Experiences of a Social Entrepreneur: Part One
It’s difficult to sum up all the wonderful tribulations of starting a business. The very first statement I will say, is that the hardest part is starting at all. So here’s 3 inside notes on my experiences so far for Part One!
When I first had the idea of ‘Keep Real‘ – it was around 4 to 5 years ago. A lot has changed in those years, and a lot is changing now. Not knowing what the right step is, will never evolve into an actual step in any direction. You just have to dive right in. Whether that’s saving up to make your first prints, going to local art exhibitions/shows to get a feel for the market, or knowing how to split up your time. I look back at what I first made and holy moly it’s embarrassing! But at the time, I loved the fact I made my very first t-shirt design- I spent hours on Paint (yes….PAINT) to edit out the pencil marks and errors. I asked my friend Darren to walk down to town with our housemates so I could take some pictures on my digital camera.
Much has changed since then (definitely in technology too…) and reflecting on those parts of business makes you realise how far you’ve come. If you’re truly determined to make your idea work, you will. Don’t be afraid of unsuccessful stalls, sales or ideas (I know… I’ve had plenty!) At the end of the day, you are learning and no one ever gets it right the first time. It’s your idea…and your idea evolves!
Not knowing what the right step is, will never evolve into an actual step in any direction.
Know Your Market, Know Your Business!
At first, I toyed around with the idea that Keep Real would give certain amounts of profit to already existing mental health organisations. However, with my degree I wanted to be part of the change and see where the profits go- as well as funding my own life alongside it. A business at the end of the day, is a business. It needs to fund itself…and fund you too!
Knowing WHO your business is aimed at and the big WHY of what your business is, is VITAL. Where does your business slot into the current market? What change are you trying to create? What makes your business different to the others? Read DO/PURPOSE, or any part of the Do Book Co series for tips! Remember that your idea of what your business is, may be different in someone else’s view. Focus groups are a great way to know your market, and can completely change the game! Feedback is e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
With Keep Real, I knew I wanted to support better mental health in young people. I didn’t know when I first started making those paint-edited-tshirts that I’d be funding workshops, working with various inspirational creatives and designing supportive tools for wellbeing. Your idea develops over time, do not be afraid of change in direction. For example, I never knew public speaking would be part of Keep Real, but it is!
Overcoming Difficult Situations
The first part of the business that was important for me to lay out, was the process of making a solid foundation. This for me, was registering as self-employed (you can do this also if you are employed…be prepared to start tax returns though!) and the most important for me was trademarking the name ‘Keep Real’ in the UK under certain classifications. Get all the legal stuff out of the way first. Intellectual Property is a HUGE part of your business (especially if you are a creative one) and it needs to be protected. Trademarking in the UK lasts 10 years if approved. So once its yours, its yours for a long time- even if the business changes!
One situation I had to overcome- was a trademark battle. An existing company in the UK already had a similar name under the very same classifications I was applying for. This felt all too serious, and something that I was unable to handle myself. I was ready to launch the website…then bam!! I had to file a report stating that my ‘mark’ would not disrupt the preexisting business, how my name was different etc, I was given advice from lawyers and freaked out at the prospect of losing the name. It was absolutely terrifying. What if they opposed my application? What if I had to change the name completely? What else would I call the business, when it means so much?!
With a delay that couldn’t be avoided and with much anticipation, the trademark was finally approved, with the other party deciding not to proceed with the next stage of opposing. Thank goodness! So here we are today, with the 10 year stamp (®) that means that my business name cannot be used by anyone under my categories. Phew!
Taking risks or having someone throw an absolute curveball into the mix- is part of the business game. No matter how much research you do, there will be something that completely blows your mind. Taking a step back and reevaluating is part of the job.
Kimmy’s Top Tips:
- Describe your business in 3 words. Ask others to do the same. Is it the same? This is a great way to evaluate your idea compared to potential customers!
- Do not be afraid of change! We all started with an idea- it evolves all the time!
- Curveballs come with business. How you deal with that determines whether or not you’re passionate about your idea.
- Feedback and research is VITAL. Knowledge is power…
Part Two to come!