Tag Archives: side hustles

My Green and Grey side hustle

I’d spent 20 years advising entrepreneurs (including those of the social variety) in the East of England on setting up and running businesses. Five years previously I’d helped create what might loosely be described as a social enterprise – the Repair Shed in Hemel Hempstead.

What had I learned and where could that knowledge take me?

I learnt that I don’t like the buck stopping with me when it comes to decision-making (I like to sleep soundly at night!) It confirmed what I’d known for a while – that there’s a big difference between working on a business and working in it (you do more toilet-cleaning than deal-making). Having business start-up ideas is not enough – however good they may be, you need the energy and determination to turn them into action – it’s hard work! And maybe two heads are better (or at least more fun) than one.

Most recently I learned about the concept of the ‘side hustle’ – a new name rather than a new idea – but one that’s significant enough to command the attention of the Henley Business School that researched the growth of the phenomenon in summer 2018. Essentially a side hustle is a business venture to supplement income from regular job. Its growth has been largely born out of flexible working practices and growing insecurity in the jobs market. At its best, a side hustle is the creative low-risk development of a potentially good business idea, at its worst it’s self-indulgence at someone else’s (ie your employer) expense. Some also see it as a sign that the jobs market is in a poor state with low pay and part-time becoming the norm. For me it was something else – an opportunity to try to turn a hobby into a small business (nothing new there) alongside a new part-time job, working with someone else.

Green & Grey is the enterprise I’m developing in Royston near Cambridge with a new-found partner-in-wood; we’re exploring creative ways to cut waste – mainly by making items for homes and gardens using reclaimed materials.  After meeting at a community breakfast (full English breakfasts are a shared passion) David and I discovered another common interest – making products from pallet wood. It got us thinking…  David likes creating (he’s the arty one) and my background is in marketing, so it seemed like a good combination. We agreed to make and market our products and, as important in my opinion, tell the story behind the enterprise, to see what would happen.

Four weeks after our very soft launch, our online presence is largely our WordPress web pages and Facebook (see links below). We recently met up in a local pub – no trouble finding time for a pint in our otherwise busy weeks – to review our progress and plan our next move. These are some of our reflections:

  • We’re happy with the brand-building, but not the sales. We’ve had a commission to make kids jousting equipment for a summer pageant, but we think we need to be more direct on the sales front
  • We’re expecting that one-off commissions will make up an important part of our work, but for now we plan to push summer items (for the garden) that can be made to order quickly
  • We’ll focus us online promotion through local social media platforms, highlighting our own local connections and our personal and professional values
  • With summer and craft markets in mind, we’ll be researching the market for smaller items that we can make and transport relatively easily
  • Above all, we’re agreed that we won’t compromise on the quality of our work and will price our products accordingly

The conversation goes on – between the two of us, but also with our followers. You can keep in touch by liking our Facebook page and we’ll be updating our journey (we’re all on a journey apparently) through future blog posts. Watch this space and tell your friends – because there is no planet B.

Further information: on Green & Grey  www.facebook.com/GreenAndGreyRecreations  and   https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/green-and-grey-store

On side hustles https://assets.henley.ac.uk/defaultUploads/PDFs/news/Journalists-Regatta-Henley_Business_School_whitepaper_DIGITAL.pdf

What young people have taught me about starting a business #2 – the entrepreneurs

Communication skills are essential

I had a privileged upbringing – surrounded by books and a loving family that were articulate in spoken and written word – particularly around political and social change. That’s probably why I chose marketing and communications as a career in the not-for-private-profit sector.

A worrying large number of the young people I work with have poor communication skills when it comes to answering and talking on the phone, taking notes when listening to people giving advice, shaping and presenting ideas within their peer group, and a reluctance to read anything more than a couple of sentences. This is not about learning disabilities (which are also common), it’s about (not) learning basic skills in schools, or losing what they learnt in school – like writing by hand.

