Home Articles Five mistakes I made so you don’t have to

Five mistakes I made so you don’t have to

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In the business of starting a business, making mistakes is inevitable. When I started working on Boot Armour, I had no idea what I was doing. I’m a graphic designer by trade, but a sports fanatic and ideas man at heart. Hence, coming up with Boot Armour came naturally to me. Getting it off the ground however, did not.

In the business of starting a business, making mistakes is inevitable. When I started working on Boot Armour, I had no idea what I was doing. I’m a graphic designer by trade, but a sports fanatic and ideas man at heart. Hence, coming up with Boot Armour came naturally to me. Getting it off the ground however, did not.

Boot Armour is an elastic and water-resistant sleeve designed to cover kids’ football boots – removing the hindrance of laces and improving kicking ability. Available in three sizes designed to fit kids from four to 16 and in four bright and fun colours (at only $19.95 each); Boot Armour is a low-cost alternative to buying new footy boots when old ones are showing signs of wear and tear.

It took me over four years to get Boot Armour happening with many trials, tribulations and doubters along the way. Here are five mistakes I made in my journey from idea to business so that you don’t have to…

1. Stick to your plan and budget

Don’t get over-excited. It’s easy to get carried away with enthusiasm in the early stages of the process, but it’s important to be very judicious about any reactive decisions. If you have a strategy for implementation and a budget in mind (and if you don’t then get one of both), then be sure to stick to it.

One of the biggest mistakes I made along my journey was getting sucked into Christmas retail fever.

Thinking that I could earn a few quick bucks through Christmas sales, I launched Boot Armour two months earlier than I’d originally planned. To get the product here quicker, I decided to use air freight rather than sea freight (which was not in the original plan and costings). This decision saw me pay double in carriage costs and launch Boot Armour at a time when the market was at its most competitive… Not worth it in the end.

2. Be wary of exchange rates

When working with international suppliers, be smart with your money and err on the side of caution and opportunity with exchange rates.

When I first began talks with the eventual Boot Armour producers, the Aussie-American dollar exchange was really great (I did of course use a far more conservative rate in my costings however). Instead of pouncing on this rate though, I waited until the goods were ready to buy my dollars. Little did I realise that the day when I absolutely had to pay the suppliers in order to get my product here in time (again going back to mistake one), the exchange rate was the worst it had been in a long time. This decision cost me thousands of extra dollars.

In hindsight, I would keep track of exchange rates closely and pounce when they’re great (or even just good) – even if this means only converting my money in parts.

3. Remember, no one will love it the way you do

No one is ever going to be as emotionally invested in your product as you are. Remember that. In the process of starting up, you can often get caught up in loving your idea so much that you expect everyone will.

I’m lucky enough to have a partner who’s a professional marketer with a background in manufacturing and sales. Perfect! When she offered to work with me on Boot Armour (just for the love of course), I took the attitude – ‘She knows this stuff better than me. I’ll let her run with it.’ Of course, given she has her own business to run and tends to prefer relaxing on weekends rather than working on spreadsheets, her attitude was not the same and she didn’t ‘run with it’. This meant no-one was driving Boot Armour forward and it really stalled for a few months there.

When looking to align yourself with people that will help get your idea off the ground, don’t expect others to put in as much as you would. Expect the least and hope for the best.

hat said, applying some distance yourself is a good thing. Remaining objective about your idea can be difficult, but is necessary for it to flourish. Treat your idea as if it’s someone else’s. Like in anything, consuming yourself with one area of your life can begin to affect the rest of it. Take it from me (and my partner).

4. Define your business model and know it well. Really, really well

This is a big one. You must know your product inside out, back to front, straight up and upside down. Whenever you to talk to someone about your idea – be it a friend, family member, other business owners, potential investors etc. – they will inevitably have questions. Lots of questions. And you will need to have all of the answers. At least the answers that suit that day anyway.

I would talk to anyone who would listen about this great idea I had and was often left stumped for words when it came to answering their queries – leaving me red faced and feeling dejected.

My turning point came when I hired a start-up business consultant to help me define my business model. Tristonne Forbes of Business Imaginering was my saving grace. With Tristonne’s help, I was able to work out my financials, capabilities, precise target market and end game.

If you’ve never done this start-up stuff before, get a consultant. I really attribute Tristonne with actually enabling me to get the business off the ground.

5. Don’t be indecisive and trust your gut

Like I said, I’m a graphic designer by trade. The old adage about a builder’s home never being built (or a designer’s business cards never designed) is true. Getting the branding right for Boot Armour took me two years. That’s two years of chopping and changing and redesigning and rebranding and re-everything.

I changed my design so many times that my suppliers in China had to warn me that I’d been given my last chance.

Although choosing the right branding for your product is important, it shouldn’t set your project back as long as it did mine. I would take on everyone’s recommendations and then change my own, previously solid, designs each time someone gave a new perspective. Taking advice into consideration is important, but it’s also important to trust your gut.

Think about who your target market is and how you want your product to be positioned. By always referring back to these two key points, it will make your decisions come easier and quicker.

Good luck!

[blockquote]Rich Harley is a qualified design professional who has worked with the AFL, NRL and A-League. Rich passionately believes junior footy should be inclusive and fun – the inspiration behind the Boot Armour brand.[/blockquote]

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