Some things in life are just meant to be – call it fate, the stars aligning or even plain old luck. My business journey is one of those things.
After finishing my A-Levels, I wasn’t sure that university was for me so, to give myself a bit of time and thinking space, I took a gap year where I worked as a television and film runner. But it wasn’t as glamorous as I had perhaps envisioned it to be and so after a year, I decided to take a different route.
I’ve always been quite numerical and methodical, so a career in accountancy took my interest and within a few months I started the AAT qualification.
Funnily enough, one of my oldest school friends, who I hadn’t seen in a few years, Sophie Hughes, was also completing her AAT qualification at the same time. One day in 2006, we bumped into each other and within an hour we were in the pub, glass of wine in hand. As they say, the rest is history! Our business, Mazuma Accountants, was born.
We found a gap in the market for an online subscription accountancy service that provided help for small and micro businesses and sole traders, all managing limited companies. We wanted to create a platform that would take away the stress of accounting for the owners, leaving them with one less thing to worry about.
It’s hard to believe that this year will be our 15th year in business, the time has absolutely flown by. The past decade and a half has taught me so much, not just about business but about myself, too. Of course, there have been some low moments, but there’s also been some incredible highs and for anyone looking to start a business in 2021, all I can say is go for it!
Here a few nuggets of advice that I hope will help your new business endeavour this year.
There’s no good time to start a business
A lot of people might tell you that 2021 is not a good year to start up a business because of the current pandemic and economic climate. Yes, there will be risk involved in setting up a business this year but starting up is never free of risks. Sophie and I set up Mazuma in 2006, and just two years later one of the worst UK recessions hit, and it hit us hard. But we worked through it, sought advice where necessary, and survived. Ever since, we’ve expanded rapidly and built up a client base of more than 2,000 small businesses and sole traders.
Sometimes, risks are worth taking.
Have a plan
Of course, whilst I actively encourage taking risks, it’s important that you do plan for certain eventualities or potential problems. Assess your risk sensibly and make sure you know what your limit is and, if you reach that limit, know it’s time to stop and rethink your ideas.
Regularly revisit your business plans, tweaking as you go along. This will not only mean that you are continuously considering how you can improve and optimise your business, but it will also ensure that you are on track for where you need, and want, to be.
Of course, not all problems your business runs into over its lifetime are avoidable, COVID-19 being a prime example. Having a contingency plan is crucial. Think about how you’re going to keep yourself afloat in harder times and where you can turn if you ever need support, financial or otherwise.
Other people in the same, or similar, boat are the best asset you can have as a business owner. Since we started in the early 2000’s, networking, especially online networking, has boomed on a scale I could have never imagined, and I am always baffled by those who don’t use it to their advantage!
With COVID-19, actual networking has been made a lot harder, but online is still going strong and no matter how much Zoom fatigue you may be feeling, don’t neglect your local business groups on Facebook, Clubhouse or other similar platforms. The advice and insight you can gain could be the making of your business.
Don’t try to fit into a box
When Sophie and I first set up Mazuma, we came up against ageism and stereotypes – issues we certainly weren’t anticipating. We were in our early twenties and because of this, people thought we weren’t qualified to do the job. Additionally, accountants are regularly stereotyped (male, mid-40s is the usual image conjured up) and because we went against the ‘usual’ grain, some people simply didn’t take us seriously.
Nevertheless, the way we looked, or our age didn’t make us any less good at what we did. We pushed back against the naysayers, provided a high-quality service and exceeded all expectations.
If you ever find yourself in a position where you are judged for being different, embrace it. Take being different in your stride, love your uniqueness, use it to your advantage and don’t let people’s ideologies get in the way of your success.
I hope these pointers help and give you the confidence you need to take that next step to becoming a business owner. Here’s to a fantastic year of you, your business and your success. Good luck!
About the author
Lucy Cohen is co-founder of award-winning Mazuma Money, one of the UK’s leading online accountancy platforms for small and micro businesses as well as freelancers and sole traders. She founded the business in 2006 with school friend, Sophie Hughes.
With over 14 years at Mazuma, and 18 years in total in the accountancy industry, Lucy is widely recognised as an industry expert and has been shortlisted for numerous prestigious awards throughout her career.
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