Five steps for becoming a furlough-preneur

Even in the bleakest of times, entrepreneurs have found a way to innovate and create disruptive products that have enhanced our daily lives or solved a problem. Take the humble chocolate chip cookie, baked for the first time after the Great Depression. During a period of severe economic hardship, this new treat offered some richness and comfort and remains immensely popular to this day.

With an estimated 750,000 employees in Scotland currently enrolled in the Jobs Retention Scheme due to the COVID-19 crisis, these difficult times present an opportunity for new creative furlough-preneurs to come to the fore.

Here are my five top tips on how to become a furlough-preneur:

What you know best, works best

The best advice writers receive is to pen what they know, and this directly translates to entrepreneurs and creative innovators. Building a business is a rollercoaster in which you will encounter both highs and lows.

As such, it should focus on something you feel passionate about and that reflects your own motivations. Start with a thorough review of your interests and experience to date. Once you have a clearer picture of your strengths and particular skill set, you’ll be in a much better position to start brainstorming ideas.

See a problem, solve it

The question that launched a thousand businesses is this: ‘what problem can I solve?’ Successful founders answer this dilemma by developing a new product or service for society or industry. Instead of waiting for a lightbulb moment, ask yourself what part of your day could be made easier or more enjoyable? Chances are, if you don’t like carrying out a task or feel something is missing, there are many other people who feel the same. Once you’ve identified a problem, you can find a solution, bridging a much-needed gap in the market.

Build your skills before your budget

Ideas and innovation don’t need a big budget. Do you have the skills to carry out the work yourself? If so, there’s a lot of money you can save. Time can be your greatest investment. Work with what you already have as a starting point. If you need support or further training, make use of the many free resources available online.

Virtual learning has surged in recent times meaning you can find webinars, tutorials and courses on a wide range of topics with a quick search. Once you’re up and running, joining an incubator, like our facility at the Edinburgh Business School, can support you to scale and attract investment.

Find your people, virtually

Video calls mean you can hire from home. Scouting the right team for your venture doesn’t need to be put on hold until you can physically meet them. Meaningful connections can still be fostered. At our Global Research Innovation and Discovery (GRID) facility at Heriot-Watt University, we help new and existing companies to collaborate and innovate with our talent pool of students, researchers and early-stage entrepreneurs - and, during current restrictions, it all takes place online.

Ask customers early

You have an idea about how your product could be used, but have you asked any user groups? One essential step in building a new product or business is customer discovery. Thanks to online market research and virtual focus groups, customer discovery via video link can provide vital analytics directly from your target audiences. This can help predict and enhance how your innovation could be used and also how best to develop and market it. Other useful tools like social listening and social media, in general, are a great way to open a dialogue with prospective customers and to find out opinions and feedback.

For more information about Heriot-Watt University’s enterprise capabilities, click here.

Startup Details

Startup Details


Heriot-Watt University

Heriot-Watt University is a public university based in Edinburgh, established in 1821 as the world's first mechanics' institute.

  • Headquarters Regions
    Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
  • Founded Date
  • Founders
    Leonard Horner
  • Operating Status
  • Number of Employees