Have you ever thought of starting your own business, but always chicken out? You’ve got plenty of excuses ready: you don’t have the time, the money, the connections, the star sign you need to succeed. There’s always something.
If this sounds like you, Saira Khan feels your pain.
“It was only after being on The Apprentice that I got the confidence to start my own business,” she tells us. “I quickly realised that if you have a good idea, are determined and plan ahead, anyone can do it.”
Although she was given a job by Sir Alan Sugar after appearing on the popular BBC show in 2005, mum-of-two Saira soon realised that she wanted to start her own business. So she did just that and started baby skincare company Miamoo.
Since then she hasn’t looked back, and her business products are now stocked by the likes of Boots and Ocado.
Here Saira tells us why she loves running her own business – and why other mums should seriously consider giving it a go.
1. You get to be your own boss
Ever fancied being your own boss? If you start a business, that’s exactly what you’ll be. You can finally do things your way, set your own goals and deadlines, and have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re working for yourself.
Saira says: “I love being in a position where I get to make my own decisions. It also gives me real flexibility when it comes to looking after my kids. I can have a work-life balance that suits me, and as a mum that’s priceless. You don’t usually get that level of flexibility in the nine-to-five corporate world.”
2. You can start a business any time – even when the economy’s bad
It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. If you’ve got a good idea, there’s no reason you can’t succeed. Don’t forget it takes time to build a business – you’ll start off small with few costs. By the time you start to really get going, the chances are the economy will be beginning to pick up anyway.
Saira says: “People still need and want to buy things, even in a recession. If you’ve got a good idea and you’re determined, you can succeed even when times are tough. There are always opportunities out there.”
3. You get to do something you’re passionate about
The best businesses are built on passion – successful businessmen and women tend to live and breathe what they do. People have started businesses based on their hobbies and interests, or simply to solve a problem they came across, that wasn’t being addressed by existing businesses.
I love the fact that when I get up in the morning I can’t wait to start work
If you’re feeling unfulfilled or bored by what you do, why not build a business around something that interests you?
Saira says: “One of the best things about setting up a business is that you get to spend your working life doing something you’re passionate about. If you’re not inspired by your business, no-one else will be either. I love the fact that when I get up in the morning I can’t wait to start work. I’m doing something I believe in.”
4. You already have everything you need to start a business
As you’re reading this online, you’ve probably already got everything you need to get your business up and running (a computer and a phone).
Current technology gives entrepreneurs opportunities that were unimaginable even just a few years ago. Today anyone can set up a website in minutes, where their business can cultivate customers from all over the world. And there’s some amazing free software available now – whether you want to manage your accounts online, set up a video conference call with someone in America, or edit a video – these days you can do it all for free on a pretty basic computer.
Saira says: “You just need a phone and a computer to start a business. A mobile and a laptop is fine – you’re good to go. You don’t need buckets of cash to get going. Technology has made everything so much cheaper. Even expensive things like advertising and marketing are much more open today. Look at Twitter and Facebook, both of which give your business huge potential for free advertising through word-of- mouth.”
5. Having a family can help inspire your business
There can be no better time than when you’ve just had kids or are raising a family to develop your business idea. You may have plenty on your plate, sure, but there’s no reason you can’t set up something that you can work on around your other commitments.
You already have everything you need to start your business
Saira says: “Raising a family can be a great time to reinvent yourself, especially if you’ve taken a break from your career. As a parent, you quickly build up a community with other parents, which can be incredibly useful. My own business was inspired by seeing another mum struggling to find skin care products for her baby.”
6. It’s a chance to get creative
Starting a business is a creative act – in many ways, your business is an expression of you. Many people who started their own business did so because they found themselves stuck in dull and repetitive jobs – which can be incredibly frustrating if you’re a naturally creative person! Starting your own business gives you the freedom to really make the most of your creative side.
Saira says: “Running a business you have to think creatively. You learn so much and will get to try lots of different things and ideas. Some will work, some won’t, but you’re always learning. It’s a great feeling to know you can take an idea and just run with it.”
7. No two days are the same
Running your own business is nothing if not varied. Meeting customers, dealing with suppliers, working with designers on how your new product should look… and that could just be Monday! Expect to meet some fascinating people, perhaps travel to some amazing places – and be constantly kept on your toes.
Saira says: “I do all my own PR, marketing, customer calls… you need to be hands-on. But if you’re passionate about your business, you rarely have a boring day.”
8. You can start a business as a sideline
When you say “I’m starting a business”, many people automatically assume you’ve handed in your notice or have hired a nanny to take care of the kids. But plenty of people start a small business while keeping their day job and take it from there. In fact starting a business part-time gives you time to make your company as good as it can be. Because you don’t have to worry about paying the bills, you can take the time to build up your customer base, get the perfect partners in place and go at your own pace.
Saira says: “You don’t have to give up the day job to start a business. In fact working on it part-time is often a good idea, as most businesses don’t bring in a lot of money for the first few years.”
9. It’s flexible
You’re the boss – you set your own deadlines and work when it suits you. Of course, you’ll need to be disciplined, but you can fit work around your other commitments as you see fit. Plus if you work from home you don’t have to put up with a hellish commute – always a bonus!
Saira says: “Being able to set your own work-life balance is a huge bonus. It’s still hard work of course, but you have a level of freedom that you just can’t get in other jobs.”
10. Your business dream can become a reality
Ok so it’s a bit of a cliché – but it’s true. Plenty of businesses that started off as nothing more than a laptop on a kitchen table or a tiny shop have gone on to stratospheric success. Often it’s a really simple idea.
Being able to set your own work-life balance is a huge bonus
Take Innocent Smoothies: three guys who were good at making smoothies believed they might be able to make a living from producing them. So they bought £500 worth of fruit and sold smoothies all weekend at a London music festival. They then asked customers to put their empty bottles into a ‘Yes’ bin if they thought they should give up their jobs to make smoothies. As the Yes bin quickly filled to overflowing, they resigned the next day.
The company now has a turnover of over £100 million and sells their products to thousands of shops around the world.
Of course, you don’t have to make it really big to succeed – it can be incredibly satisfying just to set up a little business that acts as a nice earner on the side, or gives you the freedom and flexibility to work when and where you want.
Saira says: “If you’ve got a great business idea and you’re determined to make it a success, go for it! Don’t let it be a regret that you never gave it a go. You don’t necessarily need to give up your day job or invest huge amounts of money – start off small and go from there. If you do that, what’s the worst that can happen?”
Start your own business
Once you’ve got a firm business idea, have a look at our article 10 ways to get funding for your business.
But first things first. If you’re tempted to start a business – or simply want to find out how to make more money – you can’t afford to miss our article on the Top 14 Ways To Make Money From Home.