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How to successfully launch a business in your spare time

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Launching a business is a career goal harboured by many of us, whether we’ve always fancied starting our own pop-up shop or seeing a clever app idea through to fruition.

But if the prospect of quitting your day job to follow through on this dream feels daunting, fear not: there are numerous ways to get started on launching a business without cutting off the secure and regular income that a full-time job provides.

We’ve already profiled 10 women who successfully launched their dream businesses around a full time career, and you loved it so much we’ve decided to get even more in-depth information from another group of women.

Here, stylist.co.uk speaks to four more women who started a business in their spare time to find out how they did it, which resources proved vital and how long it took for them to start making a profit.

From one of the founding members of craft beer site HonestBrew, to a foodie who is running a catering company alongside her demanding corporate role, these are the golden rules of business from the women who have been there, done that and sold the T-shirt.

Read on and be inspired to get started on your own business idea...


“Launching a business on the side is the perfect way to begin” – Annabel Causer, 28

Annabelle was one of the founding members of HonestBrew, a craft beer website that she helped launch in 2014 while working full time for BBC Children in Need. She now works at HonestBrew full time, as one of the company’s directors.

annabel

Where did the idea for your side business come from?
HonestBrew is an online craft beer retailer that was started by four friends, all with very different backgrounds, and all with a passion for craft beer. I’m one of the directors and also head up our marketing and growth activity.


Read more: These are the top five business ideas for startups in 2017


How long did it take from having the idea to selling your first product?
We spent 2013 getting to know the industry by running pop up events and brewing our own beer. We realised people had a growing interest in craft beer but were struggling to understand it or get access to the types they wanted, as many breweries were limited to local distribution.

So we built our website and started selling beer in January 2014. I was working early mornings, evenings and weekends before we received our first round of funding (£250,000) at the end of the year. I was then able to go full time January 2015, and now we deliver beers from breweries around the world to thousands of UK beer lovers.

How much money did you need to launch and did you need an investor?
We put personal funds of £30,000 in to get the business off the ground. This allowed us to get a basic model live and a proof of concept in place. We then pitched to a number of investors, and got two angel investment groups on board in 2014 followed by Crowdcube investors in 2015, who have reinvested again as the business has grown.

Annabel with the other founders of HonestBrew

Annabel with the other founders of HonestBrew

How long did it take to make a profit?
We have been making revenue since January 2014 and are focused on growing, so we are still spending to grow at this stage.

What sacrifices did you make to keep both the full time job and your business running?
While you can’t always say yes to social events or holidays when you’re setting up a business, the experience as a whole is positive. I’m more appreciative of the experiences I have with people, or of any purchases I do make, and am more resourceful now.

How did you structure your time to balance the two out?
It is always a balancing act! For me it was all about lists and reminders, as well as streamlining and focusing on what was most important at the time. I balanced a social life around times when I knew I would be more productive, for example by getting up early and working on Saturday daytime, then seeing friends in the evening when I might be less productive after a day’s work.

What advice would you have for anyone else wanting to launch a side business?
Just do it! Launching on the side is the perfect way to begin as you can get a feel for the viability of a business without the risk of leaving your 9 to 5 behind.


“Do it because you love it” – Soniya Ganvir, 28

Soniya turned her passion for food into a catering business, Sobremesa, which she launched with her best friend Becky last year while working full time as a political consultant. She has now gone part time in her day job in order to focus on growing the business.

soniya

Where did the idea for your side business come from?
My friend and business partner Becky and I have always loved food and travel and, after we'd both been on separate trips to Central and South America, we started cooking up a dinner party menu, initially just for fun. But then people started asking us to host dinners and brunches for them in their homes and it became increasingly clear that we'd inadvertently started a business. We also both work in an industry where people have a lot of events so we were able to use our existing network to launch a canape menu.

