A record-breaking 657,790 new businesses were founded in the UK last year but in five years’ time, only half of them will still be trading. Odds like that make you wonder whether it’s worth the risk involved in setting up your own business.
However… there’s a vast number of UK-born entrepreneurs who have faced the same odds and defied them. And there’s nothing to say you won’t be the next one.
Here are four of the most inspirational entrepreneurs the UK has produced, and their advice to the next generation of British business icons.
Sir Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group, which controls over 400 businesses in everything from a record label to space travel.
His story is one of the most famous of all entrepreneurs, having dropped out of school at 16 to self-publish a magazine and gone on to build an estimated fortune of £3.6 billion.
Fun fact: Branson has held several world records, including “Oldest person to kitesurf across the English Channel.”
He says: “The brands that will thrive in coming years are the ones that have a purpose beyond profit.”
What can you learn from him? Really think about the above quote in the context of your own business. Is your business idea designed to earn you money, or does it offer something more? Is there a way you can do both?
After a disastrous family holiday, Justine Roberts came up with the idea of a website for parents to swap family advice. In the years since, Mumsnet has gone on to become a major online resource with 10 million users.
Even though the website generated up to £7.2 million last year alone, Roberts still considers the community aspect of the site to be its most important feature.
Fun fact: Mumsnet’s launch predated Facebook and Twitter by four and six years respectively, making it one of the first major social networks.
She says: “Our aim was, and continues to be, to make parents’ lives easier.”
What can you learn from her? Do you have a life solution that others would benefit from? There could be business potential in it. Sometimes the simplest of ideas, like starting a conversation between parents, can catch on and grow into something special.
Founder of Phones 4 U, Caudwell started with an investment of £25,000 and went on to build an estimated fortune of £1.5 billion.
Caudwell’s first business, Midland Mobile Phones, made a loss every month for the first two years of operation. Changing from a small dealership to a wholesale distributor also changed his fortunes and his turnover grew to £13 million by 1991.
Fun fact: John founded Caudwell Children in 2000, which became a national charity in 2006. It helps improve the lives of disabled children living in Staffordshire and South Cheshire.
He says: “Business is about being the best that you can be, and there are always glowing examples of people that we can all learn from.”
What can you learn from him? Starting a business doesn’t guarantee an immediate income, so assess whether you have enough savings or alternative sources of income before you go all in. Just remember to declare all sources of income to HMRC!
After dropping out of college, Rita Sharma founded WorldWide Travels in her garage. She went on to become the richest female Asian entrepreneur in Britain.
In 1986, Sharma started a travel agency selling business class tickets, but the economic crash forced her to re-evaluate. From this she created a bespoke holiday package company, and went on to found Bestattravel.com.
Fun fact: Sharma leaves her husband Rahul in charge of finances, and doesn’t always know her company’s profits.
She says: “Money is important but it is not going to be the deciding factor in my life.”
What can you learn from her? Adaptability is a key skill for any business owner, as there’s no way to predict how your business will grow. This is why it’s important to invest your efforts into an industry or field you know a lot about. Passion is another key factor, as it drives you to succeed.
There are of course, thousands of successful entrepreneurs across the UK and each one has forged a different path to success. As a business owner, you have the freedom to define your own success and forge your own path – it’s one of the most exciting aspects of being an entrepreneur.
So how will you change the world?
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