5 Steps to Launching and Growing Your Online Business: Webinar Recap
Why did we do this?
As you might know, at BYP Network, we usually run monthly events on a wide array of topics. In the past some have included Tech Unmasked, BYP Leadership Conference, Maximising your Money etc. In this period, we, unfortunately, can’t run any events, but we want to do everything we can to ensure we are upskilling the community whilst also raising money for our fund for black at-risk workers. The fund is being put in place because black and minority ethnics are disproportionately dying from Covid-19. We want to help those families who are at the highest risk of financial insecurity during this period, to help with bills, rent etc. Thank you to all those who have donated (328 people to be exact). Please continue to donate here: https://kwanda.co/projects/byp-network/
Many people send me messages on LinkedIn or Instagram asking me for advice on starting their own businesses. In this uncertain period, there is no better time than to really get that idea you’ve been sitting on off the ground or get that side hustle you’ve never really had time for generating some revenue. BYP Network started as a side hustle from my bedroom and it was only after a year and a half when I was able to take this full time, hire a team of my own and work with some of the largest companies in the world (including Facebook, Accenture, Soho House etc). Many of you who tuned in to the webinar are in the idea stages of starting a business, so I wanted to break down five super simple steps of everything I did to build BYP:
STEP 1: Idea Generation & Research
‘An idea without execution is nothing’
Most of you are at this point where you have an idea of how to solve a problem, or a friend has come up with a solution. What next? I wanted to create a platform where black professionals can connect with each other globally and have everything that they need in one place. There will be events, online content… But do they need this?
Create surveys: I created a simple survey on SurveyMonkey with 10 questions and sent it out to 100 people from my network. I sent this to friends of friends and posted all over social media. This helps you define your USP by finding what the gap is and what your target audience is missing.
Understand your competitors: I went to lots of black networking events to understand what was missing in order to create an amazing experience for our attendees. This helped me realise that BYP Network was really needed to change the black narrative. What can you do to really understand your competitors to help fine-tune your product?
Living and breathing your mission: I spoke to as many people about my idea and had a notebook where I was constantly jotting down my ideas, drawing diagrams for the web design etc. This helped breathe my idea into existence and made me truly aligned with the mission of BYP to change the black narrative.
My advice here is to ensure you are always learning about the business landscape and joining networks of like-minded entrepreneurs who can help propel you. For example, I joined business accelerators such as the New Entrepreneurs Foundation, LSEG Elite Program, Mayors International Business Program and I always aim to continue to learn. This webinar is a great first step, but always immerse yourself entirely.
STEP 2: Registering and Setting up the Company
Set up a Limited Company: Allows you to really grow your business. You can use a company formation company to do this as they make it easier.
Find an accountant and a lawyer: I highly recommend having these right away to avoid pain in the future. Use BYP15 to get discounts at legalsidekick.com and Fruitionconsultants.co.uk
Have agreements in place: This could be for freelancers, co-founders etc. This has been imperative for the business and helped things move seamlessly.
My advice is always to think about how to make a profit to ensure you can pay for all this. My initial investment in BYP was £500 and the first event made £2000. This let me pay for the accountant, lawyer, freelancers etc. If not, apply for grants and funding so you can have all the fundamentals in check.
STEP 3: Social Media & Branding
Now that you have an idea in place, surveyed some potential customers, set up your company and have all the legal & financial bits in check, you need to package it all together to make sure you have a brand and social media presence.
Email and provider: It’s important to have a “@’company-name.co.uk” domain to look professional and to be taken seriously. You can use 1&1 or Gmail etc.
Set up your website: We had our first event on Eventbrite before we had the website. I created the first website on Wix which is a drag and drop solution and didn’t require any technical expertise. I built the website in 8 hours. You can use platforms such as Wix, Squarespace, Bubble to get something up and running pretty quickly.
Social handles: Have social media handles set up for all major channels including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Post consistently and get all of your friends and family to follow you. Keep posting because a strong social media presence builds trust in your brand. It’s the first place your customers look to get information on you.
My advice is to do this quickly but effectively. I.e. don’t break the bank to start off getting a logo, flyers etc out there. Fiverr.com has been the biggest life hack for me in terms of getting flyers designed and little bits of work done that I didn’t have the capacity to do. Know that your business will evolve over time and change from what it was in the beginning. E.g. BYP Network was also a social site before but I ended up scrapping that.
Step 4: Sales & Marketing
In this section, I want to discuss how you can take your side hustle or idea to a full-time business where you can make money. It might mean right now spending at least 2 hours every day focussing on your business regardless of what else is happening, in order to be able to leave your job once you are generating sufficient revenue.
Generating revenue: I came up with the first pricing strategy for tickets based on a question in the survey - ask people how much they would pay for your service! In the beginning, it is all trial and error with pricing, so I would recommend reading around pricing strategies and looking at what your competitors are charging. If you can’t make revenue, apply for funding or investments.
VAT/Company accounts: Remember you only need to start paying VAT once your company makes over £80k in revenue. You should have an accountant who will help you with all that. Use a platform such as Quickbooks which is a finance management system that will help with your company accounts.
Sales processes and platforms: Create email lists with Fiverr, Mailshake etc. Create email marketing campaigns using SendinBlue, Hubspot. Your online and social media presence will create brand trust when you start marketing. People will not be as willing to spend money on your business if you don’t have an active online presence.
PR, Instagram, Facebook: Use Fiverr to create flyers and banners to make your profiles attractive. You can pay a results-based Facebook marketer. There are also ways around getting free PR by contacting journalists, events and other networks. It’s mainly how BYP grew.
My advice would be to definitely have a revenue stream really early on. As a founder of colour it is much more difficult to raise investment, so revenue is key to making sure your idea survives and will interest investors.
Step 5: Growth
Hiring a team: Before having full-time staff, we had a model where we would pay specialists from the community to help us for a few hours a week. For example, instead of hiring a full-time social media person, I paid a social media specialist a few hundred pounds a month to spend a few hours posting on our channels. It saves a lot of money and helps with getting things off the ground really quickly without the stress of PAYE. This helped me to free up time to apply for grants and competitions.
Raising money through grants & investment: BYP Network raised £40k+ from pitching competitions including NEF, Founders of the Future and the Sky Scholars program. We then went on to raise £150k in investment. This meant I could leave my job and focus solely on growing the business.
My advice once again is not to underestimate the value of being plugged into the start-up ecosystem. I found nearly all my investors through my networks and put myself out there as much as possible. Ultimately this is the reason I was able to go full time. Below I have added a section of all the important resources I used during my process of setting up a business. If you have any questions, you can contact me directly on the BYP platform and join the group for Entrepreneurs.