Finding your startup purpose

All startups are different, but they have one thing at their core that unites them: the passion at the core of what you're doing, your purpose. Remembering why you started up will keep you going when things are tough, will keep you focussed on your aims, and will give you the drive to make your business the best it can be.

Suzanne Noble is the founder of Frugl, a platform to help the people of London find the best and most exciting things to do on a limited budget. She's asked about why she started up her business regularly - here's the story at the heart of her business.

“Can I ask you a question? Why are you doing this?”

That’s the question I get asked most often and the one I find the most challenging to answer.  One thing is for sure - it’s never as simple as what goes in a business plan that assumes there’s a unique problem for which you’ve found a solution. If that were the case, more startups would succeed than the 1% that currently do.  The answer is nearly always more complex than that.

For many, I’m sure that running a startup seems like a cool thing to do. Being your own boss, trying something different, forging your own path can seem exciting and fun.  The media is full of startup success stories and can lead people to believe that with a little hard work and a good idea anything is possible.

Others may be looking for a change of pace or to explore working in a new sector. Sometimes it’s not really so much of a choice as the only available option. With so few jobs available and startup loans, mentoring and support available through organisations such as Virgin StartUp, it’s now easier than ever to create a business.

In my case, I had an idea that gnawed away at me for a few years until I had the guts and the capital to do something about it. I’d grown up as London kid in the 1970s, with a passion for exploring the more ‘alternative’ side of the capital.  It was the tail end of punk and the city was exploding with creativity. Film producer Steven Woolley was running a cinema on Charlotte Street called the Scala that played all-night B-movies which I’d sometimes attend wearing men’s pajamas. The Bush Theatre in Shepherds Bush put on first-rate plays by young playwrights and I went to clubs like the Marquee on Wardour Street to hear new bands. Time Out was my go-to resource for finding out about fringe theatre, comedy and live music. I didn’t have much money but I didn’t need much; there was always something to do for whatever I had in my pocket.

Then the internet came along and Time Out shifted to become a free magazine. You’d think that with all the information available, discovering underground culture would become easier than ever, but instead I felt overwhelmed by all the information available. At the same time I watched my own kids grow into adults that appeared to always go out with their friends to the same pubs and clubs week after week.

The one thing that didn’t change was my love affair with London and my passion for finding things to do that didn’t cost a fortune.  Frugl sprung out of that desire to get people off the couch and exploring those under-the-radar events that are no longer represented in Time Out and, as a result, are harder to find. Starting first as a curated app and now as user-generated content, the idea has evolved and grown into something much bigger than I first had in mind. We now have two apps and a website and more than a hundred partners with whom we work, as well as thousands of users. Our little team of a part-time social media manager and myself has grown to seven, and we’ve raised a small round of funding.

What began as an idea to help Londoners find affordable things to do has evolved into a business that can also help event promoters, restaurant and bar owners and others fill empty seats. The original idea is still there, only better.

So, in answer to the original question, ‘Why am I doing this?’

Because, quite simply, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.


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