Some have coping mechanism for hiding areas of weakness (don’t we all?) but, when starting a business, the inability to communicate with a certain level of competence is a massive barrier. The sooner issues are identified and addressed the better; not always easy when the young people themselves don’t acknowledge there’s a problem.

Some young people think they can run an online business from their back bedrooms without ever having to leave the house. They look at me with horror when I tell them they’ll need to go and talk to people face-to-face to get their businesses started.

 ‘Quick and dirty’ may be the best way to start

The idea of the MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and phrases like ‘fail fast’ are familiar in the world of business start-ups, particularly when they are of the techy variety. I’m talking about something different here… ‘try to strike while the iron’s hot’ might be a more appropriate cliché.

Sustaining interest and motivation is young people with ‘complicated lives’ is not easy. We know that the longer the time lapse between a young person applying for business support and that support actually materialising is critical for determining how much energy they bring to the process. When real life gets in the way, the dream can fade surprisingly quickly. The ideal scenario is enquiry one week and support the next, but this is not always possible and a 4 – 6 weeks delay is more likely between first contact and hands-on support.

In a similar vein, delays while writing a business plan can result in a rapid decline in commitment to the finished product; so ‘good enough’ may be the watchword here. An idea being explored is to fill the immediate time after first contact with an involvement activity – around market research maybe, or even the early stages of drafting a business plan. Watch this space.

The delay in ‘getting started’ might be self-imposed as well. We all know that sometimes we procrastinate – putting off doing something through lack of confidence or whatever, making it bigger in our imagination that it is. This happens quite a lot with young people who find reasons for not starting a business; the search for ‘the right premises’ in one case. My reaction is to query the delay and suggest ways to get ‘test trading’ as soon as possible.

The role of the side hustle

Objectively, and procrastination notwithstanding, the ability to devote a full working week to business development is likely to get a new enterprise up and running the quicker than doing so alongside a part time job. The advice is always ‘don’t give up the day job too soon’ – test the viability of your new business idea while having a steady income to help pay the bills.

Not everyone has the luxury of having regular income while starting their businesses and, as mentioned in a previous blog, many young people are setting up businesses precisely because they can’t get someone to employ them. That said, I am increasingly attracted to the idea of the ‘side hustle’ which seems to have a raised profile in recent years. And it’s not just my imagination – the Henley Business School reported on the rise of the side hustle as recently as July 2018. Doing a ‘bit of business on the side’ sounds dodgy, but it needn’t be; having a way to test an idea without undue financial risk is a responsible route to take and, depending on the nature of the full-time job and the very part-time start-up, could be a sustainable combination.

Businesses are getting more social

I have a personal passion for a business model described as ‘social enterprise’ – it’s been a part of my professional and personal life for almost two decades. I see it as mixing the best of the charity world with the best of the business world to create an income-generating enterprise with financial, social and, often, environmental objectives.

I’ve consciously not pushed the social enterprise model to young people, not least because it’s a difficult route to go down with built-in business disadvantages before you get to the starting line. Despite this, I’m quietly pleased that an increasing number of people with whom I work come to me with business ideas that I would broadly define as social enterprises.

On the plus side, their commitment is likely be a given – they are often motivated to set up a business to meet a need they have personally identified – as someone with mental ill health or as a struggling young mum. That passion however can also be a negative – personal involvement can often blur the line between the heart and the head. Early on, agreeing the primary purpose of the enterprise is important – is it about furthering a cause or making money – often requiring some difficult decisions, with some compromise at least in the early stages.

And on a broader point, and in praise of the young people I advise, all the would-be entrepreneurs have been sensitive, sociable and considerate to each other – a million miles from the monsters we see on TV in The Apprentice!

Previously – https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/what-young-people-have-taught-me-about-starting-a-business

Next – what have I learnt about the support needed

Enterprise essentials #2 – 21 more tips from StartUp Saturday

It was the first day of September – a good time to be thinking about starting a business. We’re at the wonderful British Library Business and Intellectual Property Centre in central London for a StartUp Saturday business class led by Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones. There’s an expectant buzz within the group of 30 aspiring business owners and, interestingly (to me at least), 75% are women; confirming my theory about women and entrepreneurship. It was a day that was rich in experience, of both Emma Jones and the participants, inspiring an intriguing array of start-up businesses at different stage in their development.

