Read the latest student blog post from Ali Mahoney, founder of ithinksport.com
The hardest thing about a Start Up business? Starting.
Starting a business. Lots of people think about it. Lots of people would love to do it. Lots of people are envious of those who've gone and done it. Lots of people never try it. I'm one of those people. I'd thought about it a lot, I was really keen to do it, I was totally envious of friends who had done it and at the same time I was really fearful of trying it. My route to starting up a business has been a long one, with lots of thinking and not enough action along the way.
An ex-work colleague and I had originally talked about the concept of a sport psychology website when we had both completed an MSc in Applied Sport & Exercise Science a few years ago at another university. We got so excited about it. We did a lot of thinking, planning, talking, researching with athletes and staff, but we never put it into action. The main reasons? Probably fear of failure, fear of giving up a regular income to try something new, and also not knowing where to start. So we didn't start.
Doing my MSc in Applied Sport Psychology at Cardiff Met gave me the final nudge that we needed to pursue this business idea. We'd researched what was already out there to support athletes with developing mental skills and educating them about the benefits of sport psychology. I was really disappointed with what was already on offer; overly academic websites that were full of jargon and Americanised websites that were more about the practitioner than the athlete support. I genuinely felt that we could give something different to the sports community that would be much more useful, based on scientific principles but presented in a modern and fresh way that would engage athletes better. We had our own experiences to learn from too. Having both competed in sport to a fairly decent level we had both faced issues that could have been overcome much better if we had a basic grasp of sport psychology techniques e.g. returning to sport after serious injury, cracking under pressure in a big game, learning new skills in a new sport.
Step one – we looked for support. We met with Business in Focus who provided 1:1 business planning guidance. This helped us to take our idea from being on paper to being a fully-fledged business plan, which set out who our target audience was, the size of the market, our competitors, our offer and its unique selling points, our pricing strategy, our model for growth and our first year financial plan. This was by far the most important process we went through. It brought our idea to life in a realistic way and gave us the confidence to get it off the ground. We also read a lot online; we learned from other people who'd started up a business and had shared their experiences, both positive and negative. We also applied for funds to give us a bit of start up capital to build our site. Most recently, we were winners of the Cardiff Met Flash Fund, which we've been able to put towards marketing costs.
We could have been a few years down the line with our venture if only we'd had the confidence to start. However, we're really pleased that we've now taken the leap of faith and we love what we do. Our top tips if you're thinking about starting something are:
- If you have an idea, run with it, embrace it, develop it. Especially if it's a niche idea.
- If it's not working, change it. Don't be fearful of adapting your idea if it doesn't get off the ground the first time.
- If you think your idea can make you a living, do it. If you don't do it, someone else will.
- If you're not sure that it will work, try it anyway. You learn just as much (if not more) from things that don't work as those that do.
- Keep it up. There may be pitfalls along the way, but stay focussed and keep looking for opportunities to grow and develop your idea. Don't stand still.
- Seek out help. Cardiff Met Centre for Student Entrepreneurship have some great staff members who are more than happy to meet with you!
MSc Applied Sport Psychology (Cardiff Met)
Joint owner and founder of ithinksport.com