At our MeetUp, supported by our friends at Virgin Money, our panel of founders were joined by our virtual audience, who came for timely insights into what it takes to startup, and how to maintain momentum. Didn’t bag your ticket? No worries, we’ve covered what we learnt below.
Ideas can come from anywhere. Be open to them.
As founders, we’re intuitively looking for problems, for things missing, or not working as they should. This is where ideas for businesses often start; designing solutions. But ideas can be sparked from anywhere, and inspiration can come from unexpected places, as long as we’re open to receiving them.
Jill Henry, from Meander Apparel, said that her idea for her sustainable clothing brand came from a charity bike ride in Paris. She was yearning for garments that were more breathable, long-lasting and better looking than the cycling gear she had. So started Meander Apparel.
Lyasnder Bickham's journey started at school when he was 14, and was interested in the sustainable development goals. He knew that he wanted to create something which could be a “force for good’. He ended up with Leo’s Box, which was based around the “framework to reduce your impact and also offer products that were more accessible and actually worked”. He started the business just after GCSEs, working through the summer on Leo’s Box.
Lysander also took inspiration for his business model from Freddie’s Flowers.
Rob Ford explains how his idea for Box & Sprout was planted in childhood when he grew up next to a farm and got taught to grow vegetables by his nan.
Whilst living in London, he missed this connection with nature that he had when he was younger. During lockdown, Rob started selling products to help Londoners create their dream gardens without the fuss.
Start small when going to market
As we hear again and again from founders, when taking your new product or service to market, it’s vital to start small and have conversations with your early customers to foster a sense of community.
Two of the founders on our panel, Lysander and Rob, both literally went door-to-door with their offering, and both found that this authentic approach worked well.
Jill said that she focusses on engaging and valuable content, creating newsletters to getting people interested.
"Ultimately, it comes down to a good product - word of mouth spreads," she says. Clearly, giving value and building a community has worked for Meander Apparel.
How you price depends on where your value is
Different types of businesses will always have different pricing strategies, and ultimately it will come down to you as a founder as to how to price your offering.
Sometimes, in the case of Leo’s Box and Box and Sprout, wholesale prices will impact what you charge customers, and you’ll need to keep an eye on your margins to ensure your costs are covered.
For clothing brand Meander Apparel, they think about what customers will pay rather than focussing on margins, but more important than that is to give customers brilliant products which they value.
Lean on your co-founder
Your co-founder will sometimes feel like a spouse – and in the case of Meander Apparel they actually are! The co-founder relationship can make or break a business, and it’s important to lean on each other when needed.
Rob told us he’s always staying in touch with his co-founder:
"We have a coffee and have a face-to-face feedback session with a candid chat about how things are going! We have created that forum where we can have that really open and honest conversation."
Lysander told us he feels lucky to have someone around when things become stressful. “Everyone can do with a bit of kindness” he says.
Jill’s co-founder is her husband and she says she tries to keep homelife and work life separate, but it’s great to have someone by your side.
Finding purpose is key
All our founders said that finding their purpose helps keep them going.
Jill - "Finding something that you're passionate about and finding your purpose" is what drives her forward.
"I echo everything that Jill says," Lysander explains. "For us it was B Corp."
Even with "ups and downs" of the business, Rob says that "connecting with a bigger purpose" is what drives him forward. Having a 2 way connection with customers can bring you out of the dark when you don’t know what you are doing.
And finally…start your day right
Intention is everything, so if you can, find the time to start your day how you mean to go on. For our panel this means:
Jill: Dog walk and smoothies
Lysander: Morning tea
Rob: A cold shower, journaling and meditation.
Thanks to Virgin Money, our MeetUp events are free to attend, providing thousands of early-stage founders with the support they need to start and scale businesses in the UK.
Virgin Money are here to disrupt the status quo. They want everyone to have a much happier relationship with money. They provide a full range of banking products, services and digital solutions to help founders at every stage of their business journey. Find out more by visiting their website.
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