Facing the fear of starting up - and doing it anyway

Suzanne Noble is the founder of Frugl, an app that curates the best events in London costing under a tenner. Formerly the owner of a PR company, Suzanne decided to take the leap and move into the tech space with Frugl. Here she talks about feeling the fear, and doing it anyway. Frugl are currently raising their next funding round through platform SyndicateRoom.

When you begin to think about starting a new business, it can be very scary.

You first have to face up the prospect of a reduced income, or even no income, for a period of time. Then there are the long hours to be worked and the worries at the back of your mind that your new business may not even succeed - however much you put into it.

Over the past few months I’ve been fundraising to help my startup Frugl scale. We are a London-aimed bargains and discovery platform with 20,000 active users, and we launched just a year ago. This is not the first time I've had to raise investment or seek financial assistance in order to grow a business, but this time the circumstances are dramatically different.

When I ran my own Top 150 PR agency, we had an overdraft that was in six figures and we regularly hit our limit. We had one bank meeting to secure the funds and the following week, the facility had been agreed. Nowadays, that would be unheard of. In the mid-90s, a friend and I gained marketing funding for a business from the EIS (created by the DTI) with just one phone call from our accountant and a simple business plan.

Since launching Frugl, we have received a grant from Innovate UK and a government Start Up Loan through Virgin StartUp. The grant, awarded via a lottery system, enabled us to create a piece of bespoke technology that saved us hours of research. But the loan took three months, a huge amount of hoop-jumping, and the belief of our loan manager to secure.

Currently we’re raising money through equity crowdfunding platform Syndicate Room. This is the first time I have not gone to an institutional investor or a government agency to raise money. At the moment we’re just over halfway towards securing the £150k we need for marketing and ongoing development costs.

It has taken months of meetings with prospective investors, writing and rewriting business plans, and endless reiterations of pitch decks, to get this far. And, in the back of my head, there’s always a fear that we won’t get there.

According to Entrepreneur.com, there are seven traits associated with successful entrepreneurs. Unsurprisingly, self-belief comes out on top. But even the most positive of people can't prevent all seeds of doubt from forming. So what happens when self-belief falters and fear starts to set in? Well, when the going gets tough, that’s the time when I dig deep to draw upon the traits I consider essential for carrying on and working towards success: These are my top three:

Be flexible

Being an older entrepreneur, I have enough life and work experience to know that there are a myriad of ways to get from A to B. If what you’re doing isn’t different, try something else. In the case of fundraising, I’ve raided my extensive address book, contacting anyone who I have ever met in my life, to ask if they could put me in touch with any high-wealth or angel investors they knew. The children’s programme LazyTown, for whom I worked for many years, had a saying: 'There’s always a way.' I firmly believe that’s true and it’s what I remind myself when life isn’t going to plan!

Have a vision

When it comes to Frugl, I have a big vision - but getting there requires setting both small and big goals. My notebook is filled with lists and I tick off each task as and when I do them. Tasks that don’t get completed get moved to the next page so they are not forgotten. It’s one of the many ways I ensure that the business keeps moving forward. In the case of fundraising, I spend a good part of every day formulating other ways we can generate revenue and then I create an action plan for how to do so.

Know how to delegate

I’m as bad as anyone else when it comes to taking on too much work for myself. However, I learned early on in my career that I can’t do everything myself. I use People per Hour and similar sites to find freelancers who can help me. There is almost always a person out there who can help at a price that meets your budget. Since fundraising I’ve been introduced to people who have helped with our financial modelling and used a Growth Accelerator coach to help with our business plan and pitch deck. Not only do they save me precious hours of my time, they have also given me the confidence to be able to speak confidently to potential investors myself about financial matters.

None of us would be human if we didn’t feel fear at some point in time or another. It’s an inevitable consequence of trying anything new. Starting a business in a different field is a big challenge. The key for me though is to not let it lead to a big, black hole of depression. So often you can begin to catastrophise small worries into huge fears and problems that block your mind. That's why I find my way through using some of the tips I’ve learned over my time in business. Making lists, delegating or even just taking some time off to regroup and reconsider what you’re trying to achieve is crucial. Normally there’s another way to get there if you allow yourself the chance to think.

In my case I’m confident we will reach our fundraising goal eventually, but, in the meantime, I’m working hard to make sure we do all we can to survive until such time as the money is in the bank. It may be a scary time, but it's all very exciting too!

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