“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty”- Winston Churchill
It’s no secret that the twenty-first century has brought with it difficult social issues. You only need to walk down the streets of your city to see the proof. But, as the great Winston Churchill said- “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty”. When the economy gets tough, some people are more conscious about how they spend money i.e. to book a holiday or not to book a holiday on that credit card you still haven’t paid off. Others choose to do something about it, like start a business to tackle those social and economic issues. The rise of social enterprises since the UK recession of 2008 has significantly increased and so is the contribution to the economy. Between 2008 and 2010, there was an estimated 55,000 social enterprises in the UK with a contribution of £8.7bn every year to the economy- that’s 1% of annual GDP (Startups, 2013). However, latest government estimate shows that there are 70,000 social enterprises, employing a million people in the UK (Social Enterprise UK, 2013). Equally important, they contribute £24bn to the economy and have recently gained support of the Treasury through tax incentive for investments (Social Enterprise UK, 2013). An example of a social enterprise is Jamie Oliver (high profile UK Chef) training restaurants for young people in the UK. Findings from Social Enterprise UK recent research revealed that 32% of social enterprises increased their turnover in 2012. Majority of them work locally and around 38% are established in most deprived areas (Social Enterprise UK, 2013).
|Founder and Creative Director of Eighteen Forever|
Optimists are people who see opportunities in any difficult situation. This does not mean they are born equipped to address those difficulties. Let’s take starting a business for instance, you need the right tools to start a business but most importantly, you need to ‘believe’ in what you want to do. Starting a social enterprise is no comic experience even though it’s a not-for profit business. Not-for profit (NPO) organisations are those who reinvest surpluses in the business instead of distributing to shareholders. Reinvesting surpluses back into business could help with expansion i.e. capacity building, product/ service innovation, branding to list but a few. There are five key tools you need to start a business- market research, market testing (pilot study), finance, branding and business strategy.
Market research is a common terminology used by marketeers and business people. It’s a serious term that is mostly casually used. Market research is finding out what’s currently available in your market of interest. For example, if you want to start a fashion business, you need to understand the current trends, issues, opportunities, manufacturers, sourcing and logistics relevant to the fashion industry. It’s not about what you ‘think’ the industry needs, it’s about ‘what’ the industry ‘needs’. Following your successful market research, you should conduct a pilot study. This is an opportunity to bring your potential clients together in a focus group format to get a construct view of their needs and interest. Be careful of exposing your project to potential dreamers. Someone might just copy your idea! Ask them about their shopping habits, what attracts them to a fashion brand, what they would wear and so on. This will give you a good idea of what you should offer and how. Following this, you need to search for funding available to help with your business. There are lots of independent organisations and banks offering financial support. For fashion, visit UKFT, UK Business Grants, Small Business Sector and British Fashion Council website for more information about grants and support. Make sure you have a project plan outlining your business expenditures, products idea, draft of your pilot study and other useful information that will show your business is worth the investment. Now you have your finance sorted, its time for you to create an identity for your emerging business. Basically what you want your brand to look like, how you want people to perceive your brand. This includes business name, logo design, colour, labels and so on (these should also be in your project plan but a structured branding approach will be required). It is important to get this right because without it, you have no brand. Business strategy is intertwined with your branding strategy. You need to consider your target market i.e luxury or ready-to-wear. Don’t forget to add this question in your pilot study.
To conclude, we can all identify with pessimist and optimist but we all like to say we are optimist. Been optimistic alone is not enough to be successful. Doing something about an opportunity will make a difference. So start with your market research and work towards executing your data.
Author: Eighteen Forever
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Social Enterprise UK (2013) “The people’s business: state of social enterprise survey 2013”. [Online] http://www.socialenterprise.org.uk/ [Accessed: 5th January 2015].
Startups (2013) “Social enterprise statistics”. [Online] http://startups.co.uk/social-enterprise-statistics/ [Accessed: 5th January 2015].