In the last post, I talked about buying a domain and sort out hosting. This time, I am going to talk about the actual making of a website.
Unless you are a skilled programmer and you really want to make your website from scratch, you will probably end up using one of these website builders.
Website builders have completely changed the world of web design. Gone are the days you are obliged to hire a web designer or that you need to know how to code. These days, even without knowing a single piece of code, you can have your website up and running literally in minutes. (I don’t suggest you to get your website done in minutes, I have seen very bad results from people doing that, I will explain below…)
Among all the most popular website builders, I have experience with these 5 and I will compare them so you have a better idea their pros vs cons and what to expect. I will also includes the websites I made using these options so that you can have a look around at them as examples.
As always, information here on SMOB (Start My Own Business) series is my personal experience and opinion, I am not a professional web developer, my comparison is not technical at all. I am just sharing with you a comparison of my experience as someone who is not technical, which I would imagine is the majority of people who want to start being self employed!
WordPress.com is an open source software, you can make a website paying nothing at all. In principle, you don’t need a buy hosting when you use WordPress.com. Even if you want to use your domain name, you can purchase an option to direct your website to your domain name, there is no need for hosting. WordPress is hosting for you. There is also WordPress.org which is also free but it’s a self hosting option, which I am going to talk about separately in a minute.
- Truly free
- Great with google SEO
- Very versatile, you can change most of the stuff if you know a bit of coding and buy the CSS upgrades
- Not as easy as other website builders because it’s not real time website building where you can just move the objects around on the screen
- Limited options to personalise colours and font if you don’t buy any upgrade
- No customer support if you don’t buy any upgrade, well it’s a FREE software, what do you expect?
My experience with this option includes this blog you are reading right now and the website for my doula service – Little Peanuts.
WordPress.org is different than wordpress.com. It’s the same free software but it’s a self hosting option. That means you will need to purchase hosting.
- Truly free
- Great with google SEO
- Very versatile
- Unlike WordPress.com, this time you can REALLY change EVERYTHING if you know the codes.
- You need to know some codes
- No customer support, this is free and you are expected to know what you are doing, there is some online peer support, but that’s all.
My experience with this option is The Warmest Spot Cat Memorial page that I make.
Squarespace is a real time drag and drop website builder, meaning you can move the objects around on your screen when you are making your website. It’s extremely user friendly and have lots of complex ready-to-go functionality.
- Very easy, you can just move stuff around the screen, you will see in real time how it looks the finish website.
- You can change almost everything on the page – colour, font, etc
- 24/7 customer support, and I have very good experience with them helping me out immediately
- Much more modern, clean and sleek look template
- Lots of complex function ready to go, e.g. e-commerce store, Amazon affiliate link, gallery, testimonial page, etc.
- Probably the most expensive option
My experience with them is my main business website for Maow Care. I need the complex functionality because of the big variety of services I provide. I also need the 24/7 customer service support because Maow Care is my livelihood and cat sitting is a 24/7 on call deal, I cannot afford to have service disruption if something happen to a piece of code on my website!
Weebly is another real time drag and drop website builder, it’s extremely user friendly and I find it gives even more personalisation option than Squarespace. However, they really pissed me off! I will tell you why now.
- Might be even easier than Squarespace, you can just move stuff around the screen, you will see in real time how it looks the finish website.
- You can change almost everything on the page ON SCREEN. With Squarespace you need to go into a separate page to set up these things for a website wide choice, but with Weebly you can just change where you are at, no need to go to another page to do so.
- You can get your website done and ready to go very quickly
- NOT HONEST PRICING! I originally use Weebly to make the Warmest Spot Cat Memorial page, since it’s a charity initiative, I would rather go with a free option. They advertise making a website is free so I spent about an hour to make a draft. When I try to put on live to see how it looks, here they told me I can’t use my own domain name (without weebly.com at the end) unless I join one of the plan. And their pricing starts from 6 months contract!
