can enjoy providing feedback and using their experiences to shape a new business idea.
Identify your potential customers and speak to them. Would they use your product or service? Would they recommend any changes that would make your product or service more attractive to them? How much would they pay for your product or service? Remember that negative responses can help you adjust your idea and arrive a stronger solution that may be attractive to more potential customers – it’s not intended as criticism that you should take personally or get defensive about. It can also be valuable to develop a survey for potential customers to complete. This can be a valuable way to gather in a range of feedback from potential customers. Surveys can be distributed to people you know and also via social media to extend the reach and access greater amounts of feedback.
Asking others, sourcing market facts and conducting survey research can all help to give confidence that you are shaping a business idea that has value. As you work up and refine the details of your business idea, you can seek advice from national and local enterprise support organisations. Business Gateway operates across Scotland in local areas. Find Business Support is the hub for finding out more about the various kinds of support offered through public agencies.
As well as Women’s Enterprise Scotland, the organisation behind Women’s Business Centre, a number of other businesses and organisations deliver programmes supporting women in business. You can find links to these organisations here. There is specialist support available for young people.
If you’re starting up a business with an environmental or social mission, Social Enterprise Scotland may be able to provide specialist support. Social Investment Scotland offers advice and loan funding for social enterprises.
Banks can also be a source of help and support, for example the Royal Bank of Scotland runs free local events for those starting and growing businesses. You can hear from business speakers at the events and speak with other businesses and bank staff.
A key step in starting a business is registering your business for tax and preparing financial projections for your business. An accountant can give you advice on how to set up your business and help with book-keeping and financial records and planning. There are also a variety of apps which will help you do your book-keeping and financial planning yourself.