How much money did you need to launch?
Since it's a side project that grew from a hobby we didn't have a business plan to begin with. Initially we didn't cost our time and just made a mark-up on the food but we've had to get more savvy. I'm going to put in £5,000 of my own savings.

How long did it take from having the idea to serving your first meal?
The first job we formally invoiced was last September, which was about a year after I got back from my trip to Central and South America. 

How many hours a week do you spend on the business?
It varies depending on whether we have a job that week - definitely eight hours at least, but it could be up to 24.

What sacrifices do you make to keep both the full time job and your business running?
I went part time in my other job, which meant I had to accept a pay cut and slow myself down in a career that I really love and had a great trajectory in. But I was trying to squeeze a full-time job into four days which was completely unmanageable with the business, whereas now I'm working three days a week which is much better. Becky's still full time which means she's had to accept that it can't be a 50/50 split and that, sometimes, I know more about what's going on. 

A snap from one of Soniya's catered dinner parties

A snap from one of Soniya's catered dinner parties

How long did it take to make a profit?
We make a mark up on the food but our profit on our time still isn't great, and since I've gone part time this is becoming more of a priority. The challenge is that whilst it's just the two of us it's probably never going to be as lucrative as our corporate jobs, so I'm also trying to diversify into a product line as well.

How do you structure your time to balance both the catering business and the full time job? Is it hard to have a social life?
There's never much room for a spontaneous evening off - chilling out has to go in the diary. But luckily the work is inherently social and we've been able to do a lot of events with people we know. Plus I’m working with my best friend, so most of the time it doesn't feel like work.

What’s the best and worst thing about running the business?
There are lots of best things! Doing something I love with my best friend is amazing, and the look on people's faces when they try a flavour they've never contemplated before is priceless. But it can sometimes be a bit isolating - other people don't get why we want to work so hard on the business in our spare time, while friends get annoyed that we can't always be on every night out.

What advice would you have for anyone else wanting to launch a side business?
Do it because you love it. It's really hard to stay motivated to get home from a long day and pick up with your second job. 


“Get a grip of your numbers so you know exactly what’s happening financially” – Esther Thompson, 37

Esther launched Tea Huggers in 2013 while working full time as Head of Communications at the BBC, after spotting a gap in the market for good tasting herbal teas. Now she works full time as the director of the award-winning company, which sells teas all over the country and online.

esther thompson

Where did the idea for your side business come from?
After I left university and began working in London as a political lobbyist the long hours started to impact my health and I had four bouts of tonsillitis on the trot. A doctor suggested I cut out coffee and allow my body to sleep when I was tired, instead of fueling it with caffeine. I changed from being a coffee addict to a herbal tea addict and haven’t had tonsillitis since.

In the years following I found herbal teas often smelt good but didn’t deliver on taste. So 10 years later I launched my own brand of feel good teas called Tea Huggers, made with the highest quality ingredients so that every sip tastes amazing. We’ve blended a tea for every moment of the day so they don’t just taste good but also help with energy, sleep and stress. Three years on and Tea Huggers is stocked in high end food halls such as Selfridges and in shops across the country. Our teas are also available via our website.

What resources did you use for research?
Enterprise Nation was great for small business advice. I wrote and then finessed my business plan using a template on the Prince’s Trust website. Once I had my idea nailed down I organised a series of focus groups to validate my ideas.


Read more: Britain’s most successful women on the career advice they wish they had aged 20


How long did it take from having the idea to selling your first product?
As I was doing the business as a side business it took me about 10 months - plus I wanted to make sure I got it right.

How long did it take to make a profit?
18 months.

How many hours a week do you spend on the business before doing it full time?
I would spend around 20 hours a week by trying to cram in hours at the weekend, the evenings and whenever I had a spare opportunity.

tea hugger

How do you structure your time to balance both the side business and the full time job? Is it hard to have a social life?
Organisation is key! Having set monthly/weekly daily goals and targets mean that you remain focused on tasks which need to be done every day to move the business forward and to help grow it. I also schedule in time to exercise and time to socialise which are key to my overall wellbeing.