My experience is I was pissed off by Weebly. I think it’s a very good web builder for people who want to have a website up and running real quick. But the fact that they advertise it as FREE is very dishonest. It’s FREE only if you use THEIR domain. And what’s up with 6 months contract? This day and age, lots of things can happen in 6 months on the internet!
Weebly is another real time drag and drop website builder, it’s extremely user friendly, they have 501 ready-made template for all sort of different businesses, e.g. restaurant, spa, etc. I actually haven’t a real experience with Wix, and I will tell you why in a minute.
- From what I heard, they are the easiest to use among all of these website builders
- 501 ready made templates for all different industries, you can literally be up and running in minutes
- You can change almost everything on the page ON SCREEN.
- You can change almost everything! Sometimes that’s a very bad idea. I married to someone who used to be a graphic designer and he is very pissed off at people who THINKS they know graphic design. There is a reason why the default colours are there because they are the colours that WILL go together. Primary colours are usually bad idea, for example, but since my husband that he sees amateurs doing that, I now see it everywhere…
- The standard template for your industry, e.g. spa, restaurant, health care, etc. can easily look like everyone else. I am not sure it’s very good idea to have a website “off the shelf” so to speak. Please at least change things up a bit and don’t take “making a website in minutes” literally.
- This is the deal breaker for me and that’s why I will never consider using Wix – you cannot change the template unless you redo the whole website!
- Another deal breaker for me is – you cannot export the website in case you want to move to somewhere else in the future!
- Not really free if you want to use your domain name without wix.com at the end
I don’t have an example to show you on Wix because the two deal breakers stop me using them before I even start.
Some of you might have already known, I have started a business recently with a friend. Since the business needs an e-Commerce store, we decide to go with Shopify. Shopify is probably the most popular e-Commerce option out there at the moment.
- Very easy to use
- Very sleek design
- Have all the function you need for an e-Commerce store
- Lots of app that can be added on (with a fee) to use different sophisticated functions, e.g. discount code, pop-up, etc.
- Expensive, no free option
- None of the app is free and the apps are very expensive! We used a discount app once during Black Friday, you know those little stickers you see that say “SALES”? Yes, those! The app costs 18 Euro A MONTH! That’s a bit mental. It does look really good and professional though. If you have a huge sales volume then it’s a small cost to pay but if you are a small e-Commerce store starting off, it’s quite expensive.
My experience with Shopify has been positive so far and LOVA Sling is the website built by Shopify.
I hope this post and the last post will be helpful and have clarify the mystery around making a website. As I said, they are not technical advice, it’s just my experience as someone who don’t know code but have a few businesses to run.
Do you have any experience using any website builders? Share your stories below! I would love to hear from you!
When I am hanging out on SMEs forums or talk to anyone who wants to start a business, I can’t believe there are still people asking such a question…
‘hey, do I need a website?’
If you are still wondering if you need a website, you might have a very wrong idea what running a business entails these days. Check my post again to see if you are cut out for it.
Because honestly, how were you going to promote your business?
Especially for pet sitting business, and I dare say most self employed kind of one person gig, your business will most likely come from online. Because you can’t really afford to buy billboard now, can you?
In fact, I am seriously considering to stop printing flyers! 90% of my customers come from online and the 10% people that read my flyers usually end up to be the wrong kind of people. (I will do a separate post on this subject for a pet sitter specific discussion.)
Ok, now we have settled the fact that you need a website, let me explain what having a website involves. Over the years, a lot of people ask me questions on this subject and seem to get very confused. So basically, it involves:
- Domain name
- The actual website building
Today, we are going to talk about the domain name and hosting, follow my blog so not to miss my future post on website building!
There are actually many ways to get a domain name. You can either get a domain name through a registrar company or through a website builder, e.g. WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, etc. (In my next post, I will talk about website builders and the comparison between them).
So what are the differences?
- More control, your domain is not attached to any website building company, you can switch company whenever you want.
