Like many entrepreneurs, I have always known I was going to start my own business – the main challenge for me was waiting for inspiration to strike! Fortunately for me it did, and in the most unlikely of places. I was searching online for some Calvin Klein underwear for my brother, and after searching for hours and not finding what I was looking for, I had my ‘eureka’ moment and realised that I could create a better online website than those currently offered.
Soon after, my vision had evolved into an entirely new way to run an online clothing store, and I set about making my preparations for launching the business. Fortunately I was already enrolled on a Foundation Degree in Business Management, so I used that time to prepare my business and marketing plans, and do the majority of my research – which involved a lot of reading about ecommerce and studying competitors’ websites to assess their strengths and weaknesses. I also was working a full time job, so I saved up as much as I could to put towards my launch capital.
One of the key moments in my start-up journey was deciding to reach out to other business owners to seek advice and generally pick their brains about everything ecommerce. Understandably, not all of them got back to me, but those who did have proven to be a great resource over the history of my start-up, and provide an ever constant stream of useful advice and guidance.
I’m a firm believer that you learn the most about business through being in business, as although preparation does go a long way towards building a solid base from which to work – how you react and respond to events that occur once you’re trading will be the true test of your businesses success.
This was true of the launch of Urban Alpha. A lot of people think that you can simply build a great website and people will find their way to it on their own, and I think this ‘build it and they will come’ mentality has been the downfall of many online businesses. To succeed you need to have website traffic (people visiting your website), so we spent a lot of time before the launch researching all the different methods of driving traffic, and working them into our launch strategy.
Initially, we had planned to roll out the different marketing channels in a phased approach so that it was easier for us to manage and would’ve been easier on the budget. The launch went well, but I realised pretty quickly that we wouldn’t be able to trade on the ‘new business’ angle forever and that in turn would result in our traffic dropping off. As a small business, time management is really one of the key aspects you have to keep on top of, but I took the decision to roll out all of our marketing phases in one push and just work through the night if necessary to get on top of the workload.
It was a risk that took us pretty close to the wire in terms of our cash flow, and resulted in me working through the night on more than one occasion, but ultimately it paid off. I learnt a very important lesson during that time, namely that for your business to succeed, you are going to have to make some tough decisions and put in a lot of hard work to make it a success. I was put in a difficult situation and forced to come up with a solution, and fortunately our hard work and preparation combined with our entrepreneurial spirit saw us through.
I can’t believe it’s already March, but 2012 looks set to be a great year for us. It will be our first full year of trading, and we have a lot of different things lined up to keep us on track to achieve our goals and ultimately our vision!
Andrew is the owner of Urban Alpha, an online designer men’s clothing retailer . You can find Urban Alpha on Facebook or Twitter , and you can follow Andrew on Twitter at @AFDPallett .