As a student and graduate, ‘transferable skills’ is a phrase you’ll find around every corner. But knowing exactly what
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As university life comes to an end, it is important to take a moment to reflect on your personal and professional goals and how they relate to your next career move.
In this blog, we will discuss the benefits and challenges of pursuing a personal business venture after university, alongside the trials and tribulations of making this venture sustainable.
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For many graduates, next steps may involve internships, entry-level jobs, or graduate schemes. However, for those graduates looking to boost their entrepreneurship, starting a business might be the right move.
Being a graduate means you have a fresh perspective and can look through an entrepreneurial lens at many different industries and businesses. The prospect of starting your own business can seem intimidating. But, if you harness this energy and direct it towards something that you’re passionate about, you can push your idea towards a tangible end – your very own business!
Starting a business is a unique way for graduates to become enterprising, expand their business expertise, and gain valuable skills. In short, becoming a business owner increases your employability as a graduate two-fold.
The world is changing – the climate crisis is now the most prevalent it has ever been in the public conscience, with more and more people being made aware of the worrying issues surrounding our environment.
Correspondently, the demand for sustainability is on the rise. Ensuring businesses are doing what they can for the environment is now incredibly important to many consumers. In this sense, making your new business venture eco-friendly ensures that your business is not only doing right by the environment, but also doing right in terms of attracting consumers. The importance of sustainability in business is a no-brainer.
It is important, however, to make sure that your new business commits to its sustainability promise and avoids greenwashing (giving consumers a certain perception of the business’ green commitments through strategic marketing that does not mirror the business’ true intentions). Genuine sustainability is key!
Starting your own business can be an overwhelming prospect. If the business is a solo venture, you may find yourself having to take on multiple roles and juggle various responsibilities. Whilst this may seem intimidating, it is the perfect opportunity to develop your business knowledge and expand your skillset.
When starting a sustainable business, it is important to go in with a simplified approach. Make sure that you have a clear outline of your business plan (purpose & targets), financial management (funding & costs), sales approach, and branding/marketing strategy – and how sustainability will fit into all of this.
A lot of creativity and resourcefulness is involved in starting and running your own sustainable business. The key is outreach; whether from friends and family members willing to dedicate their spare time to assist on the product end of things, or industry experts willing to offer advice to budding entrepreneurs, it is important to source help where available.
Passion, resilience, and adaptability should be central when setting up your new business.
Have faith in yourself: it is important for every graduate business owner to have faith in themselves and their own abilities. You can do anything you put your mind to!
Avoid comparison: it can be incredibly hard not to compare yourself and your business to others. It takes a lot of time and hard work to build a business - success doesn’t happen overnight! Being a sustainable business will also likely impact the speed at which your business takes off. Making sure all processes involved are environmentally ethical and in line with the business’ sustainability aims will mean that certain processes will take longer than non-sustainable alternatives. The advantage of this, however, is that you will gain the trust of consumers keen to support sustainable endeavours.
Be open: learn from your competitors, rather than be intimidated by them. The success of your business is not reliant on being an instantaneous expert in your field. Rather, success comes about as a result of adaptability and openness to change and improvement. The learning process never stops!
For every business to succeed, building brand awareness is key and usually involves:
Social Media Presence - Instagram, in particular, is an unrivalled tool for free product marketing, building a customer base, and creating a platform via which to sell! Social channels allow you to not only connect with potential consumers, but also enable you to connect with like-minded businesses that match the ethos of your brand. Building these relationships is all part of developing your network and support system, something which is vital when setting up your own business.
Sourcing Promoters - One of the main challenges is finding genuinely sustainable platforms and influencers to promote your business - you can never 100% ensure that the people/platforms you approach to promote your brand share your core principles in sustainability. It is worth setting some time aside to research potential promotors, and to develop relationships via which you may be able to establish free collaborations or contra-deals.
Outreach - Another great way to develop your brand presence is via outreach to industry peers and experts. Spend time researching and reaching out to potential mentors, identifying people who have been in a similar position to yourself and made a success of it. It is also worthwhile reaching out for guidance to people whose current position is your future goal. If done in a professional and respectful manner, there is nothing wrong with taking a chance and reaching out. After all, the worst thing that can happen is that people won’t reply or will say no – but you’d be surprised by how many people do want to help!
Speaking from personal experience, I can vouch for how rewarding running a sustainable business can be. Deciding to become a graduate business owner is not the obvious choice for many, but it seemed like the right fit for me, having graduated during lockdown.
The idea behind my business, Beatrice Bayliss, was to establish a British clothing brand that was sustainable without compromising on style or affordability. This idea came about due to my experiences at university; I wanted to shop at sustainable stores, but most of the sustainable brands available at the time were massively out of my prince range.
The ethos of Beatrice Bayliss is, therefore, to enhance the environment through our eco-friendly design and fabric selections, whilst keeping our prices affordable.
A year on, the brand continues to grow, and is now a fully established business, with a company's house registration, VAT number, and so forth!
Becoming a business owner, especially as a fresh graduate, has been hard work. Starting the business during a global pandemic posed its own challenges – booking models to market branded items, for example, was an impossible task.
Creativity and resourcefulness were my best assets. In place of models, I would get camera-ready friends/family to pose with the products, and get customers to send in photos of themselves wearing branded items.
There have undoubtedly been low moments, but the struggle is forgotten when you achieve a new sale, gain a new follower on social media, or get a review from a happy customer. To put it simply, Beatrice Bayliss has been worth every damn tear!
Change is coming. Within the fashion industry, in particular, there are clear signs of a shift towards sustainability. So, if you’re considering starting your very own sustainable business, the demand has never been higher!
Becoming a graduate business owner takes a lot of ambition, hard work, and resilience. It is an incredibly rewarding venture, and the skills that you gain along the way will place you in a strong position for whatever your future pursuits entail.