- You are usually allowed to have as many email addresses as you want, depending on your hosting package.
- One more thing to manage (not much to manage to be honest, just direct debit every month!)
- If you are using one of the website builder, it’s one stop shop. (That’s honestly the only advantage, I can’t think of anything else!)
- You are somehow tie down by the website builder, I am not sure how easy it is to take the domain with you to move to another platform if you decide to stop using WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, etc. Please do your research and ask people who have used them and leave them with their domains. I have no experience on that.
- You might be able to have an email address with your domain name. That is a bit mental in my opinion to run a business without an email address with your domain name, but I see SMEs doing that all the time. It looks insanely unprofessional and amateur. It screams – I am not doing this full time.
- Limited options, you can’t get an .ie domain for example.
Disclaimer: I do use website builders, but I don’t buy domains from them, I supply my own domain because I don’t want to be tie down by their package. It costs a few Euro more per month to pay for hosting separately, but I am happy to have my own email address and I can change website builder whenever I want. So it’s possible to take advantage of both options.
If you are in Ireland and you want to get an .ie domain, you can get them through these Accredited Registrars. To get an .ie domain, you are required to send in proof that you need an .ie address. Your business has to be somehow related to Ireland.
If you are to get a .com address, you can get them in many more places. If you google ‘buy a domain’, you will find lots of companies. So how do you know who to choose?
That takes us to the second part of the equation – hosting.
You will probably be hosting your website with whoever you buy the domain name from. You need to check if their hosting packages is suitable to you. Check the price, check what is involved, etc, and there is one very very important thing…
How are their customer support?
I can’t emphasize how important it is because down the line your website is in their hands! If there is something wrong with the server, you need to be able to speak to someone. Do they provide 24/7 support? Do they do phone support? Or just email? Are they on a different time zone?
So what did I do?
I am using Blacknight. I have been doing so for the past 7 years and have been really happy with them. I learnt about them from another SME and really grateful for her recommendation. If you are not in Ireland, you might want to ask around, word of mouth is gold.
They are very easy to deal with. You can get your domain name and hosting within 5 minutes! The process is very simple and their customer service is excellent. Whenever there is a technical problem, they keep people posted, and server has never been down for more than half a day in the past 7 years. Really can’t fault them at all. Even with the cheapest hosting package, you can host up to 30 domains and I create as many email address as I want. I even create an email address for each of my cats! What’s more can I ask for?
So how do you buy a domain name on Blacklight then? Here is a step by step guide:
Step 1. First you can enter your whatever domain name you have in mind to the search bar to see if they are available…
Step 2. Then you can see a full listing of what domain extension is available for you. You can see .ie is available for this example…
Step 3. Then you “add to cart”.
Step 4. And yes, due to Irish regulation, you must submit supporting information if you want an .ie domain, but you can email the documents after checkout. Answer the few questions they ask you here then you click “continue”.
Step 5. They will try to “up-sell” you if you want to buy other domains as well.
Step 6. Choose your hosting package. Personally, I think for most SMEs the Linux Minimus is plenty enough, it costs 4.95 Euro plus VAT, the best 4.95 Euro I have ever spent.
Step 7. “Up selling” you again with other trimmings, choose whatever you think you need.
Step 8. Pay! That’s all.
Step 9. Then you are the owner of your domain! Login to your account to create passwords then you can go ahead and create your email. Once you have an email, you can use that for your website builder. And that brings us to the next post…
Coming up next: Website builders comparison – WordPress vs Squarespace vs Weebly vs Wix vs Shopify.
In the last post of the Start My Own Business (SMOB) series and the last post of the Start My Own Petsitting Business (SMOPB) series, I have talked about naming a business.
So now that you have an idea of a name of your business, the next thing you need to decide is on the type of structure.
In Ireland, you can set up a business as a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company. All of them have pros and cons, and I am going to explain the difference here today.
- Easy to set up, you just need to register with Revenue. You need to fill in the Registration Form TR1. Hand in to the Revenue, that’s all.
