If you start a business, you are going to make mistakes. As Samuel Beckett said, “Try. Make mistakes. Try again. Make better mistakes.” I’ve had a few goes at starting a business, and here are some of the mistakes I’ve made. Listen and learn: you can make similar mistakes in your own business.
My Year 10 business: Christmas was coming up in a few months, and I needed spending money. How to make some? Everyone in my family had an iPhone. And what does every owner of an iPhone need? Accessories! Eureka! I would buy iPhone accessories wholesale and sell them retail. I used my formidable graphic design skills (so I told myself) to create a simple box design, which I called the iBox. A local printer printed a hundred or so on white card for me. I filled each box with a mouth-watering array of iPhone accessories: a metre-long charging cable, a car charger, a charging battery, a basic headset, a connector for multiple headsets (five headsets listening to one iPhone!) and, swankiest of all, a pair of special gloves that lets you operate the touch-screen and keep your hands warm too!
I sold the iBoxes at the local Christmas Fayres for £35 each. “The perfect Christmas gift for any iPhone owner!” I sold out. £2000 profit for a Year 10 kid: pretty good, right?
The mistake I made was: the goods were crap quality. I bought the accessories over the Net for pennies from obscure Chinese wholesalers, the lowest-end I could find. My family (who got iBoxes for Christmas) told me that the headsets had terrible sound, the batteries held only half a full charge, and the charging cables broke in a week. Luckily, at the Christmas Fayres I hadn’t given my customers my name and number, so nobody came back to complain.
The Lesson: Buy quality parts and goods. Don’t save money by buying the cheapest stuff you can find. Give your customers service that will make them recommend you.
MyYear 12 business: buying and selling used iPhones. I had been repairing friends’ iPhones for a while, and I knew a lot about them. I discovered that I could buy used phones on eBay and Gumtree, and sell them again for a few pounds more.
The mistake I made was: I got greedy. I bought too many phones, more than I could easily sell. And some of them were in worse condition than promised, or had a dodgy history, so I was stuck with them. I also had the bright idea of arranging to buy a phone, arranging to sell it to someone else for a little profit, and then getting the seller to post the phone directly to the buyer without my having to handle the phone at all. But this ran into problems when the phone was not received as promised, or the phone was in worse condition than expected. I lost a bunch and got banned from PayPal.
The Lesson: Be careful. Be transparent. If you get greedy and careless, someone else can easily rip you off, and you can get stuck with useless inventory.
My University business: running the FixMyCrack phone and laptop repair service. I took my knowledge and set of tools toBristol University and continued fixing phones during my Astrophysics degree studies, trading as Brisfix. I ran a stall in the Student Union to do repairs. My customer base grew, and I realised that student phone repair was a successful business model that could be replicated at other universities. I changed the name “Brisfix” to a name that could be used at any university, and thus “FixMyCrack” was born.
The mistake I made was: Actually, there hasn’t been a mistake yet. FixMyCrack is going great! We have five student employees doing repairs at Bristol and Exeter Universities and UWE. Our mission statement is “For students, by students: give students a safe, reliable, and affordable way to keep connected.”
We think we’re remarkable, and so does the University of Bristol! We won funding and general bragging rights from the New Enterprise Competition 2020 which supports new and great ideas!
We use bicycles to get around, recycle all our parts, and plant a tree for each phone repair, so you can save the environment while you save your phone! FixMyCrack links professional, fully trained student engineers straight to the customer, without using a storefront, so we save on emissions, and can keep our costs low.
We’re trying to stop students getting ripped off by local phone repair shops, which have a bad reputation for overcharging students for low quality repairs. There is also the risk of data harvesting when you trust your unlocked phone to a stranger for a day.
We started a business that offers the same service but in amore efficient and cost-effective way.
TheLesson: Strive every day to please your customers. Offer them a service that is reliable, economical, fast and safe. They will love you for it!
About the Writer:
Casey started the whole shebang while studying Astrophysics at the University of Bristol. Starting out just repairing phones for friends, the need for a service which didn't totally suck became apparent. You can contact Casey on firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.