The MeetUp panel with host Ben

By our very nature, as founders we look at problems with creative eyes. Sometimes we need to work out how to do things differently, with fewer people, less money or short timeframes. 

With that in mind, how do we develop our business ideas and startup solutions during difficult periods? And how can the next generation of startup leaders tackle the uncertain times whilst keeping their business afloat?

At our MeetUp, our host Ben Keene was joined by two founders who have successfully scaled and survived through the Covid pandemic to give us their top tips on staying calm and creative.

Anna Brightman, co-founder of UpCircle Beauty and Jana Kovacovska, founder of Tiny CFO gave us a rundown on how they coped in the very beginning of starting up.

Sceptical about starting up? 

Jana admitted that even though she had been working in finance for a decade, and working with major clients like Deliveroo, House of Fashion and Rubix, that she had a classic case of Imposter Syndrome when starting up Tiny CFO.

“I had a very solid panic attack just before launching,” Jana explained that even though she was more than qualified, the difference in audience made her rethink whether building her own business after mentoring founders with their finance for fun really was a tangible and profitable move.

She told us how she got over the imposter syndrome to make the jump into starting up.

“I would focus on the things that are under my control and try not to worry or predict what’s going to happen in the future and avoid running all the scenarios in my head.”

Ultimately, she knew that finance needed to become more accessible to founders who knew little about it. With few resources like hers that explain finance in a way that it’s easy to understand, she knew this would answer the questions she was being asked over and over again by many up and coming entrepreneurs.

How does your startup react to change?

Anna spoke about how UpCircle reacted to any changes the pandemic caused, like supply chain issues, accessibility to ingredients and how they managed to overcome financial bumps in the road.

"What we've always done when time gets tough is we absorb it," Anna reveals. "Prices stay the same." 

Anna explained that the trust the UpCircle team had built with their customers and keeping to their early commitment was more important than profit margins for them.

"We made a commitment to keep our prices where they're at - it's one of our non-negotiables, keeping our products affordable. We just have to take the hit on our profits." 

Set your own non-negotiables and values 

Anna also took a dive into the culture of UpCircle and their other personal non-negotiables that they run by to make sure they keep a healthy mindset and attitude.

"Recharge your sanity batteries," said Anna ."Whether that's cooking home cooked meals, going out with friends or going on holiday, also have your own non-negotiables." 

Jana joined her in sharing the commitments she stands by with Tiny CFO.

"One of the first things I promised myself is that if I really don't know the answer to something, I will not make up an answer knowing that it could be the wrong thing," she revealed. "I reach out to experts to get more robust insights into the subject." 

Is the economy making you anxious about your next steps?

Jana reminded us that everything changes in the world of startups, especially as the economy shifts too - so it is very important to be able to adapt.

"Recession is a phase," she reassured us. "This too shall pass."

When making the decision to startup, Jana said you should "remove the emotions out of it".

"Try to depersonalise it first and think about how much you know about what you're going into," she advises.

Can creativity and numbers go together?

Some founders are more comfortable with finance, and others with the creative aspect - and this makes us all unique, giving everyone a different perspective on how to create and grow a business.

However, should you be investing some of your time to explore out of your comfort zone? Jana definitely thinks so.

"If you are coming from a 100% creative background, I think pushing yourself to understand the numbers is essential,” said Jana.  

"I think numbers and creativity must go together," she continued. 

Developing your skills in any aspect will better your knowledge as a founder and give you an edge on other competitors. 

Especially if you don’t already understand your finances, it can help massively support how you market your startup comms to reach your goals. 

There’s plenty more advice from the full MeetUp which you can watch here

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