- You probably won’t need an accountant, you basically just do your income tax as your business is YOU.
- It will be very difficult to sell your business if you choose to do so one day, because again your business is YOU.
- Tax rate is horrible, you are paying the same tax rate as someone who is an employee but without the PAYE tax credit! On top of that, since you will be paying Class S PRSI, you will not be covered for schemes/benefits like Jobseekers, Illness, Dental and Optical Benefits etc. (This government keeps saying they are supporting SMEs, it’s a joke from my past 7 years of experience as an SME!)
- Your personal asset can be used to pay off creditor if your business fails.
- Same as sole trader, high tax rate, no PAYE tax credit, no social protection, horrible.
- On top of that, partnership is one of the hardest things to do and most of them failed. (Please do further research on business partnership and why they fail, I don’t have a lot of experience on this subject matter. In fact, I have attempted to start businesses with various friends since I was in college and it never took off. The only time a business plan actually took off is this time! And it was the first time I am doing it alone since the very beginning!)
- I would highly recommend you to get a lawyer to draft a proper agreement between partners. Make sure there is very clear guideline as in who does what and what happen if one of them wants to withdraw from the partnership, etc. You are not required to have such agreement. In fact, lots of people don’t have! It might sound crazy but most people just sort of wing it! They assume the partners understand who is supposed to do what. Especially, very often people get into partnership with their friends they assume everything will be ok. Another thing is what if one of the partner is seriously ill or pass away? Who is going to take over his part of business? Seriously, talk to a lawyer and draft a document.
Disclaimer: Some of you might know that I have recently started a business with a friend, but it’s a limited company so this legal problem doesn’t apply. However, it is still a learning curve for me to learn to work with a friend. Friendship and business relationship are two different things!
- Favourable tax rate.
- Your personal asset is protected from business failure.
- Easy to sell your share or pass on to your family if you decide to retire or in case of decease
- Much more complicated to set up, you might need a lawyer unless you are good at handling paperwork. You are required to have one, but you might want one.
- You will probably need an accountant as well because the yearly returns are much more complicated.
- There is a lot more fees when dealing with administrations.
- As a result, it is more expensive to set up because you need to pay for all of the above 3 things.
I personally decided on starting as a sole trader at the end, because I wanted to keep things simple at the time. I wasn’t sure how full on I wanted to get into being self employed, I was still a bit scared. It’s been 7 years, I might have to review this status at some point. Being a limited company might start to give me more advantage at this point.
But you are like the 2009-me, you still had a day job, you weren’t sure if your business idea would take off. I would highly recommend you to just start as a sole trader. Here is a step by step guide what to do.
How to register as a sole trader:
- Download the TR1 form on Revenue website. OR if you are registered with myAccount service or Revenue Online Service (ROS), you should use that to register.
- Done! You are now a business.
- (Optional) If you want to register a business name, please refer to my previous post.
After you have registered as a sole trader, nothing drastic will happen to you, don’t worry. The only difference that will happen to your life is that Revenue will remember to chase you for your tax return once a year! And if at some point, you stop doing your business, you can inform them and they will stop sending you a tax return form every year. So it really is the easiest way to start a business. I highly recommend if you are on the fence about starting a business. It’s so easy to do, you nearly have nothing to lose. (Well, time and 20 Euro if you register a business name…)
Do you have any question regarding starting a business? Please feel free to be in touch or leave a comment below. I will try my best to answer.
Coming up next: How to register a domain name?
It goes without saying having a good business name is extremely important for a business. My business name Maow Care came to me because ‘maow’ is nickname my husband has been calling me for many years, which means ‘cat’ in Chinese…
So I thought Maow Care sounds like me. Notice I did add a ‘w’ at the end of just ‘Mao’ due to obvious reasons…
When I first got the idea of a name, I have asked one of the marketing consultants in the Start Your Own Business course by Dublin Enterprise Board. He thought ‘Meow Care’ would have been a better name. But my gut feeling told me I needed something a bit different, something almost a little strange so people would remember me. ‘Meow’ sounds too common. After using Maow Care for 5 years, I believe I was right. Because now I could use the word ‘Maow’ in a lot of word play in any marketing campaigns, e.g. Hungry Maow Cat Food Collection, Maow Of The Year competition, MAOW! Newsletter, etc.
