Stephen Fear, of Fear Group: Key to success is knowing your market, by Stephen Fear
People often ask me whether entrepreneurs are born, or made, and my answer is always the same. It’s a bit of both!
I didn’t receive a conventional education because of my fragmented and difficult family background, but I did receive an education by using Bristol Central Library as my personal classroom.
My interests have always been eclectic so I would spend hours there reading whatever took my fancy. It was anything initially, from a history of dogs, to Winston Churchill and other great leaders. Gradually my interest turned to reading about markets and business.
I was frequently moving around as a child but would always find a library where I could go and read up on my latest venture! I read in The Exchange & Mart about a fast growing mushroom compound, so started a business in the attic above my Dad’s flat in Henbury. It worked really well until the smell caused a neighbour to call the council. They discovered that as there were no divisions between the attics of neighbouring flats, I had occupied the whole rooftop of the entire block with my mushroom growing business! By the way these weren’t ‘magic mushrooms’ they were the edible type which I had developed a market for in local fruit and vegetable shops in Southmead, Henbury, and Westbury-on-Trym. I was 12 and my Dad wasn’t happy!
My point is that to achieve any success it’s essential to understand your market. This means reading, as well as experiencing it. As soon as I thought there might be a business growing mushrooms, I realised that I needed a place to do it. My Dad’s attic seemed ideal, warm, dry, and secure; all things I needed to accelerate the growth of both my mushrooms and my bank balance!
I read everything I could about mushrooms (my product) and also read up on selling and finding markets. I decided my market had to be local as peddling a bike too far wasn’t on my agenda!
As the years went by I realised the importance of reading and understanding all aspects of business but for me the option of a conventional education, which might include university wasn’t available.
Today we live in a fast moving world where understanding your market and dealing with aspects of its development is essential, so if you are young and want to become an entrepreneur and have the opportunity to go to college or university I would take it. Not because people say “if you fail you will have a qualification to fall back on” but because the better educated you are within your particular field of specialism the less likely you are to fail in the first place.
Business education is about learning what you need to know to earn a living. We are fortunate in Bristol, we have two great universities on our doorstep. The University of the West of England (UWE) is an amazing place, with a brilliant ethos, offering a huge resume of specialist business education and is well worth a visit.
Do you need a degree to succeed in business? No you don’t, but you do need an education of some sort – so why not combine the two?
The more knowledge you have the more likely you are to succeed.