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I’m going to let Sid James do the talking here, and express to you all how I am feeling right now.

Seriously. Where are the matchsticks. Find me the matchsticks. Need something to hold up my eyelids. This is the fourth day in a row now that either DB1, or DB2 (or both) have thought it a good idea to wake us up at 4am. Just a little announcement for you, boys. IT’S NOT. 

What’s worse, is they always both seem so alert and ready to play at that time. It’s just so wrong, on so many levels.

Anyway, let’s crack on. We’ve talked about that initial big idea for a business, and how to give it a quick road test. We’ve also talked about time and money, and assessing whether your business will actually fit into your life or not.

Today, we’re moving on to:

No. 3 – Fine Tuning Your Big Idea, and shaping it into something that (vaguely) resembles a business.

So, you’ve got the idea. You’ve asked all the vital questions and put it to the test, and it still holds up as a darned good idea. Congratulations! Now the fun begins…

– Transforming your Idea from a concept to REALITY…

For a business model to work, it needs to have the following factors:

1) Is it genuinely appealing to people? Why? What is it about it that will make people want to buy/ use?

2) Is it viable in terms of profitability? (we touched on this a bit already)

3) Will you get your ‘slice of the pie’ with it? How can you make sure you get a big enough slice?

4) It needs to be a smooth process. Is it easy and efficient? Does it fit in with people’s expectations?

The first one on this list is one of the most important aspects. What is it about your Idea that is going to set you apart from your competition? (and even if you think your idea is unique and that you have no competitors, think again. If it’s that good, even if you don’t have competition to begin with, you will have. Be prepared.)

What we’re talking about here is USPs. (Unique selling points) I very heartily recommend jotting down a list outlining the USPs of your Big Idea.

To model this for you – our USPs for our business were:

a) We are offering embroidered personalisation, which is more durable, more attractive and better quality than printed.

b) We are offering personalised bedding, which nobody else really was at the time. (though we’ve already encountered a few copycats, part and parcel of the business, I’m afraid!)

c) We were trying to trade as ethically as possible. All our garments are ethically sourced, and many are organic. All our packaging is 100% recycled.

I could go on, but it might get a bit tedious. You get the idea. If you don’t know why your Big Idea is so special, you can be sure your potential customers won’t either!

Profitability I’ve talked about a bit already. It’s a really good idea to work through your figures right from the start. A good profit margin isn’t just about money. It’s also about time. If you are making something that takes 5 minutes to make, and you make £5.00 on it, that is a pretty good profit margin for such little effort. If you are taking an hour to make it, and still make only £5.00, that ain’t so good. That’s below minimum wage. (or near enough!) It’s got to be a figure that’s worth it to you.

Slice of the pie…one of my favourite expressions from my marketing training. Imagine your target customer audience as a big pie. (cherry, apple, whatever floats your boat.) You obviously want as big a slice as you can get. But how much can you realistically expect? How good can you be? Why would people choose you over your competitors? Who are your competitors? How are they getting their share of the pie? These are all very important questions that you need to research before you even think about investing any money in your venture.

And the last one – easy and efficient process. In the age we live in, of 24 hour shopping on the Internet, and speedy turnaround, where people can purchase at the click of the button, ease is a major factor to your customers. If you are offering something that is a faff for them, they are unlikely to buy. Ditto if your website is a faff, but we will come on to that at a later date. (and yes, you DO need a website.)

We learnt the hard way on this one. We offer two types of personalised duvet. The story duvets, and the handprint duvets. They are both very popular, but the one everyone went into raptures about? The handprint one. It was so unique and such a cute idea. However, which type have we sold more of? The story bedding. By a long way.

Why is that? Well, I suspect it is to do with the fact that, with the story bedding, all people need to do is supply a name, click a button and it is ordered. With our handprint bedding, they have to go to effort to send their child’s handprint in the post. Some people have gone to this effort, because they wanted a handprint duvet so much. But not a huge number. We’ve learnt from this. Make things as easy as possible for your customer, and factor this in, right from the beginning.

Next sesh? Well…lets have Researching the Competition. (one of my favourite things to do!)