I was lucky to have inspiration for (what I believe) a great name to come to me naturally, so I honestly don’t have an ultimate solution for you to pick a winner business name but I do have a few tips to help you to possibly get there.
1. Name generator
I didn’t use this, maybe I should have. But I didn’t know about name generator at the time. It probably won’t pop out a great name that sounds like a billion dollar, but it might help the brainstorming process. Here are a few of them.
2. Domain name
Domain name is HUGELY important when considering a business name these days. Make sure your business name has its domain name available before you go out and register your business name! It will be utterly confusing if you have your business name and your domain name spell differently. So PLEASE check the domain name is available before you finalise your business name.
3. Google search friendly
Make sure to do a quick google search to see what brings up if you type in your business name. If your business name brings up weird association, you might want to avoid.
4. Existing name in other countries
The google search should also help you to find out if the business name you have in mind have already been used in other countries. You will want to avoid that. Even though it’s not technically illegal to use the same name in another country, but you don’t want to confuse your future customers, so I would suggest to avoid that.
5. Ask friends for opinion
After doing all of the above, your business name is probably ok to go, but please ask your friends and family around you. The thing is, sometimes you might not notice, but someone might be able to spot something terribly wrong with your name that you didn’t notice before! Look at these people, I think they didn’t ask their friends and family around them…
6. Additional reading
You might want to read this post about how to pick a great business name. This post is pretty good too.
So now you are very happy with your business name and you want to go ahead and use it, what’s next?
1. Register your business name
If you decide to be a sole trader and just wanted a trade name instead of registering a company, go here to Company Registration Office to register your business name. Click 2. Register a business name. It costs you 20 Euro if you do that online and you will receive a certificate in 1 week time. (We will talk about the difference between sole trader, partnership and company in the next post, just bare with me for now.)
I got asked regularly if it is necessary to register your business name officially. It’s not compulsory but I would recommend you to do that. Armed with the business name certificate, you can then open a bank account using the ‘trade name’. It will be handy in the future when you start receiving payment from customers. Some people might prefer to write you a cheque in your business name than your own name.
It takes 5 minutes and cost 20 Euros, you really have very little to lose. Plus, it makes you look so much more professional to have an official business name, it gives your customers more confidence that you are a serious business.
Once you got your business name certificate, you can then think of a logo. I can’t emphasize that enough but getting a great logo is not money you want to save. You can save on other stuff later (e.g. I do my own accounting), but a logo is your identity, you don’t want to go into a run of the mill print shop to get a whatever logo. Please spend time and money on getting a great logo. You don’t go out on the street not dress properly, why would you want your business to be poorly presented by a crappy logo? Again, make sure to check with your friends and family around you to make sure there is nothing terribly wrong about your logo like these people.
Are you a business owner? How did your business name come to you? Do you have any question about registering a business name? Leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you.
Back in the days when I attended the fabulous Start Your Own Business course by Dublin Enterprise Board, we talked about the role of family and friends for an SME owner.
My first reaction was, ‘what? I don’t need help from them, I don’t want to bother them or rely on them. I will do everything myself and I will be FINE!’
I was naïve.
Let’s get this out of the way. You ARE going to bother them, period.
I once heard someone said ‘you need to get 20 hours free work from your family when you first start your business’. It sounds shocking but guess what, I actually have to agree with this person. I lost count of the number of hours I have to ask Cat Man to help me with this and that. Cat Man designed my logo, my website, my flyers, my business card; Cat Man greets my customer when they dropped by my house to pick up key or drop off key; Cat Man answers the phone when I am in the bathroom; Cat Man cooks dinner when I am out and about coming home late; Cat Man helps at the Expo if I am doing one; Cat Man babysits when I am out meeting a customer; the list goes on and on.
