Launching a start-up? 4 things you can’t afford to get wrong

There are many businesses thriving post-lockdown but to be a successful entrepreneur you need to do some serious prep. Brand expert Aarti Parmar knows how to avoid the classic pre-launch mistakes many startups make

launching a start-up

There are many businesses thriving post-lockdown but to be a successful entrepreneur you need to do some serious prep. Brand expert Aarti Parmar knows how to avoid the classic pre-launch mistakes many startups make

We’ve heard a lot about the businesses that have closed their doors in the last few months - but what of the ones that are thriving? Sectors such as nutrition, fitness, wellbeing, entertaining, education, DIY and locally-produced goods - things that have become crucial to our lives since the start of the pandemic - have seen a huge uptick in sales - and when launching a start-up, it's good to hear the good news not just the gloomy headlines.

And, says brand expert and coach Aarti Parmar, who’s worked with local and international businesses of all sizes, tech is bigger than ever: 'Digital solutions like apps, online learning and digital versions of in-person experiences are huge. Anything that enhances our lives, careers, wellbeing and social connection without having to move from our living room is what people are buying right now.'

Having run a creative agency in Malaysia for 10 years, working with blue chip organisations across multiple sectors as a brand consultant and brand designer, in the UK Aarti’s since worked with more than 150 solopreneurs and small to medium-sized enterprises to help create meaningful brands.

'Your brand is what you are known for and getting it wrong can cost you dearly. Some entrepreneurs are so excited to be launching a start-up that they get their logo and website designed mega-fast, mega-cheaply, without too much thought. A year later they find themselves lost and not making enough sales because no one really understands or values what they stand for,' she says. 'A weak brand holds your business back.'

launching a start-up

Brand expert Aarti Parmar

Launching a start-up: how to get it right 

1. Define your purpose

'Your purpose is the key reason your brand exists, beyond just generating profit. Being aware of the ‘why’ behind your brand provides a foundation on which you can build and grow the rest of your business. A lack of purpose will leave you lost and direction-less, so don’t even think of skipping this bit - I know this because I’ve been there!' says Parmar. Many brands don’t mention what they sell in their marketing (think: Dove, Nike), but use their brands to empower. 'Ask yourself these questions: What impact do I want to create through my business? What does my brand want to be known for? What problems am I solving?”

2. Nail your vision

Your vision is what you’re working towards - think goals and benchmarks. What do you see your brand being, achieving, creating in the coming years? Are you thinking in terms of huge international teams, or staying small but focussed? Do you plan on launching an e-commerce or running events?

'An understanding of the scope of your ambitions will allow you to reverse engineer your approach,' says Parmar. 'If your business has no vision it feels like you are going round in circles, ultimately wasting your time and resources.'

Get focussed by asking yourself the following: Where do I see my business in 1, 3 and 5 years time? What does growth in my business mean to me? For example, revenue, team, impact, locations. What kind of products or services do I want to be delivering, eg workshops, podcasts, book, talks, etc. In what order does this need to happen?

3. Understand your market

Who needs what you are selling? Write down all the challenges your potential target audience is facing without your product or service. Then make a list of all of the outcomes people will have as a result of buying from you. 'Your business is the vehicle that takes them from problem to solution. Understanding who these people are and what really matters to them will help you target them with your brand, using the right message, look and feel,' says Parmar.

4. Create your brand personality

Your brand’s personality will help to differentiate you and make your business unique, so give it a set of human characteristics that your customers can relate to. If your business was an individual what kind of characteristics and traits would it have? List six to eight characteristics, such as fun, supportive, empathetic, knowledgeable and so on. Now you have clarity, the look and feel of your brand will be much easier to create through your logo, website, message and marketing.

'Be consistent with getting your values and traits across on all platforms and channels,' advises Parmar. 'That consistency creates visibility, giving you credibility - and that credibility helps to become part of your income generator.'

* To gain a deeper understanding go to for Parmar’s online Brand Your Business course

Maria Coole

Maria Coole is a contributing editor on Marie Claire.

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