Alison Cork Q&A

The path to success rarely runs smoothly; what is the most common mistake that you see entrepreneurs make with their first business?

I always advise would be entrepreneurs to be a student of markets. It’s important to have a passion but you also have to be sure that there is a demand for your passion. Leave your heart at the door and engage your head.
Starting a business is a daunting prospect for anyone, but especially for someone without a background in numbers. Do you have any advice for someone putting together a business plan for the first time?
It is very important to have a business plan because it acts as a steer to measure the reality of your performance against expectation. To begin with keep it simple and just test the core proposition of demand for your product or service – which means knowing every cost against the revenue.

Entrepreneurship is on the rise and, in an increasingly online world, setting up an ecommerce business has never been easier. How would you suggest standing out from the competition?

It’s very hard to compete with the larger businesses online if you are selling just on price, and the online marketplace is essentially the ultimate price comparison environment. You need to have a USP and in this increasingly impersonal world, that means a brand personality and handwriting which stands out.

Entrepreneurs are always told to have an elevator pitch to hand, but just how important is funding in the early stages of starting a business and what’s the best way to acquire it?

The need for funding depends largely upon your choice of business. If you are offering a service, it is conceivable that you can start with virtually no money, but if you have a product, you will need to acquire stock. In the early stages I would suggest tying to find that with a non pressurising source of finance i.e. own savings or family and friends as opposed to banks or institutions. The key is to hold onto ownership of shares for as long as possible, and give away as little as possible when the time comes.
What would be your biggest piece of advice for female entrepreneurs starting a business?
Female entrepreneurs tend to be more cautious in building their businesses, but equally they enjoy higher rates of success than men. I wouldn’t advise them to change, because being an entrepreneur is a marathon not a sprint. I would however advise them to surround themselves with female role models and emotional support, because when you hit the proverbial wall at Mile 11, that support might be the difference between dropping out and persevering.

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