5 invaluable small business tips from a Dragons’ Den star

Nov 13 2019, 7:38 am

Starting your own business isn’t an easy task. You’re willingly moving away from the security of a steady, regular income, and the benefits that come with working for someone else.

But entrepreneurship invites a whole other level of freedom and excitement that you don’t experience in a typical nine-to-five job. If you’re wondering where the ideal location to start a business is, you’re already living there — Canada was ranked the third-best place in the world to start your own company, according to a report by StartupBlink.

We were curious to know the recipe for success that small businesses can follow, so we looked to fashion designer, entrepreneur, and Dragons’ Den star, Joe Mimran. He’s the creative genius behind brands Club Monaco and Joe Fresh, as well as an investor in Canadian small businesses. Most recently, he partnered with Staples Canada to be their lead mentor for the This Is How I Grow My Business Contest. Staples Canada recently transformed into The Working and Learning Company, becoming a go-to destination for small business owners and entrepreneurs across Canada. This is why Mimran and Staples became natural partners.

The best piece of career advice Mimran ever received? “Have confidence in yourself and don’t be afraid to fail,” Mimran tells Daily Hive. With this in mind, we asked him to share his top tips for small businesses.

Make sure your product services a need

SenseTech Solutions/Staples Canada

Ever have a ‘lightbulb moment’ where you’re convinced that your idea can be transformed into a profitable business? This could be anything from a tempura food truck concept to an app that makes everyday tasks easier — whatever comes to mind and strikes a chord with you. We’ve all been there.

However, Mimran says the first thing you need to consider is whether your proposed product or service truly services a need, or solves a problem. “I think a lot of people will fall in love with their ideas and then realize that there’s not enough of a market for them.”

Create a strategy for monetizing your product

Happipad Technologies Inc./Staples Canada

In order for a business to make a profit, there has to be a strategy for monetizing the product — perhaps a monthly membership fee with an app, or an additional fee for making custom products. Mimran says you’ve got to think big and have a grand vision as to where you want your company to go.

“I think having a big vision is really important because you can work backwards from it. I always say it’s like visualizing taking the perfect shot or whatever you particularly like to do. Try and visualize that: it gives you a real concrete goal to go after,” he says.

Make sure you can get funding

Finance helps get your company up and running, it covers operational expenses, pays employee salaries, and provides you with a rainy day reserve. Mimran recommends getting properly funded before you start your business. “Most businesses will scramble and will make it because they don’t have enough funding, and if they don’t, they haven’t given that enough time and attention.”

The champion of entrepreneurs suggests entering a contest or using a crowdsourcing website to help raise funds if that’s an option as this forces you to articulate your strategy and unique selling point. “There are so many crowdfunding opportunities out there and that’s always a great way to gauge whether there’s a market and what the interest might be in your particular product.”

Learn from a mentor

Joe Mimran/Staples Canada

Mentorship is a huge part of the learning process as a small business owner. If there’s someone you admire and can seek guidance from, it can make a huge difference for your company. Mimran has invested in many startups and provided mentorship, too. He says mentorship isn’t about “handholding on every decision,” but giving a little nudge in a different direction can be invaluable.

Mimran had the pleasure of mentoring three Canadian small businesses this year, the winners of Staples Canada‘s This is How I Grow My Business contest. This included Happipad from Kelowna, SenseTech Solutions from Toronto, and Animora from Quebec City. These winners were selected from more than 1,100 entries across the country.

The experience, Mimran says, was exciting and interesting to see how each group approaches their business and the passion they have for what they do. “You’re always learning when you’re discussing different products and services, you’re learning something about that industry, a business that perhaps you’ve not been exposed to.”

Just do it

Joe Mimran/Staples Canada

Think you have a viable product or service that the world needs? Well, Mimran says to go and bring it to life. “I hate to sound like a Nike ad but, just do it. Get out there, start, and get into the fray.” This is exactly what he did.

However, Mimran says it’s important to know you’ve got to be a risk-taker to start your own business. “I always warn people, if you’re not a risk-taker, entrepreneurship is not for you because it’s fraught with risk and you just never know what’s around the corner.”

“Small businesses really make a difference and now is probably the most exciting time to be an entrepreneur. So the only thing I would say is that if anybody’s got the desire, go out and do it,” he concludes.

Read more about Mimran’s involvement in supporting Canadian small businesses with Staples Canada’s ‘This Is How I Grow My Business Contest’ here. For more tips on growing your business, check out Staples Canada’s new Working + Learning Blog and Spotlight Magazine at staples.ca/spotlightmagazine.