The research and statistics show it; there has never been a better time to start a business. Women have always played an exceptionally important role in the business sphere, often being responsible for generating extra income for their families whilst providing goods and services to their local communities and beyond. Here at The Prince’s Trust we aim to honour that tradition and have been helping young women from all walks of life to start their businesses for nearly 40 years. Our passion is to inspire young people succeed in spite of their personal circumstances.

Here at the Prince’s Trust we believe that there are plenty of ladies out there with an untapped business idea that could see them turning their hobbies, passions and talents into a viable income stream. But what tends to stop a lot of ladies starting up a business is the perceived mystery around how you actually start a business from just an idea in your head, or a passing conversation with a friend to something that is real and able to make money. Issues with how you pay taxes, or do your bookkeeping, market research for your business plan… the list can be endless. This all comes together to look like a huge, grey daunting cloud that’s enough to make you second guess yourself.

In addition to this, there are other barriers to overcome. Perhaps you’ve got children or other caring responsibilities and don’t have a lot of free time. Perhaps you’ve been struggling with your mental health and issues with depression and anxiety have been holding you back. One huge barrier of course can be getting finances to actually start a business so, here at the Prince’s Trust, we’ve come up with 5 top tips for those wanting to start a business with little to no money at all. This is not an exhaustive list but these are some popular options for those entrepreneurs out there who want to get started but are lacking in finances. So without further ado, let’s get to Tip Number 1.

1.Look at setting up a business online – Dropshipping

Today the rapid expansion of the internet and social media has not only connected humanity together, it has also connected people to products and services in ways we could never have possibly imagined. The most amazing thing is that it’s not only benefitting big businesses; small start-up businesses now have the opportunity to access a potentially global market for their products and services. When you’re starting out and money is tight there are several options. Dropshipping allows you to sell ready made products without physically owning the stock. Your financial outlay will be maybe to purchase a domain name which will cost a few pounds a month and enable you to build a website where you can sell your products. You may want to order a few samples to test out things like shipping times and product quality. The samples would also be excellent for sales and marketing purposes as well so potential customers can see your product in a real life setting.

When you get your first sale, you order the stock at wholesale price and have the factory ship direct to the customer. Depending on how many sales you make, the e-commerce platform or app that you use will charge you a small fee for making your life easier in various ways; computer whizzes across the land have created apps that will automate the process for you so you don’t have to take payment or physically submit the order on your customer’s behalf. You then take your share of the profit and the cycle continues. That’s a simplified explanation but, ultimately, that’s how it works. You will need a robust customer service strategy and the onus would be on you to source trustworthy suppliers who create quality products. You’ll also need an eye for trendy products BEFORE they’re trendy as that’s when you put yourself in a position to generate a good income. For more details, type ‘dropshipping’ into Google or Youtube and see whether you could make this low capital start up idea work for you.

2. Assess your current skillset and see if there is anything you do that could make you money

If we’re honest, most of us have a skill which we could actually monetise or a service that we could provide to our local communities. For example, you might be excellent at ironing, or you may be really good at cleaning. You might be good at washing cars or walking dogs. Another idea is to get people to pay money to listen to that excellent singing voice that only your shower is benefitting from hearing. Either way, the important thing is that these businesses are valuable to people and because you are the capital, very few initial funds are needed to actually get started. The key thing to remember is to not despise small beginnings. Ironing may not fill you with joy, but if you’re good at it, use it as a means to an end to get you to a place where you’ve saved enough to get prototype products made, or a new laptop to start that e-commerce business.

Similarly, if you’re a writer, get online and start blogging. Blogs are easy to set up and monetise and it could lead to other work in freelance writing. The key to blogging is commitment; it’s very rare that blogging will make you a millionaire overnight, so consistency is key. But you can blog about anything and everything that you and others will find interesting to read about. You could even write an e-book to publish on Amazon Kindle; perhaps you’re a budding fiction writer or an expert on essay writing. Virtually no capital is needed for these. Same thing applies to youtube – all you need is a decent smartphone to begin creating content for that platform and potentially forging a new career path for yourself! Again the possibilities are endless so get creative!

3. If you aren’t working at the moment see if you can get a part time job

This next point seems a bit obvious, but sometimes giving yourself a small amount of financial stability and some extra funds to help tide you over whilst you build a business really takes the pressure off. The part time hours will give you more flexibility than a full time job would and it will also help you keep your stress levels down and more able to make progress with building a sustainable, alternative income stream. Pretty self explanatory really – have a look and see what jobs are available in your area in retail, or administration. Again don’t be afraid to see it as a step to getting to where you want to be or rather the income that funds your blog or your product samples.

4. Crowd funding

Crowdfunding is where an unlimited number of investors pledge money to support your business. Individuals have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds in some cases on various different platforms. They’ve then used the finances raised to take their businesses to the next level. It’s great for people who just need an injection of funding for their small business ideas as well as established companies. It’s also got a real community feel about it as people invest in companies and business ideas that they believe in and value. In addition to this, you know if people want to invest, then there’s a really good chance that people will buy the end product or services and be interested in its future development.

If you really believe in your idea and have an excellent product to offer, why not give crowdfunding a go? It may not work for everyone as not every idea or project that gets submitted is accepted. Also if you are still in the stages of early product development and nothing is patented, you potentially leave your idea open to being stolen by a more established or richer party. So go carefully, but it’s a brilliant option to consider.

5. Start a Direct Sales Business

Last but not least, there is an option to start a Direct Sales Business. Direct Sales is simply where you sell products and make a commission on the sale. Popular companies that you can do this for are folks like Avon, Forever Unique and Scentsy. Market research will be key as you will need to be able to build a regular customer base and you don’t want to tie yourself down to trying to sell things that people don’t want to buy. Initial costs to get started will vary across the various businesses so do your research, but if you’ve got a huge social network online and offline then why not give it a try? It also gives you an opportunity to practice your sales and marketing skills which will be essential for your ongoing business endeavours.

So that’s it! There are 5 top tips for releasing that entrepreneurial flair. If you are 18-30 and want to get some support, please check out www.princes-trust.org.uk for more information. For over 30’s check out local innovation centres and the Chamber of Commerce for business advice and relevant courses.

Amanda Scott

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