Nearly everything is possible, so start your business

After two years of pandemic fear and rising awareness around mental well-being, I think it is safe to say that health and wellness is perhaps the defining trend of our time.

Nearly everything is possible

After two years of pandemic fear and rising awareness around mental well-being, I think it is safe to say that health and wellness is perhaps the defining trend of our time. 

Covid-19 showed our vulnerability to nature’s forces and gave us a better appreciation for what it means to have good health. This stretched far beyond the virus itself and bled into our everyday habits. In lockdown, many of us found a new appreciation for the outdoors, for exercise and for our mental health.

It transformed how we work and how we live. And at the heart of it all was a desire to live better and a realisation that health is wealth.

It also demonstrated the art of the possible. Digitisation like we’ve never seen before, business transformation at scale, and record numbers of people starting up.

It was in this context and a room full of budding entrepreneurs that I spoke to Tej Lelvani at the Evening Standard’s recent SME XPO. He’s the CEO of Vitabiotics, the UK’s largest vitamin company, turning over £300 million annually and at the forefront of health innovation.

His motto? “Nearly everything is possible.” And he shared this can-do spirit with our entrepreneurial audience, providing three key take-aways that I wanted to share again here.

Every journey starts with a single step

You can talk about an idea forever but ultimately, success is impossible when it’s in your head. You have to act quickly to solve a gap in the market. And even if the timing does not feel correct, you cannot afford to wait.

Tej cited his wife, Tara, who launched a beauty line during lockdown. It was slow going at first and considered unusual timing, when people were rarely going out and had less need for the products. But by acting quickly in starting up, it meant that Tara was up and running by the time restrictions lifted and had surged ahead of others who may have been waiting for “the right time.”

There will always be a million reasons not to start up. To succeed, you need to act on the reason you should.

Digital opens up doors

Prior to digital marketing, advertising would put significant budgetary pressure on businesses, with little insight into how much return on investment was being gained. Through targeted social media campaigns, businesses today pay a fraction of what they would have needed to over a decade ago, for a more effective and direct advertising strategy  

In fact, the physical retail presence of products can in many cases be a false ideal, often costing as much or more in wasted advertising budgets and unsold stock than the business can make back. Tej learnt this through Vitabiotics’ expansion into US retail, which saw high investment in advertising and poor sales. Ultimately, it was pivoting to online that drove the company’s significant growth and built the brand.

Now is the time to start

We are entering a period of economic hardship for many in this country, but it is often in these most challenging of times that the UK’s entrepreneurial spirit shines through. I launched Startup Britain under the Coalition Government in 2011, which would go on to be a part of the country’s story of renewal post-financial crash – the entrepreneur-led recovery.

Today, the barriers to entry are lower than ever before. Tej highlighted that starting a business in 2022 can be done in no more than a few clicks. By operating online, entrepreneurs can spend more time selling their product direct to consumer and less time going door-to-door selling to physical retailers. And as with advertising, social media can be a tool of self-promotion that with the right strategy, can act as a testbed for how you adapt your offering.

Help to Grow

The universal lessons Tej shared resonated with me not only as an entrepreneur, but in my role as Chair of the Small Business Charter. We operate the Help to Grow: Management course, 90% funded by Government and designed with business schools to give entrepreneurs a way forward. To manage and grow their businesses better.

The course’s curriculum incorporates everything entrepreneurs need to know about building a brand, including understanding what it means to operate in today’s digital world.

Entrepreneurs are the backbone of an economy that is currently in unrest. But it is their get-up-and-go attitude that allows them to achieve everything that’s possible, understand what the world requires and create a legacy that lasts.

Michael Hayman MBE DL
Michael Hayman MBE DL

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