View Full Version : have times changed?

23-06-2011, 08:44 PM

I logged in today and was informed I haven't been on the site since Feb 2007! Time flies eh?

6 years ago I was sitting unemployed with an idea. 6 years later I'm sitting unemployed with an idea. However, I did have a good long while in between running a business of the cycle variety which gave me plenty of experience on how and how not to do things. I'll happily elaborate on the situation if asked but until then I'll keep quiet.

The "economic downturn" hit a while ago and my original career as a plasterer took a nose dive. It hasn't recovered. Now I'm in the same position as I was before but help appears easier to get help with the introduction of this new enterprise scheme through the jobcentre. Back when I first started it was the 18-30 grant and taking a stab at the PSYBT board. I got the 18-30 but the PSYBT said no to a loan, they did however furnish me with a further 1000 grant. Now this new scheme is essentially the same give or take, it's 2000 or so over a course of 6 months while still recieving benifits. That's not a new idea but it's nice to know funding is still there.

Now, the meat of the thread. In the last couple of years since the downturn, has it got easier for a small enterprise to get of the ground or is it even harder these days? I ask because I'm looking at getting back into the bike thing on a smaller more specialised scale as cycling numbers have jumped in the last 2 years and with the olympics and commie games coming up it's only going to rise again. Plus although my original business did not suceed, I can tell you exactly what went wrong where and with an extra six years of life on me I'm not as eager to prove myself and self destruct in the process.


23-06-2011, 09:49 PM
Hi Chris.

Thanks very much for sharing your experience.

Unfortunately I can't help you as I started my business for the first time a few months ago...and 6 years ago I wasn't even around.

I would love to hear from you what you think went wrong.

23-06-2011, 10:11 PM
Hi Dan,

There were many things that contributed to the business not being a sucess the first time round, the main one being (and I don't think many people would admit to this) my own arrogance and blinkered approach of "I know what's wrong with the industry and I can fix it". So with that in mind, Cyclists Anonymous at that time failed because of the following:

1. Me. Too keen and not enough actual business experience to weather the down days and to blinkered to other peoples advice because I thought I was in the right all the time.

2. Lack of finance. 2000, which is what I started with is JUST enough to get you set up with a website, stock, tools etc but leaves you very little in the way of working capital. Luckily I was part of a scheme that allowed me to still recieve benifit and work on my business at the same time but still, when the money is gone it's gone.

3. Spreading myself to thin. Offering to many services for the size of my operation. The main problem with this was fleet bikes ie could supply a company with branded bikes direct from China instead of the having to do the Cycle to Work scheme which is complicated at best. Honestly this was more of a service to make my company look more sizable than it was so I could get my foot in the door with their advertising dept who I would be approaching with the idea.

4. Lack of actual sales. My website had plenty of hits, I had plenty of enquiries but very few paying customers. I have no doubt in my mind that if I had a fixed location with good footfall I could have covered my costs. My publicity was good including an article in The Scotsman where the author actually pursued ME to do an interview.

I took a good 3 years away from the trade and just worked doing whatever from linen porter in a hotel to night time security. Luckily these days I have actual career options should business not work out again but I've been wanting to do this since 2001 and with the experience of the last 6 years behind me I'm pretty sure I can sort it out with the right attitude. Shame nobody tells you that when you're starting. Be confident yes, a little arrogant maybe, but when advice is given, use it. Your idea/product might be unique but getting it to market is the same as everything else.

23-06-2011, 11:52 PM
Thanks very much for your insight, Chris. That was very useful.
If you are currently employed, a good idea may be you keep your daily job and restart your business on the side, at least initially. Is that feasible? Maybe you can ask to work less hours.

23-06-2011, 11:56 PM
hi dan,

I'm currently unemployed at the moment. 1 more month and I'll qualify for financial help for setting up as self employed.

James Smith
24-06-2011, 02:11 PM
Hi Chris,

I seem to recall your posts originally but that was a while ago!

In terms of the business environment, i wouldnt say it was easy street but I dont think its all doom and gloom. I have clients doing very well and some doing very badly, but its generally about the client and their business not the rest of the world. The beauty of a small biz is if you are only taking a tiny market share, the overall size of the market is not terribly important. One thing I have noticed is quite a lot of people who are out of work start up on their own (so potentially more competition), and one important issue with selling 'stuff' is to do with internet in that there is one hell of a price war out there in nearly everything and when you are selling 'stuff' its hard to sell at anything other than rock bottom prices. This is quite different to 6-7 years ago when far fewer people shopped online, there use to be big barriers to it. When you mum does it you know its mainstream. What this means from a business point of view is the margins on product are very very tight, so you need to ensure that any on-line element is actually profitable, and if you are a proper shop you dont just act as a free demonstrator and the customers then go and buy it all online for 25% less!

If you can set your niche and work to that then there is no reason you cant succeed. Some of the comments you have made are pretty common things (spread too thin, underfunded, getting flattered by hits on website as opposed to sales) but can be countered by being niche. If I was selling on line i would have a different site for pretty much every item. Ie "Bikepump.com", "Bike LIghts.com", "Bikebrakes.com" etc etc etc and appear as the expert on that single item. Its the best way to get natural search rankings too.

