Want to start your own business? Tackling the fear of failure

Have you ever thought about starting your own business? You’re not alone. The RBS Enterprise Tracker, a regular survey into what we think about entrepreneurship, – http://unltd.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/RBS-Youth-Enterprise-Tracker-Summary_2nd-Quarter-2013-FINAL.pdf – reports that 38% of the UK’s adult population who are not currently self-employed would like to start their own business.

At the same time that millions of us want to start businesses, there are also millions of us looking for work. According to the latest official unemployment figures – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24045546 -, nearly 4million of us are currently either out of work or working part-time because we’re not able to find a full-time job.

You’d think that the combination of high unemployment and our enthusiasm for entrepreneurialism would mean that lots of us would be starting up a business, but we’re not. The RBS Enterprise Tracker Survey reports that only 7% of us are actually in the process of starting up.

What’s going wrong? Perhaps surprisingly, while lack of cash and worries about the state of the economy are predictable barriers, the survey says that the biggest single reason why we avoid starting a business is fear of failure: 60% saying that’s what’s holding them back.

That’s one of the major challenges that Tree Shepherd’s Start Your Own Enterprise programme is helping Lambeth residents to tackle. CEO Colin Crooks, is an experienced social entrepreneur and he is continuing to develop an effective programme that helps create meaningful employment in the local community.

It’s one thing to want to start a business, but quite another to actually do it. Akwa, a current Start Your Own Enterprise Student who is setting up a night club business, explains: “I’ve wanted to do my business idea for a long time, but I’ve never really known how to go about it properly or where to get help.”

A good starting point for anyone looking to start a business is to address ‘The Three Ms’: Motivation, Marketing and Mechanics.  Motivation is about working out why you want to start your business. Marketing is working out who you’ll be selling products or services to. Mechanics is about how you’re going to run the business and what you need to get started.  All three are important, but motivation is initially the most important because, without it, you’ll never reach the point where you need to worry about the other two.

One of the most obvious possible motivations for starting a business is: ‘I want a job because I need some money’.  That’s fine, but if you’re going to explain to customers why they should buy the particular thing you’re selling from you rather than someone else, it makes sense if your business is based on something that you like doing and are good at.

The current group of Start Your Own Enterprise students are unemployed people, living in Lambeth, who have a range of different levels of educational qualifications and professional experience.  They’re developing a wide range of businesses from cake stalls, to importing ceramics to selling yoga-themed package holidays in Croatia. Some are designed to create social change – including club nights for people with special needs and pop-up cultural events – others are about students turning their passion into their job.

Michael, who is using his experience in the world of boxing to set up a health and fitness business, says feedback from his fellow students is helping him to work out how to turn his ideas into a business: “I’ve got the ideas in my head but it’s just getting them out. It might be something simple that I’ve been thinking about before but somebody might say the right word and something might just click.”

Given that it’s fear of failure that prevents 60% of potential entrepreneurs from starting a business, confidence is an issue for most of us. For Cara, who is setting up an organisation working with young people, the Start Your Own Enterprise course has given her the belief that she knows what she’s talking about when she’s talking about her business: “[It’s helped with] my confidence and getting to know the business lingo. I didn’t understanding certain terminologies before, but if you were to put me into a room of funders now, I may be able use some of the lingo. A couple of weeks ago, I would’ve been like ‘what the hell is that?’ I would’ve had to google it, basically.”

You don’t need to be a special type of person to start you own business, but most people with a business idea do need a bit of prompting and support to take that first step. If that’s where you are, learning alongside a group of people in the same position might give you the push you need to get on with it, and help you deal with the challenges you face along the way.