Having taken part in Dragon's Den this series and working closely with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), I'm now even more aware of the importance of funding and supporting the great ideas of future business leaders. What's particularly close to my heart is nurturing and growing the ideas of young people domestically and into international markets.
The government's Sirius Programme is doing just that - encouraging the best and brightest of young entrepreneurs to set up their businesses in the UK. The programme offers financial backing to both young people with an established business, or those who just need a bit of a lift to get their idea off the ground.
From my time on Dragon's Den I've learnt that the best pitches come from those who know their product well and are passionate about it. If you're going into a meeting to ask people for money, it's important to go in smiling, look happy to be there, this will engage the people you are pitching too and disguise any nerves.
When you start pitching be genuine and have an honest enthusiasm. People who learn a script off by heart often come across robotic and this can often be off-putting. It's obviously important to know your business plan but you'll be surprised at the amount of people that don't. The nuts and bolts of your business are just as important as your big sell so make sure you know it inside and out. People will take you much more seriously if you are fluent about what you are selling especially when it comes from your heart and they can see you believe in it.
Another important thing I learnt in the Den was that some businesses need to keep growing before they can go to the next level. Just because you pump cash into your business doesn't equal success. Sometimes you need a bit longer to get your business in order before you can actually use that money wisely. Be open to constructive criticism and in it for the long haul. Take your time and do things properly, don't rush. It's a marathon not a sprint. Taking on board professional advice can be crucial to the survival of any new business. Listen and learn.
I recently did a video for The Princes Trust and gave the following six tips for any budding entrepreneurs:
Tip 1: Thoroughly research the market you will be selling in. Never underestimate the importance of knowing who your customers are and what they want.
Tip 2: Learn from your competitors. Know what it is that they do well and what areas they can improve on.
Tip 3: Think about the logistics. It's not enough to have an amazing idea, the key to success is how you execute it.
Tip 4: Ask for advice. Getting an outside perspective from friends, family members or mentors can be really useful if there are any issues you're struggling with.
Tip 5: Good book-keeping. From day one it's crucial to have a good system in place, record everything and always keep it up-to-date
Tip 6: Remember your business goals. It's easy to get bogged down in the day to day details so always put aside time to think ahead and keep planning for the future. Have confidence in your vision and don't lose sight of what it is you want to achieve.
Applications for the Sirius Programme are open until January 2014, so if you have a budding new business, or idea that needs a helping hand, find out more information here
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