Starting a business from scratch — Busting 7 mistakes and misconceptions

Lewis Bowen is a 2011 graduate of SBC Award-holder Sheffield Business School, where he is an entrepreneur-in-residence, and the founder of AIR.

AIR provides affordable, sustainable fuel products that reduce the number of deaths brought about by indoor air pollution and house fires in the developing world. Their flagship product, LightMe, is one of the world’s safest real flame candles. AIR places the environment at the core of it's business model too; for every product sold, the company donates funds to sustainable projects.

We asked Lewis what he considered key to starting a new business from scratch and attaining long-lasting success. He gave us seven myths that he thinks puts potential entrepreneurs off, and that he'd like to see busted.

  1. Starting a business will get you rich quick. "It will take years of blood, sweat and tears to get your business making a good income. Anyone can have an idea, so implementation is key. You need to be prepared for huge social and financial sacrifices."
  2. No means never. "Most people give up at the first hurdle of being told no by a potential customer, investor or key stakeholder. Take time to understand why your offering was rejected and learn how to fine-tune your products and services to get a yes the next time."
  3. I don’t have the right skills or knowledge to get my idea off the ground. "You are surrounded by a world of help. Universities have enormous networks and resources available, from market data and packaging design to video production and accountancy."
  4. Failure is bad. "A central part of starting a business is trying to do things differently to everybody else. Pushing boundaries and making changes will mean that failure will happen — it's part of the cycle. Learn from it, but don’t be defeated by it."
  5. People won't respect me because of my age. "I started AIR when I was 23. I was definitely nervous about speaking to older, more experienced people, but the fact is that age doesn’t really matter. If you are passionate, have a good grasp of your business and respect others, people will buy into you and your ideas."
  6. I will be on my own. "Starting a business can often mean you’re out on your own. So when you start, surround yourself with a good support network that you can turn to. Find a mentor and don’t be afraid to ask for help."
  7. I haven’t got the money to start a business. "Nobody does (unless you are very lucky!), so you have to be entrepreneurial. Use every resource you have to get as much as you can. You will be amazed what a few cheeky requests can get you — AIR secured a free full page spread in The Times this way!"

Lewis's advice is a timely reminder that young and aspiring entrepreneurs needn't go it alone, and that success can often come from knowing where to look for support and the knowledge that can give them the confidence they need to succeed.

Take a look at our list of SBC Award-holding schools to see who you might be able to use to get your great ideas off the ground, and our Success Stories on how other entrepreneurs have used local business schools to their advantage.

Our thanks to Lewis Bowen, Managing Director, AIR, and Entrepreneur in Residence, Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University, for this article.