Posted: Tue 31st Jan 2023
The Next Generation programme aims to give thousands of young people aged 18 to 24 the support they need to start a new business or grow an existing one.
Created in partnership with Launch It, the programme provides free training, events, content, access to advisers, peer groups, funding and much more. It's designed to help young people who might not have easy access to the finance and opportunities they need to go into business for themselves.
Here, we talk to James Howell, who started his golf equipment business The Bigger Ball to make the sport more sustainable and has taken advantage of support, guidance and inspiration from the Next Generation programme.
How have you benefited from the Next Generation programme so far?
The support I've had from the Next Generation programme has allowed me to increase sales with a grant used to purchase more stock.
How did you come up with your business idea and what are your plans for the future?
I didn't come up with it! Other companies are doing what we do, we're just doing it better. It's common, I think, for people to believe they need to have a new invention to start up. But if you can take something that exists and do it better than what's out there, you've just as good a chance.
There is more than one car manufacturer in the world... the competition speeds up progress. We'll be growing out of the UK in the coming years.
How is your business unique?
We created The Bigger Ball to make golf a more sustainable sport. We're out to replace all the elements of golf, from players' equipment to courses and facilities, and replicate or improve on them in a way that has far less impact than the current ones.
How have you financed your business?
All the funding for the business came from savings and from reinvesting the profits we've made.
If you needed help getting your business up and running, where did you go for support?
I used some online resources – including Next Generation – and then had support through the various mentors I've connected with.
I had a number of connections that I could turn to for help when starting up my business. Sometimes it was asking friends for feedback on the design of our products, other times it was consulting business owners for the bigger picture on running a business, from accounts to finance.
I always find if I ask someone they'll know or point me in the direction of someone who can help. Or, if not, pass me on again!
What's the biggest challenge you've faced and how did you overcome it?
Time has been a big factor. Working a full-time job in the first year while starting a business wasn't easy, but also wasn't impossible. A few evenings and weekends were enough to catch up.
But I was doing a full-time job to fund the business, and taking the risks spending my own money on an idea. I've perhaps still not necessarily overcome this, but I'm finding it easier to split my time and be more organised the more I do.
It also meant having an open conversation with my employer about what I was doing. The fact they were fully understanding and supportive has certainly helped.
When it comes to business, what do you need to learn more about, and how do you plan to do it?
I should probably know more about accounting. I could learn through the Next Generation programme, but the lessons will probably come it from my accountant shouting when I've not done something!
I guess you don't know what you don't know and I'm sure there are many areas and things that I could be doing better and learn more about to succeed. I'm not a big reader, but I find plenty of content on YouTube and other sites is a great help in providing more visual explanations of certain topics like accounts and budgeting, which is an area I'm growing in.
I also want to better understand SEO and generating web traffic. Again, this is something I find YouTube a great help with, but I also have now a digital agency to take care of it. Maybe delegating is a good way to learn more?
What are your top tips for getting started in business?
Just do it. Ask questions, meet people, take opportunities, fail, and don't make the same mistake twice.
Need help starting or growing a business?
The Next Generation hub can help you with the education, inspiration and funding you need to achieve your business goals. Sign up to the hub today