1. ITV Report

Working for yourself: You don't have to reinvent the wheel

Sandy Macaskill and his brother James decided to take a risk. Photo: ITN

Most of the stories I read about young entrepreneurs seem to begin the same way - they started in business when they were something like 4 years old, flogging dummies to their friends from nursery or some such.

Although I used to have lots of ideas about various business ventures, I never really had aspirations to be a businessman.

I was incredibly happy as a sports correspondent for a national newspaper and always saw myself as a one-company man until a change at editorial level made me realise the danger of trusting your career and life to a complete stranger.

One day I was being offered the prestigious role of golf correspondent, aged 24, and the next I was being told I was only being given a 6-month contract and the job was being given to someone else. Let's say it changed my perspective on my working life.

One of the things I've learned since is that to go into business you don't you need to reinvent the wheel.

The important thing is to identify a gap in the market, or a way of delivering a product or service better than everyone else, and to run with it.

In our case we discovered Barry's Bootcamp, a boutique indoor fitness studio that was founded in West Hollywood in 1998.

When my brother and I heard about the possibility of bringing it to the UK, we set up a meeting with the American owners and managed to persuade them to choose us.

We are massively fortunate that we had access to private funds and were able to invest heavily in the business ourselves.

But we've lost count of how many personal guarantees we've had to sign.

If you have a good idea, there are people out there who will help you succeed.

We were given a loan by HSBC - they actually offered us more than we initially asked for, which meant we could afford not to take on any outside investors.

So don't let anyone tell you there isn't investment out there.

It's still very early days, James and I are grabbing about four hours sleep a night at best, there are daily problems to solve, but it's incredibly fulfilling. Sure it's a risk, but a bigger risk for me was not giving it a go.


  1. Business Plan

Yeah, I know it's boring, it takes forever, and it will be constantly evolving (I cringe when I look back at the first draft). BUT it makes you analyse your business in minute detail and ultimately will save you time when you come to find investment. Ours was pretty sophisticated before we went looking for advice about actually starting the business - apparently that's quite rare, though I can't think why.

  1. Get good advice

We were hugely lucky with this. Our first stop was the Westminster Enterprise Centre, who put us in touch with a mentor, Lindsay Fagan at Civvals, who helped us fine tune our business plan, advised us on all sorts of issues we had no idea about (it's OK to not know), and found us investment at HSBC. Our relationship manager, Nicola, has also been amazing. She bought into the idea straight from the off and fought to get it approved.

  1. Be positive

It sounds a bit airy-fairy, this one, but I think it is perhaps the most important thing of all. There will be plenty of people who tell you that you are crazy, that the economic situation is too dire, that no banks are lending etc. As far as I'm concerned, the real risk is to leave your future in someone else's hands.

And for those that aren't ready just yet...

If you already have a job and don't want to blaze your own trail just yet, why not start by making yourself indispensable where you are.

There is always something that could be improved in a business. If you can identify it, prepare a solution and present it to your manager, then take on the responsibility of seeing it through, not only are you are setting yourself apart, but also preparing yourself by proving you can take the initiative.