Young people today are go-getters, self-starters, and want to be their own boss. In fact, earlier this year Nectar Business found that nearly 40% of 16 to 30-year-olds would rather start their own business than get a job. But what we all assume is that to start your own business, you’ve gotta know how to do a business plan, have experience in finance, and perhaps have spent three years studying it at uni, too. Wrong.

Politics and Economics student Amy Win graduated university in August 2013 and soon after was running a full-time business, having had no experience whatsoever in the field. She graduated with an idea, but because of the strong social element to her business she had access to many funding options – one of these being O2 Think Big.

4Lunch is a social enterprise that holds regular market stalls around Manchester with an aim to increase young people’s confidence and employability through food and enterprise. So from being a graduate to a full-time business owner, we asked Amy how the hell she did it. Read and learn.

1. You’ve gotta have some cash

“You cannot start up with no money in the bank!” she says. “I had some savings from previous part-time work – about 6-8 months worth of money to keep me going – so I decided to take the leap and build my business full-time.”

But Amy admits you have to be sensible and willing to ‘live thriftily’ for the first months of a start-up. “You have to have a strong mentality to forge your own pathway, especially when your peers are doing more traditional jobs.”

Amy is now in the lucky position of being able to pay herself, but she admits it’s not stable. “Its still a bit precarious, and you have to still keep thinking 6 months ahead, because that can be the time-frame organisations take to make decisions, especially in the sector I work in.”

2. Have some sort of plan

Amy found a free online business plan she used to form the basis of her company. “Write some kind of plan, nothing fancy,” she says. “But then go out there and test; Market stall trading was easy to start with and invaluable experience for feedback.”

“Building a website on WordPress hasn’t cost me anything except the domain name. Phoning people up and asking for a meeting to ‘research their organisation’ was also handy as then you can turn it into a sales pitch if the time is right; all of these things involve talking to people. Then you go back home, reflect on what you have heard/seen, and edit the plan.”


3. Have these qualities

The basis of a business start-up isn’t only your knowledge of costs, profits, margins and future plans, but also integral qualities that will keep you afloat at the beginning. “Patience, optimism and belief that there are customers for your product are what you need in the first few months,” Amy said.

“I had done my research and I knew there was a need for cooking and enterprise workshop programmes, it was just a case of finding the organisations with ability to pay. But once people know about you and can deliver the work, its quite easy.”

4. Create marketing material

How do you create your own marketing material when you’re not a marketing whizz is actually a lot easier than it sounds.

  • “Once you get your first customers, you get them to write testimonials about you and record the project through videos and photos, and make this part of your marketing material.
  • “It gives the impression that you are a seasoned business, when in fact, I’ve just started out. Start as you mean to go on, and keep finding ways to shout about what you do.”

5. Accept tough times

It’s easy to see someone starting up their own business and assume everything’s been fine and dandy in the world of entrepreneurship but alas, it’s not like that at all.

“The months between January and March were quite hard as the money was running out and I had yet to secure paid contracts for my workshops. I was even working as a nightclub hostess during these months! Luckily, I had won a couple more high profile grants and I knew that eventually, the hard work researching and forging contacts would pay off.”


6. Ask for help

Amy received help and advice from Manchester Enterprise Centre, Manchester Innovation Centre, Unltd and Thomson Reuters, Business Growth Hub, entrepreneurial friends, and a book called the E Myth. It’s good to find companies local to you or groups and organisations that are willing to help start-ups. But of course funding was a key factor in growing the business, which she received funding from O2 Think Big, Manchester Enterprise Centre, Unltd, Shell Live Wire, School of Social Entrepreneurs.

“I applied to O2′s Think Big and then the Think Bigger project. I wrote the application across about a week and a half on and off. Then had a phone call with O2, and the project got granted a couple of weeks later!”

“Whenever I had a question or concern, I’d just email someone on my contact list who might be able to point me in the right direction. Its not really about what you know and you don’t need to study business to run one, you just need a sensible head. It really is open to anyone with a brain and importantly self-confidence that they can do it. It will only be a case that you’re too afraid to start. There’s free money to give it a go!”

7. Learn on the job

It’s okay to not know what you’re doing 100% all of the time, as Amy explains. “I honestly think I made it up as I went along. Just use your logic and initiative to get things moving. I knew what the mission was: increase employability and confidence through food and market stall trading, and I’d do this through programmes.”

“But the other parts of running a business like creating systems for things only made sense to me once I’d tried it out, then I’d reflect on how I did it, and record the process e.g. how to run a workshop from start to finish.”

8. Accept challenges

Ignore negativity from anyone who doesn’t believe in your business. “When things aren’t going right, which happens a lot, negativity from others will affect your ability to get up and try again.” Amy even admits she’s facing challenges now, with current young people on her programme dealing with numerous health issues and are unable to get into work. “I don’t know exactly how I’m going to overcome this challenge, but I’ll find a way soon,” she says.


If you are reading this thinking “if only I had the funding to turn my idea into an actual, full-time, real-life job”, well, you can. O2 Think Big want to know your ideas, and if they like it, they’ll give you some cash to keep it going! So if you’re 13-25 – honestly, why are you still reading this? CLICK HERE NOW, DO IT, QUICK!

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GTB Meets: Karren Brady