A Journey - setting up a business from scratch

My favourite mug...

My favourite mug...


Well, a blog has to start somewhere so this is the first entry for the Cox Bank Publishing blog – the first of a series looking at the company’s areas of interest, as well as things like lessons learned in running a new business.  And lots more beside, hopefully all of some interest to what (fingers crossed) will be a growing number of followers.

Cox Bank Publishing – or CBP – was formed in June this year (2015) when I decided that I had a project with enough breadth, enough interest and enough legs to make of turning it into a business.  The basic idea, as you might have seen from CBP’s or my LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, is that I publish anthologies of sports writing. This follows a successful ‘pilot’ of a fell-running book in 2010.  Not that I knew at the time that that project was a pilot: it was just a fun thing to do!  

It was a classic hobby project – to bring to a wider audience some really good running stories, written by runners for runners, all of which I had really enjoyed reading.  And, importantly, the aim was to raise money for Mountain Rescue charities.  But it had a good reception, and some really nice reviews by established authors like Richard Askwith and Cameron MacNeish, so when I found myself unexpectedly redundant five years down the line, I decided to make a go of turning a hobby into a business and social enterprise.

Building a business from scratch – and I’m not there yet by any means – has taught me many things already.  Top tips (no rocket science here I’m afraid) to date include:

One Just do it! I love prevaricating, but life is too short. Crack on and live your dreams, and do it now.  People tell me I’m always over-thinking actions: when it takes a week to compose a tweet then yes, a change of mind-set is definitely needed!

Two Access all the support and help that you can find, without losing the ability to trust your own judgement and instincts. There are so many sources of help for new start-ups, and all of them are genuinely keen to provide useful advice.  In the past 10-12 weeks I’ve plugged into chambers of commerce, business support initiatives, entrepreneur networks, social enterprise self-help groups, mentors and more.  All really useful.  Even my bank manager (a former national karate champion as it happens) is excited about the project and is linking me to golf players and other writers.

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Three Talk to people about your ideas. People will be genuinely interested and keen to help. Certainly in the realm of social enterprise sharing ideas is wholly positive – people don’t want to steal your ideas, they want to help.  

Don’t fall into the trap of being too secretive: my experience is that fellow entrepreneurs are really encouraging and a gold mine of ideas and leads.  Some useful advice on that here.  

Four Listen to everyone, and collect lots of ideas, but remember to prioritise – avoid getting diverted or distracted from what needs to be your core mission.

Five Notwithstanding the need to keep on track, be prepared to change your ideas and take new directions – without losing focus. Avoid the trap of changing the core business model every day as yet another bright idea occurs to you or is thrown at you by a new contact, but do be prepared to be flexible and adapt your strategy to make the most of relevant opportunities that move you in the right direction.

All obvious stuff I know, but I’ve been really encouraged by how supportive people are, from all directions.  I’m three months into the adventure now and just starting to nail down a coherent strategy…