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Sophie Cornish's Top Business Tips

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Sophie Cornish co-founded notonthehighstreet.com, a website selling unique gifts, with her friend Holly Tucker. It has grown from £100,000 in 2006 to a £15 million turnover this year. Now up for the title of Stylist Business Ambassador (along with four other female entrepreneurs), Sophie shares her invaluable advice for setting up a business.

1) There's no silver bullet to business success

It’s very easy to look at established entreprenuers and think that they have some magic recipe or single answer. Women feel that until they have that answer they can’t start, it holds them back from taking that first step. I've learnt that no-one has the answers, a successful business means learning and making mistakes.

2) Get your quality quota right

This means balancing a drive for excellence with the reality of simply getting a task done. At some point you have to be happy to say that website or that email, is good enough. Waiting for 100% when 98% is good enough is one reason women don’t start up business in the first place.

3) Don’t be sidetracked by the next big idea

At set-up stage it’s so tempting to lose your focus by being drawn in a million different directions. You’ll be walking to work one day and think, ‘everyone is wearing this or buying that, maybe that’s what I should be doing’. New ideas are all well and good, but not at the expense of the idea you are already focused on for your business.

4) Communicate

The key to creating and maintaining a fantastic working relationship really is communication, which is especially vital if you are going to go into business with a friend, like I did. Holly and I prioritised that right from the start, by drawing up a very detailed questionnaire we both filled in. It covered our ambitions, hopes, why we wanted to start the business in the first place, our expectations and more. Filling it in made us both really think about our answers, and when we read each other’s answers we learnt a surprising amount about each other. Not only have we looked back on it since, it also put our friendship onto a professional footing right from the start, which is invaluable.

5) Investment is about timing

It’s a huge asset for a business to take on capital funding, but, in general, the earlier you accept it the more of your business you have to give away in return. So weigh up whether the time is right.

Inspired by Sophie's advice? Read fellow finalist Laura Tenison's tips for business success.

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