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How to build a business: Henley Summer Start-Up Boot Camp 2023

Jurek Skorski and Simon Paine Photo

Entrepreneurs received valuable insights from industry leaders and academics at this years Summer Start-Up Boot Camp. The Boot Camp concluded with the '12 Rebel Principles', the key pieces of advice that any aspiring entrepreneur can benefit from, whatever their startup idea. Some of the key ones include:

1) The success of a business is built on trust.

Simon revealed how any customer has to know, like and trust the business they’re buying from and the building of that trust can take many forms, such as free samples of a product or helping answer questions others pose on social media to make a connection. He went onto explain that establishing that trust and offering value is how the Rebel Business School can sell a course to a client and then prepare it, rather than vice versa, as this ensures customers get what they want from the course and he doesn’t put time and effort into creating something that the customer is not interested in.

2) Sell something to someone.

Simon emphasised having a product or service that solves a problem and understanding of what kind of people would benefit most, segmenting the customer base. Halima added that when setting up a website it was crucial to have a clear message that is less 'what the business does' and more 'why does the business do it', outlining the importance of 'sell the sizzle, not the steak'.

3) Business is all about having money, not owing money.

Simon shared some of the secrets of avoiding the traditional approach of creating a business plan and taking out a loan by instead bootstrapping, borrowing and bartering for the possessions a new business needs. He highlighted the success of companies such as Meta, Airbnb and Uber, which don’t own their respective content, properties and taxis.

4) Keeping customers is cheaper than finding new ones.

Halima shared tips to find and engage with customers on a variety of social media platforms and encouraged participants to make connections through groups, liking and commenting to be present in the feeds of potential customers. Simon also highlighted the chance to upsell by having customers join a mailing list to stay updated with special offers.

5) Done is better than perfect.

Simon offered his thoughts on the importance of business leaders getting outside their comfort zone and taking action, from publishing a website to sending out marketing emails. He noted that even if something doesn’t work, for a startup business it's better to fail cheap and quick than expensive and slow.

Henley Summer Start Up Boot Camp 2023 Screenshot

The Boot Camp is one of HCfE's most popular annual events, aimed at helping participants overcome the hurdles of starting their own business, such as a lack of money, business know-how or confidence. Held from 19-23 June 2023, the Boot Camp was generously sponsored by Westcoast and had more than 40 eager participants, consisting of University of Reading and Henley Business School students, alumni, students from partner institutions and local residents all looking to transform their business idea into a reality.

Additional speakers also offered their insights to the participants, including Jurek Sikorski (Executive Director of HCfE) and Cassandra Renaut (founder of Insight Ed and Henley Summer Start-Up Boot Camp 2022 participant). In addition, the Boot Camp hosted an expert panel of Ash Arif, (Partner and Head of Corporate and Commercial at ClarksLegal), David Brookes (Tax Partner and Regional Managing Partner for the Thames Valley and West Regions at BDO) and Elly Rowley (Regional Ecosystem Manager for the South West and South Central Regions at NatWest), who shared their advice on a range of topics including commercial, employment, finance, intellectual property, legal, tax and related specialist topics.

Participants were highly enthusiastic about the impact of the Boot Camp. Several commented how they felt energised and excited to continue bringing their business ideas to life.

Yuzhou Zhang, a BSc Finance student, said: "The content of the course was very practical and helped me find the direction to start a business. Thanks a lot!"

Summarising his thoughts on the success of the Boot Camp, Jurek commented: "The Boot Camp was a truly immersive and interactive experience for the participants. All had grown in confidence and belief in their business ideas and keenness to take action and make sales."

Simon added: "I'm always really impressed by the calibre of students from Henley Business School and as a business we are super proud to partner with them again to deliver the Boot Camp programme."

A full report on the Henley Summer Start-Up Boot Camp 2023 is available to read here.

Published 4 July 2023
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Department news

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