Even though you might not ask them a direct question – ‘can you do this and that for me please…?’ You are still bothering them indirectly, that takes us to…
As we have talked about earlier in the series, being self employed usually involved long working hours, and even when you are not actually doing something, you are thinking about it, at least during the startup process. Trust me, making some funny faces during one of these quiet brainstorming session in the sitting room while the rest of your family are chatting away in front of the TV is bothering them. Even though it’s not your fault and you don’t do it intentionally. I lost track of how many times I wasn’t listening to Cat Man when he was telling me something. I got distracted because some new ideas just come into my head about the new marketing campaign, etc. And of course working 7 days a week IS going to affect your family life. You will be missing a lot of the family gathering or being late. I have cancelled on my friends so many times I suspect some of them stop inviting me altogether…
Having understanding family goes a long way for someone who is just starting out. I have seen quite a few SMEs around fell apart the moment the family starts to get upset. Especially if everyone is already on a very short fuse with you stretching the household financially to accommodate your adventure. If your family is not happy with you, it will also put tremendous amount of stress to yourself on top of the stress of starting up.
Make sure to talk to your immediate family thoroughly before starting your business. Make sure they understand and they are ok that you will be ‘absent’ for a while and you will be under a lot of stress. Make sure they can put up with you!
Home office hour
The other thing is, if you are just starting out, you might be working from home. Sometimes it could be difficult to get your family to respect your ‘office hour’ while all they see is you staring at the computer screen all day. Make sure to talk to them to get them understand and respect your office hour. You might need to close yourself in the office or bedroom so that they ‘get’ you are working. You might have to get out of the house and go to a pub or café in order to get some undisturbed office hours. There are also other resources for getting low-cost office space in Dublin. I will touch on that subject matter in the coming weeks.
If you are quitting your current job to start your own business, the obvious thing is you need to talk to your spouse about the new financial situation. I have once seen a lady who closed down her business after 2 months because her partner expected her to make the same contribution to the household as before and she just couldn’t manage.
So what’s the solution to all of these then? The answer is, talk to your family! I can’t emphasize this enough, you REALLY need to get everyone on board before you even start. If you have grown children, they will probably be drafted into ‘free staff’ at one point or the other. Trust me, starting your own business is a collective family effort, don’t underestimate how much it will affect your family life.
Coming up next: In the next post, I will address another common start-up question – when should I quit my job? Follow my blog so you don’t miss it when it goes up – “Full time vs part time?”
I started my own business on 2009. Since then, I am asked regularly how I did it. I notice I keep repeating myself answering these questions (and many others FAQs), I decided to start a series here to answer all of them ONCE AND FOR ALL! (A full list of posts on this series is here).
When I tell people what I do for a living, it usually draws funny reaction. I can’t blame them, what I do is a bit…er, let’s call it ‘non-main-stream’. And people always like to ask me ‘how did you get this business idea?’
Well, the answer is actually pretty simple. I needed the service myself! I got the idea to start a cat sitting business at around 2008-holiday season. My mum suddenly shown up in Paris to see my sister over Christmas, so my husband and I decided to join them for New Year. We have arrived to Dublin only a year before that, we didn’t have many friends at that time so we were in need to find a cat sitting service that can help us with the cats when we were away. I called a few companies out there. And not surprisingly, there were all fully booked due to holiday season and such a short notice to book them. So I jokingly said to my husband, ‘geez! I could have started my own cat sitting business! There is demand out there! I can’t be the only foreigners who need to go somewhere to see mom, right?’
