Inside the mind of an entrepreneur | Commercial awareness on The Gateway

Inside the mind of an entrepreneur

Mustafa Khalifa, founder of a luxury watch company, gives us his thoughts on setting up a business

Whenever you do something, it's always a good idea to know why you're doing it. For example, you go to university because you believe it'll give you better prospects in the future. And you eat and sleep because your body wouldn't perform otherwise.

So if you want to start your own business, it's important to know why you're doing it too. Are you trying to impress that girl/boy in your class? Do you want to be self-employed and have plenty of freedom in your career? Or perhaps you want to be featured in Forbes magazine?

Enjoy it

Whatever your reason is, and whatever you want the end result to be, it's valid. But enjoying the process should be part of it. If your eyes are only on the finishing line, you may be missing the whole point. Setting up a new business is all about the journey, not the goal.

You'll struggle to make it if you're only interested in the end result. For example, most of those people who audition for The X Factor never make it. They love the idea of being a pop star, but the majority of them aren't willing to put in the time, effort and focus necessary to perfect their craft. It's the same with entrepreneurship.

You need to enjoy those long months or years of late-night coding, cold-calling people to talk about your product, or figuring out how taxes, VAT and custom rules apply to you. It's the only way you'll be able to keep going when you've nearly had enough and are on the verge of giving up. This is what I've learnt so far from starting my first company, Boxer Watches.

Failure is fine

Boxer Watches isn't where I want it to be just yet. In fact, I'm nowhere near there. And I'd be lying if I said I haven't doubted myself over and over again, and questioned all the time, money and effort I've been putting into this venture of mine. But I have realised that even if I hadn't got the money I've invested back (which I have done thankfully, and then some) or if it never fully takes off, it still won't be a waste in my eyes. Because I know why I started Boxer Watches in the first place. It was because setting up my own business was something I'd always wanted to do, and I knew at some point I'd better get up and do something about it.

If it had been, or if it turns out to be, a big, fat failure, then that's fine. At least I can say I tried, and will have something interesting to put down on my CV that will differentiate me from most of my peers. I'll have some stories to share when I get old, when I can talk about that time I started a new men's watch brand for no real reason other than to see if it could be done (it can). The process itself excited me.

I'm not always totally focused and committed to Boxer Watches. Life doesn't work like that. I get sidetracked sometimes, and lose my way more than just occasionally. But the ride has been fun so far and I don't mind going down this road some more. I don't know exactly what or where my destination will be. And that's OK because for me Boxer Watches is a path I've chosen to take rather than a goal.

Want to start your own business?

Here are the steps Mustafa took - and that you could take too

Think of a product you'd like to make your own

It's much easier if it's one you'd use yourself as that way you'll already have great insights into your target market and potential customers. Clothing can be a good place to start as it's low-cost to produce and straightforward to brand. Check out alibaba.com for ideas - it's the eBay of the business-to-business (B2B) marketplace.

Get an online store set up

...so you have somewhere to showcase your product to the world. A simple and fun e-commerce solutions website is shopify.com

Set up a PayPal account for your business

It makes it easier to keep the cash coming in.

Consider using a "dropshipper"

These companies will store your stock and ship it out to your customers on your behalf when orders come in. I use shipwire.com, and their services have been very handy. It means I don't have to personally hold stock or be tied down to any one place.

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