I hope that helps a little....


24-06-2011, 04:53 PM
hi dan,

I'm currently unemployed at the moment. 1 more month and I'll qualify for financial help for setting up as self employed.

With whom is this qualification? Through the Job Centre or another disadvantaged youth type organisation such as the PSYBT?

In answer to your question, Chris, I would say that it has gotten much harder.

Take, for instance, the 1000 that PSYBT gave you - that grant has been reduced to 500.

The competition in certain sectors has grown too.... However, other things have changed - for example the difficulty involved in arranging a sample and a shipment from China of a prototype design of a new shoe has gotten easier.

The economy is doing badly, still, yet there are signs of recovery. There are also signs that the American housing market is going to go into another slump maybe as bad as a reduction in prices of around 25% and this always impacts globally. They want their wages to come into parity with China, I saw Max Keiser sum this up quite nicely on RT yesterday - China's average wage is closer to $2000 a year. So that's not looking great.

There are other new initiatives and things like the website (the name is on tip of tongue but I can't recall it right now) set up by Richard Branson and co which help you out...

Overall though you're looking at higher costs, lower support and grants and worse taxation such as the 20% Vat which whilst in start up you don't charge your customers vat you also don't claim it back - ie - no effect on income but higher costs - ie more difficult to get started.

Website building has become more modular and there is less of a need to have your own CTO to get by, on the other hand, there is more of an expectation of certain standards on the web - such as EV SSL (green bar ssl) and that costs +200. There is less choice available in terms of domain names (other than the useless urls I don't advocate) and due to a down turn in the economy there is actually more people striking out on their own rather than getting into graduate schemes etc.

Times will always change and its all about whether or not you can deploy the new technology and experience now a days, leverage the changes to your advantage.... Or if you'll suffer a death of higher taxes, less grants and tougher competition.

24-06-2011, 04:57 PM
Hi Richard,

It's a self employment scheme through the jobcentre. I'm to old for the PSYBT.

24-06-2011, 05:36 PM
Hey Chris,

Cheers for letting me know, you wouldn't mind sharing your experiences with the Job Centre in my thread about it http://www.shell-livewire.org/forums/showthread.php?t=26659 ? Thanks

24-06-2011, 06:05 PM
Hi Richard,

Replied on other thread. Regarding websites, I got in touch with my old web designer and he still has my old site stored away so it's just a case of re registering my name and sticking the site back up.

24-06-2011, 06:48 PM
Hi Richard,

Replied on other thread. Regarding websites, I got in touch with my old web designer and he still has my old site stored away so it's just a case of re registering my name and sticking the site back up.

Chris, I think a 6-year old website won't be inspired a lot of potential customers.
I think you have to be ready to pay for a make over.

24-06-2011, 06:54 PM
The site will be getting a slight make over but nothing to serious. The old one is viewable here.


It doesn't look to bad imo. I never sold anything through the site, it was purely for information purposes and contact.

24-06-2011, 07:08 PM
Yeah, not too bad...but a slight make over would be surely beneficial.

24-06-2011, 07:11 PM
I agree. But I feel the bones are there for it to work. An update of colours and make it a bit more current looking incorporating things like facebook and twitter. The main issue for me is cost of websites. I'm not prepared to spend more than I need to. I've seen some shocking sites from bigger companies.

04-07-2011, 01:38 PM
I remember you launching at about the same time as me Chris. Welcome back!

What you'll have found in the interim is that setting up in business has become much cheaper thanks to better technology. Look at cloud based systems, crowdsourcing, wordpress and VOIP phone options to name just a few which would have looked truly dire and naff 6 years ago but offer a really professional cost-effective way of working now.

Also people have got better at creating scaleable businesses rather than employing people straight away. So you might use a VA or a Elance worker to do a project rather than doing it yourself or risking having an employee. There's a lot of help out there for new starts if they are prepared to delegate.

I think you'll find it a lot easier to create your brand and get some of that new business which is still out there.

26-07-2011, 08:28 PM
Chris, I think a 6-year old website won't be inspired a lot of potential customers.
I think you have to be ready to pay for a make over.

Dan is right, you need a new website. You can't possibly hope to compete (don't forget your competitors) with something dated like this.

Information only or not, I personally get turned off by websites like this, and far more likely to contact a supplier with a more professional image. I'm a visual person granted, my career makes this pretty obvious, but then lots of people are visually orientated ... if they weren't there wouldn't be so much money ploughed into branding, shop fronts, packaging and more.

We like pretty visually compelling things we human do, and it effects what or where we purchase like it or not.

Not only that, I near guarantee your website isn't up to speed for things like cross browser compatibility, accessibility and so on. A lot of new devices for accessing the Internet came onto the market in the last 6yrs. Does your website work well in them? Have you checked it on an iPhone, Google Chrome and so on?

Hope that helps