I’ve now been in business advice roles of various kinds for nearly two decades and I never stop learning – the following 21 insights, quotes and tips made it into my notebook…

  1. According to the Henley Business School, developing a ‘side hustle’ [a secondary business or job that brings in, or has the potential to bring in, extra income] applies to 25% of all adults, with the figures for employees rising to nearly 40%
  1. If you’re thinking of setting up a side hustle alongside your main employment… it’s a good idea to check what your contract says, informally check out company policy, and get advice from ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) if necessary
  1. Would-be entrepreneurs see a niche business as narrowing the potential market for the products or services on offer, creating a disadvantage. In practice, it deepens the market which can mean lower marketing costs and higher customer loyalty
  1. The secret to success in services such as photography, PR [public relations] and events is often to go for a niche part of the market. Hone in on deciding exactly who your business is for – photos for parents of new-born babies maybe
  1. It’s always worth re-quoting the cliché ‘There may be a gap in the market, but is there a market in the gap?’
  1. There are three broad sources for most business ideas: A gap in the market (no one else is doing it), a passion (I want to get paid for something I love), improvement (I can do it better)
  1. IMOFF – a mnemonic for the main elements of a business plan – Idea, Market, Operations, Finances, Friends
  1. 3 Bs to start-up and grow your business cost-effectively: beg, borrow, barter. And ‘surround yourself with experts’ when your business is young. Becoming ‘an expert’ yourself is good for profile-building
  1. Avoid ‘friends and family focus groups’ they’ll usually want to please you, rather than tell you the truth. But a face-to-face focus group, even with your most loyal customers, can often give you greater insights than a larger arms-length consultation
  1. When you can afford to… “Do what you do best and outsource the rest”. Carry out a simple cost-benefit analysis to see how you spend your time. What do you love (that generates income)  and how much time could you liberate if you outsourced what you don’t?
  1. Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way to raise finance to start a business. And some are even launching campaigns for the profile-raising, rather than fundraising, potential. Family and friends are still the most popular source for start-up finance
  1. On business names… It’s best to have a name that is memorable and pronounceable. Your company, domain and trading names can be different [but some sort of association is helpful]
  1. While honesty should be at the heart of all your business dealings, at times it may be expedient to tell ‘future truths’. [Positivity without porkies?]
  1. 3 Cs to turn your passion into profit online – Content (around something you and others love) to build your Community (through social media) as the seedbed for Commercial development (jargon alert – monetization)
  1. Selling is very much a numbers game needing perseverance and patience. But doing even simple things to increase sales can make a difference because so few people [in small businesses] do so.
  1. People go to Pinterest to buy things (but can’t) which may explain why you can now buy on Instagram. Twitter and Facebook are not designed for sales (but Facebook ads work for small businesses)
  1. Twitter is useful for sharing your expertise, Facebook is social (for building your following), LinkedIn is good for business-to-business and ‘selling’ via Groups), YouTube can substantiate your business or build a business in its own right
  1. Measure what social media tools work best for your business, then focus on the one or two that are getting most engagement with your target audience
  1. Events can bring your contacts and (potential) customers together. “If you connect your contacts to each other, you connect them ever closer to you”
  1. DIY routes to making money. A commercial ‘how-to guide’ on YouTube is the entrepreneur’s dream – making money while you sleep. Putting on paid-for in-person training courses can both generate additional income and increase demand for your core services
  1. An ABC of plate spinning to keep you sane in business – Administration (having control – money in, money out) Business development (attracting new customers) Customer care (keeping your customers and building loyalty)

Further start-up support: www.enterprisenation.com  and www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/support-starting-business

The first 21 StartUp tips: https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/enterprise-essentials-21-tips-from-startup-2018/