Moral of the story:
1. You need to find a business idea that you are passionate about.
The chance is, once you are self-employed, you will have to work your ass off 14 hours day, 7 days a week. If you don’t like the business you are in, trust me, you won’t be able to do it. I am writing this sentence at 0:38am, I am still waiting for my takeaway to arrive, eh no, I haven’t had my dinner yet. See what I mean? Along the same line, maybe I am biased but I believe being a sole trader is the best way to go when you are running a SME. It’s very very difficult to make sure every single partner put as much effort and being as passionate as you are. Plus, partnership tends to have a lot of legal issue. (We will get to that later on when we talk about Business Structure) In my case, I love cats. And more importantly, I love talking with cat people who share the same passion. So make sure your business idea is something you will not get sick of talking about.
2. Get into a business that you know about
If you watch Gordon Ramsey Kitchen’s Nightmare, you will see a pattern. Those ‘nightmare’ consists of A LOT of people who enjoy the romantic notion of starting a restaurant but know very little about running a restaurant.
I am pretty sure they imagine they will be whirling around on the restaurant floor smiling, sexy and looking blissfully like a successful restaurateur, having amusing chat with different customers while the waiters at the background elegantly serve delicious food to happy and even sexier customers. Problem is most of these people DO NOT KNOW ANYTHING about catering!!! Not only do most of these ‘nightmare’ candidates don’t know about how to cook, they generally have no experience to run any business at all! They don’t know how to manage their finance, source suppliers (I remember one of the candidate shop her food at Tesco for her restaurant…), manage staff. And a lot of them have absolutely no experience whatsoever about CUSTOMER SERVICE! The idea that someone who knows absolutely nothing about customer service or cooking thinks they can run a restaurant is beyond me. Stick to what you know, people! Stick to what you know! In my case, I am a foreigner who is in need of cat sitting service, and I know other cat people out there who needs this service.
3. Think small
I do believe we are experiencing a new era in the history of economics. For the past few decades, we have been concentrating on how to make bigger companies. But I think we have reached a stage when people start to miss small businesses that provide personal service. So think small. If you just want to make a full time salary, you don’t need to have a million dollar business plan. You are not starting the next General Electric. That’s another reason why I think it really is the best time to start a business, because if you start small, that takes us to the next point…
4. You don’t need a lot of money
Thanks to technology, you don’t actually need a lot of money to start a small business these days. I started my business with no loan, no particular big saving spree. I just spend money on buying a domain and paying for a company name, instead of buying a pair of shoes. Trust me, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to start up. Sacrifice some of your ‘happy money’ and use them on your new hobby – starting a new business that is.
As I mentioned in my introduction, I see Ireland as a place full of business opportunities. Here are a few examples of business idea inspired by what I see overseas that I think would work in Dublin.
Mobile beautician, mobile pet groomer, mobile anything to be honest…
We have enough population in Dublin to support any mobile business. Also thanks to the fact that Dublin is so small, you can easily cover the whole city and have a substantial client base. In most capital cities in the world, mobile services have been blooming for the past two decades due to the time starve nature of the big city lifestyle. The trend hasn’t quite arrived to Dublin yet, so I see there are lots of potential.
Nappy laundry service, babysitting agent, any other businesses that deals with babies…
We have the highest birth rate in Ireland. Yet there is a lack of modern life style baby service available in Dublin. A quick check on Google shows a full page of baby laundry service in London and New York. In case you don’t know this yet, these companies came once a week (or however often you want) and pick up your baby clothes, wash them and re-deliver to your home the week after. I would love to have this service in Dublin! I need them!
Babysitting agent is another business we are in desperate need and we don’t have in Dublin. When I was a student in Paris, I used to register with a babysitting agent. Whenever there are parents who want to go out for the night, they call these agents, the agents will send in a sitter from their database to go straight to these people’s home. All sitters have to go through training and be insured, and they only accept university students. Parents are happy to be able to maintain their pre-parenting lifestyle and be able to say yes to all lovely dinner parties, students are happy to get work, and these agents are making a fortune.
