5 tips for starting your own business that we picked up at the Startup Summit

James Watt and Sir Tom Hunter at the Startup Summit

James Watt and Sir Tom Hunter at the Startup Summit

The Startup Summit took place yesterday at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. FutureScot was there and picked up some handy tips for starting up and running your own business!

1. Write a business plan

The first one seems obvious, but many new companies lack one important thing: a business plan. Emma Jones, the founder of Enterprise Nation, said that when she had asked a group of startup founders if they had a business plan in place, she got a sort of non-committal half-wave in response.

It’s worth spending some time on this and, importantly, reviewing it every 6 months. “It’s not just something you put together for the sake of it” said Ana Gallardo, of Scottish Enterprise.

2. Find a mentor

Life can be lonely as an entrepreneur, especially if you are a sole founder. The advice from the morning panel at Startup Summit was unanimous on the topic of mentors: it’s a good thing.

Have a mentor who “is incredibly good at just listening” said Emma Jones. “The founder probably has all the answers in their head already”, they just need some help getting them out.

Panel debate at the Startup Summit

3. Do it in Scotland

The summit opened with a keynote by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. And the key take-away from her speech was this: Scotland is a great place to do business and it is only getting better.

She announced the launch of the Unlocking Ambition challenge at the event. The £4m programme will link established entrepreneurs with the “entrepreneurs of the future”.

Sturgeon continued by saying that we are “in Scotland part of an entrepreneurial movement”

4. Do good

Increasingly, research is showing that doing good is not just something you do for altruistic reasons. It can also be good for business.

Jude Ower of Playmob, the “world’s first platform profitably connecting game mechanics to social good”, said during her talk that Corporate Social Responsibility should not be seen as a separate part of the company. Instead, you should “weave it throughout your business and make it part of your DNA”.

Being a company that does good can also be a savvy way of reaching the increasingly powerful millennial generation. While research has shown that millennials tend to give less in traditional donations to charities, they are more likely to switch brands to one that is giving back.

One of Ower’s slides said that “where CSR is integrated into daily customer interaction, brands will significantly boost business benefits, and enable business to outperform the stock market by 133%

5. Explore new and innovative ways of funding and marketing

One of the most well-attended talks of the morning sessions was the conversation between Sir Tom Hunter and Brewdog co-founder James Watt. That was potentially because of the ice-cold cans of Punk IPA being handed out to delegates before entering the main hall, but you never know!

The main take-away from this talk was that sometimes going completely against convention when it comes to running and marketing a business can be very rewarding.

Brewdog are perhaps especially famous for their ‘Equity for Punks’ scheme, their way of turning traditional business funding on its head.  By crowd-funding investment, Brewdog not only gained 60,000 investors but also advocates for the brand, James Watt said. Their AGM is the most attended in the UK, with around 7,000 shareholders showing up each year.

The company’s untraditional approach also extends to marketing. Brewdog’s ‘stunts’ include packaging a 55% ABV beer in taxidermied animals and sending a case of climate change protest beer to Donald Trump in the White House.

These unconvential marketing campaigns are cheap for the company to carry out – Watt cited a budget £1000 – £2000 per stunt – but reap incredible rewards in terms of coverage. Their ‘Puppy paternity’ campaign for example had been featured 217 times on broadcast TV and their PR firm estimates the benefit of the amount of coverage they receive at £100 million annually.