How to start a successful business from your kitchen table

How to start a successful business from your kitchen table

Merje Shaw is the Founder and CEO of consultancy Path59, which helps bring start-up level disruption and agility to traditional industries and helps companies transform their businesses. Merje’s omni-channel and user-centred approach comes from a firm understanding of the audience, the business and the market in which the product or service is to exist. Ultimately, Merje ensures that no matter which channel a customer uses, they get the best, frictionless experience which they deserve – whilst creating business value. 

Alongside Path59, last year Merje pursued her passion for urban gardening and Scandi-design by founding Scandiscapes, the UK’s first dedicated online platform for Scandi design-lovers seeking to reconnect with nature through stylish biophilic décor products.

Having a brilliant idea and deciding to start your own company is a great feeling – empowering, exhilarating, and also, totally daunting. Once you’ve identified that gap in the market that you are in a unique position to fill, with your skill and your passion, it can be hard to know which way to turn. 

As someone who had been advising (some rather large) companies on their business strategy and customer experience for years, when it came to setting up my consultancy Path59 over six years ago, I assumed that the actual business side of things would be easy. Turns out there’s a little more to it thank you think. 

Here are some things I wish I’d known about running a successful business, before I started out. 

  1. Know your customer

The main difference between a successful start-up and a traditional organisation is something very simple – customer focus. A start-up company, by definition, is still in search of the perfect product-market fit. How you successfully find that is identifying a customer need that is painful enough for them to pay for it. Make sure you are always listening to your customers – and observing. People are notoriously bad at explaining their reasoning (mostly because a lot of decisions we make are instinctive).

  1. Have a nest egg

I started my business after having my first child and then really began to expand the company after having the second. Looking back, this wasn’t the best move as it led to some very tricky personal financial situations. To learn from my mistake, I’d wholly recommend building a little nest egg before you embark on the journey. If this means you have to delay a little, do it; the opportunity will still be there once you do, or you will find something even better. 

  1. Get ready to be a jack of many trades

Several people who have started companies after a successful career are initially cynical about the amount of work it really takes to run a company. I know I was. If you think about it, it does make sense. All those functions that are invisible in most organisations when they are run well, now need to be run by you: HR, finance, facilities, project management, client and customer services, administration, cleaning…the list goes on. The best thing to do is prioritise. Identify the essential and focus on that, accepting that not everything will be perfect for a while.

  1. Save on everything: 

… your website…

Build a website yourself using Squarespace or WordPress – whichever you find easier. If you are doing it right, you will need to be constantly adapting it anyway so creating a fully functioning site will only go to waste, especially if you can’t tweak it yourself. 

… your marketing collateral…

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need an all-singing all-dancing brand when you are starting out, as you will keep evolving. A logo and colour scheme are fine to begin with. Once you know who you are as an organisation, you can refine your brand. Tools like Canva will help you create consistent-looking collateral whilst others like Later, SmarterQueue and Hootsuite will help you take care of the social side.

… your space….

Launching a company from your kitchen table is actually quite sensible. When we started out we got a big shiny office in a co-working space because we believed their promises of being ‘start-up friendly’ and providing ‘excellent networking opportunities’. This soon proved unnecessary. Start at home, the local coffee shop, the library – anywhere without a cost. When you grow, there are accelerators and incubators that offer subsidised workspaces as well as very basic office spaces like Ministry of Startups that understand what you need – a desk, a chair, the internet, and a space to share with your team.

… but not your accountant

This is one area where I wouldn’t advice on cutting costs. Ask around for recommendations from other business owners you respect – you’ll be able to tell the good from the average by how engaged they get with understanding your business. Whatever you do, make sure they’re Chartered; I didn’t with our first one and we nearly went under as a result of their incompetence.

  1. Be prepared to eat humble pie

Something to get ready for is how often you will be wrong. I won’t lie: it isn’t easy. But what you get from accepting that you don’t know everything is a new kind of resilience that also enables you to ask for help with things you are not as strong with. This, in turn, helps you develop a heightened emotional intelligence.

  1. Talk to the smart people

It is astounding how often incredibly smart and interesting people are surprised when I ask them for advice. So many of us get our heads down, tinkering away at our ideas and never share them, for fear that someone else might steal them. I have news for you – ideas are cheap. Someone can have many, many ideas; some of them might even be brilliant. But unless you actually make those ideas real, they are worthless. So talk to smart people – they can help you make your ideas a reality.

How to start a successful business from your kitchen table

  1. Build a tribe

One thing that can backfire when you’re saving costs on working spaces etc is when you start to feel a bit lonely. The good news is that this is completely avoidable with the help of entrepreneur groups. There are many active communities on social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Several organisations also run start-up friendly networks, such as the IoD99. Being able to compare experiences with people going through the same journey is incredibly powerful. 

Share this...
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *