Kelly Hoppen: Five top tips for starting your own business

Ex Dragon’s Den star and celebrated designer Kelly Hoppen MBE, 55, is on a mission to empower Britain’s young entrepreneurs.

Kelly Hoppen very high res

As she fronts the latest Britain’s Top Real Role Model (BTRRM) search, Johanna Bell caught up with her for advice on starting and running your business.

1) Be tenacious and confident at all times

“Becoming a business owner is exciting and extremely rewarding. Seeing your ideas become a successful commercial venture is an amazing achievement. But sometimes, fantastic ideas – the life-blood of any business – can fail along the way, because other people don’t share the same vision and belief.

“Being tenacious is where you win. For me, being tenacious and confident at all times is the difference between having a great idea and making that idea happen.

“To be tenacious is to be honest and strong. When other people don’t support you, you have to find the determination, persistence and sheer obstinacy to hang on in there and shut out negativity.”

2) Success is about teamwork

“Successful business figures often say they couldn’t have achieved what they did without the support of others. I’m a firm believer in continually evolving and learning from people in your business community and your own team.

“Part of this ongoing commitment to grow and evolve is recognising one’s own weaknesses and blind spots. Even when you’re the boss, there is always room for improvement!

“Nobody likes to hear criticism, but I strongly recommend implementing some form of 360-degree review. This way, you can see where the team’s strengths and weaknesses lie and where the big opportunity could be to grow the business. Do you need to look at ways to inject more creativity in the team? Maybe everyone loves selling but the administration side is slipping. Regular analysis of your team’s performance can help you spot potential long-term issues.

“I would advise on a personal level to invest in your own business development. Sign up to courses, attend free networking events. Inspiration is out there in all guises – you just have to learn how to listen to it.”

3) Find yourself a mentor and be a mentor to others:

“I strongly advocate the role of a mentor. To be inspired by someone else’s success puts us on the right path to go that extra distance with our business and operate outside our comfort zone.

“To be a successful businessman or woman, you sometimes need to have a mind-set shift – for example, making the change from being an employee to becoming a leader and decision maker.

“Seeing how a mentor operates and behaves can help you gain the insight into the ‘tweaks’ you might want to make to your own management style. Learn, watch and know that you’ll do it yourself eventually.”

4) Be self-aware:

“By our very nature, business owners tend to thrive a bit on stress and excitement, and take on what seems impossible. That said, we’re our own worst enemy at spotting our ‘under stress signals’ and it usually takes a close family member or colleague to tell us we need to slow down, take a break, or get a positive perspective on things.

“It is critical to know your own behaviour and manage it. It may sound obvious, but remaining in good health both physically and emotionally is essential. You can also look to ‘fix’ some of your traits that might be negative. This could be as simple as reading a book on time management to embarking on some cognitive behavioural therapy sessions to change how your mind is ‘wired’ to react in certain conditions.

“Personally, I’m a huge advocate of exercise, healthy eating and healthy living. I take control of my own physical and mental health and it has a positive impact on my working day.”

5) Believe in yourself and always challenge yourself:

“I’ve always said I was destined to be a designer. I might not have known how to run a business but I believed I could do it and this belief has got me far in business.

“I struggled with dyslexia and bullying growing up but didn’t let that stop me or define me as a person. We all have things to overcome and this makes for an interesting life! You’ll always need to overcome certain challenges with your business anyway, so it’s good to keep your goals at the forefront of mind to guide you through the difficult times.”

* BTRRM, in its fifth year and run by Amway UK, celebrates and promotes entrepreneurialism in Britain and sets out to find the UK’s next big businesswoman or man.

The 2015 theme is ‘passion-preneurs’ and the winner will receive a £5,000 cash-injection into their company as well as on-going support and mentoring from Amway UK.

The deadline for nominations is 11 September. For more information and to enter visit:

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