How can sustainably-driven entrepreneurs join the circular economy?
For Circular Economy Week, we discussed this with entrepreneurs at our recent Environment Talks event, as well as circular businesses from our ASSETS programme.
Here are our 5 key takeaways on the common challenges and solutions for circular-driven businesses:
Challenge #1 – Responding to global issues
Climate change is a global issue with multiple layers and complexities, such as carbon emission rates, deforestation and rising sea levels. It can seem difficult to address big global challenges and economies from where you are.
Solution – Keep it focused
Circular economies start best when approached at a small local level. Begin by understanding the needs of your local community and adapting your business idea accordingly. This means you’ll want to keep your solution narrow and focused.
“Ensure you are solving a real problem and not creating one. Look where you personally can add the most value and create the greatest impact for you and those you can help. Think big but start small.” – Jason from TracoUK.
This approach should also apply to the value chain of your business. Map out the different components in your circular business model and tackle one area at a time.
Challenge #2 – Networking
If you’re new to business or circular practices, it can be tricky to know the right people to connect with for guidance, exchange ideas, collaborate and reach customers.
Solution – Know your tribe
Start by exploring who you already have a connection with – LinkedIn is a useful platform to do this. Here you can also find and reach out to experts in the sector-specific to your business or mission.
Attend in-person events related to the circular economy and sustainability. As well as familiarising yourself with the ongoing work on circular models, you’ll probably meet like-minded individuals and businesses.
Approach and engage with local cafes, shops, farmer markets, and community initiatives. As well as building your connections, this will help you with your research and improve your business solution.
“We’ve started Amplify Goods as a circular enabled business, and with collaboration, it will become an increasingly meaningful part of our circular economy.” – Pasha from Amplify Goods.
Lastly, keep an eye out for business support programmes, such as The Circular Start Up. As well as offering valuable upskilling and knowledge, it provides a peer group to grow with.
Challenge #3 – Costs of testing phase
Testing your product or service is one of the key elements in any business, as it helps validate the efficiency of your solution. However, most entrepreneurs seem to face an economic barrier to kick start the validation phase.
Solution – Think creatively
If you are facing barriers due to lack of space, consider alternatives in your local area such as community halls, pop-up stalls at local markets, or sharing space. Explore less obvious opportunities which could work out through negotiations.
“Some spaces are empty depending on the time of day. Don’t be scared to ask if there’s an opportunity of sharing or collaborate to keep costs down. Be a bit cheeky!” – Lucy from The Breakfast Collective.
There are also ways to be resourceful when it comes to collecting feedback on your product or service. If for example, you’re working on sustainable clothing, you could find relevant audiences and present your prototype through charity shops and swap events.
Challenge #4 – Funding and investment
When kick-starting or growing a business, funding is one of the most common barriers.
Solution – Find your match
Angel investors are a good option, as they are often more dependable and secure than loans or personal funding. They can be involved at different stages of the business and there is scope for stability.
These investors can be found through professional networks such as LinkedIn. The key here is to find the right match.
“It’s just like dating, it may take many meetings and conversations, but it’s worth taking the time to find someone who is truly aligned with your idea and circular mission” – Hasna from Save Your Wardrobe.
When approaching investors, make sure you have a well-prepared pitch and presentation.
It’s worth also exploring other funding options. Platforms such as Good Finance UK provide clear guides and resources.
Challenge #5 – Feeling overwhelmed
As you start to pursue a circular business, you may feel overcome by the long list of tasks you give yourself, or the number of challenges you seem to encounter.
Solution – Dissect your challenges
Learn to find your resilience, as you’ll likely face barriers at each stage of your business.
“It’s a new I industry just awakening, don’t be surprised if you get told it will never work, just back yourself and go for it.” – Lee from Paint360.
Prioritise your mental health throughout the journey as it is important to take care of yourself first. Identify the things you love to do and what you find more difficult. This will help you visualise the different roles needed in your business and delegate tasks effectively.
Make sure you stay strong and don’t compromise on your principles. It is ok to start small and then, as you gradually expand, you can incorporate more and more circular solutions into your business.
“Be bold and clear on your values and USPs, as this is (and needs to be) the future so our customer bases will grow!” – Camilla from Connection Crew.
Want to stay connected to an entrepreneurial community that strives for a circular economy? Learn more about what we offer at Impact Hub King’s Cross through coworking, startup programmes and partnerships.