What’s the best and worst thing about running the business?
I’m doing something I’m passionate about and there’s a great community around startups, so I’ve made lots of genuine friendships with other people who are also following their dreams. However, it’s hard to switch off because the business never stops, so it can be hard for you to step away.

What advice would you have for anyone else wanting to launch a side business?
When you launch your business the most important thing is to get a grip of your numbers so you know exactly what’s happening financially. Accountancy services like Xero are super simple and make it easy to understand your numbers, even if you don’t have any financial training. 


“Ask yourself some tough questions before you start and do your research on the industry” – Tessa Sowry, 30

Tessa launched an online stationery shop at the end of last year, while working full time as a University administrator. She is currently working on growing the site in her spare time, while still holding down her day job.

Tessa Sowry, 30

Where did the idea for your side business come from?
I started a blog, All Things Stationery, in 2014 as a way of sharing my reviews of products with other people who love stationery. After spending a few years building up knowledge about the industry and forming relationships with brands it felt like the next logical step to open my own online stationery store, The Stationer

What resources did you find useful?
Someone suggested using Shopify, an online store platform, and I haven’t looked back. As well as being somewhere to host the shop, they also have loads of resources for new business owners, including tips, advice and forums. I also had to get my head around things like tax and VAT, which I did by reading up on the government website

How much money did you need to launch and did you need an investor?
Luckily, as stationery generally has a low price point I didn't need a huge amount of money to buy my initial stock. I used about £1,000 of my own money to set up the business.

How long did it take from having the idea to selling your first product?
It took about a year and a half. I announced in January 2016 that I'd be opening an online store and I was hoping to do it by the end of the summer. Sadly though, I lost my mum last summer, so there were a good few months when I didn't even think about it. I finally got my act together and launched at the beginning of December 2016, which was just before Christmas and perfect timing as obviously lots of people were buying gifts. 

stationery

A selection of products Tessa is selling on her site

How long did it take to make a profit? 
I'm not there yet I'm afraid! Every penny I make currently goes straight back into paying for stock. 

How do you structure your time to balance both the stationery business and the full time job? Is it hard to have a social life?
I'm definitely still learning when it comes to balance. I put too much pressure on myself to get things done in the evenings and weekends and then feel guilty that I haven't achieved enough. But I'm trying to battle this by being more organised and realistic with my goals. So now, every Sunday I'll work out what I want or need to achieve the following week and then, based on my work and social plans, break things down and put little jobs in my diary (paper, of course) throughout the week. I find I get a lot more done this way, get more satisfaction from ticking off jobs, and feel less guilty. 

What’s the best and worst thing about running the business?
The best thing is guilt free shopping! It's so nice to be able to buy all the things I'd want on my dream desk, while knowing that they'll all be going on to better homes eventually. 

The worst thing is feeling vulnerable, I think. It's quite a big deal to put yourself out there and tell everyone you're starting a business, because if things don't work out it could become quite a public failure. But I try not to think too negatively.

What advice would you have for anyone else wanting to launch a side business?
I think it has to be something you're passionate about. Otherwise you’re going to resent coming home from dinner with friends and having to pack up orders, or working on your lunch breaks and so on.  I'd say to ask yourself some tough questions before you start and do your research on the industry. And also that making mistakes is inevitable, and all part of the process (says the woman who keeps ordering the wrong sized packaging...)!

 

Want to find out more? Why not attend ‘How to Break Into a Business You Know Nothing About’. Discover the secrets of success from those who took the plunge and are now at the top of their games. Find out more at: live.stylist.co.uk 

Stylist Live brings everything you love about Stylist magazine to life across three days of experts, interviews, comedy, food, beauty and fashion exclusives.
10 -12 November, Olympia London.

Images: iStock / Courtesy of interviewees

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