Quality restaurant that serve REAL foreign cuisine
I am sick of people telling me yet again there are plenty of Chinese restaurants in Dublin. No there aren’t. Some of you do know most of the Chinese ‘restaurants’ are not serving authentic Chinese food and most of them got their sauce from the wholesaler and just put them together to make a dish (I said putting them together because I don’t think there is much ‘cooking’ involved).
Also, there is a lack of authentic cuisine from other culture as well. I am still in search of an authentic Thai restaurant. Heck, I am forever in search of good honest-to-goodness Irish food cooked by Irish mommies!
And I am not talking about fancy-pants restaurant with costume-wearing-waiters, I am talking about just honest affordable cooking. There is a surge of Asian Bubble Tea shops in Dublin, which is a good sign. But we need more! If you are a foreigners living in Ireland just like myself, it’s time to sit down to think about your favourite home-cooked food and see if it is possible to work out a business plan around it.
A better and more modern version of an existing business idea
You don’t necessarily need to invent a new business to be successful. A lot of existing business idea in Ireland is due to have a big makeover. You can just pick an existing business idea and make it better, and trust me, sometimes it’s not even that difficult.
For example, it’s so difficult to find companies, big and small, in this country that have a good website. If there is a company who provides a good website with lots of information so that I know exactly what question to ask when I call them, I tend to choose such company other its competitors. Let’s use the above authentic cuisine as an idea. It would be nice that such business also have a cute website with most up-to-date menu and interactive social media page to go along with it. There are way too many businesses in this country who either don’t have website or don’t have Facebook page. If you start a business that has everything, you definitely have an advantage over your customer. Look, I am not the only company who provides pet sitting service in Dublin, but I am pretty sure I have one of the best websites among others. In fact, a lot of sitters don’t even have a website yet. How can your customer find out about you or even know your existence without a website? Also, a lot of people wants to look for the basic information before even giving you a call. Everyone is busy these days, they want to screen through things before they waste time on making a 5 minute phone call.
Another thing that’s so easy to do is provide better customer service. I hear you going ‘duh!’ Hear me out. Maybe because I am Asian, I have different standard of customer service. Most of the customer service experience I have encountered in Ireland, and in Europe in general, are pretty crappy. Just to name a few things that piss me off to no-end: don’t listen to my question and tell me to call someone else, saying they will call me back and never do, never ever answer email, very restricted office hour, etc. Providing good customer service is not only for your customer actually, it’s about helping you to make more money. If your customers are pissed off, how are you going to make it? So providing good customer service is more for you really.
Ok, my case. I answer phone call 24 hours a day (ok, I am workaholic and my business nature is a bit different, you don’t have to do that, but you got the message); I generally answer people’s text immediately except if I am in a meeting; I reply email within an hour; if people leave a message, I DO get back them as soon as I hear them; if I don’t have a solution for their problem immediately I will tell them when I will get back to them and I WILL get back to them and if I still have yet a solution then I will keep them update and tell them I tried and am still looking for a solution; I will never EVER leave someone hanging around wondering what’s happening. It all sounds very simple and common sense, isn’t it? But the majority of businesses in Ireland don’t do any of the above! So my bet is, if you can just do that, you will stand out from the crowd already and people will keep coming back to you. Depending on your business nature, but if you have a few dozen of repeat customer, the chance is you have just made a full time salary all by yourself!
My handyman is another person I know of who will get back to customers immediately. Every time I mentioned that to anyone around me, they ALL want his number immediately! See? He doesn’t even need a website or do any marketing to be honest. Just providing good customer service is enough in itself for him to get a full time wage.
Here are some examples of innovative business idea around me:
1. DIY Divorce Ltd
2. Virtual Office Worx
There are lots of business opportunities in Ireland and it’s very easy to start a business here. If you are like me and start a business with very low setup cost, you have next to nothing to lose. Even if it doesn’t work, it will be a wonderful learning experience for you to know what you can do and what you can’t do in a business. So sit down and come up with a business idea and have a go. There is nothing stopping you.