What Starting Up a Business Is REALLY Like (Part 2!)

Early last month, TechRound explored entrepreneurs’ stories on what starting up a business is REALLY like; the highs and lows, the good, the bad and the ugly.

After receiving such an incredible response from entrepreneurs, we thought we’d revisit the topic, opening up our platform to more founders and their realities behind running a business, helping to show everyone who faces challenges along their entrepreneurial journey that you’re not alone!

 

Our Founders:

  • Antony Woodcock – Co-Founder and CEO of GIG 
  • Sam Whigham – Founder at Wilton London 
  • Giuseppe Caltabiano and Egi Messito – Co-Founders of EverUp
  • Ofri Ben-Porat – Co-founder and CEO of Edgify
  • Hannah Jackson – Founder of Little Ant
  • Joshua Elash – Director of MT Finance

 

For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.

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Antony Woodcock, Co-founder and CEO GIG 

 

Antony-Woodcock-GIG-co-founder

 

“Entrepreneur. Such a glamourised word now commonly associated with fancy watches and expensive sports cars. The fact could not be further from the fiction.”

“When we hear of an entrepreneur it is usually because they have made it, one of the lucky ones that has managed to break through…lots of hard work for sure but also usually a little bit of luck.  So what is it really like to start your own business? I of course can’t speak for everyone but I would suspect that my journey is more the reality than the fairy tale meteoric rise.”

“My journey started luckier than most, well lucky in some senses and unlucky in other but the passing of my father meant that I had a little capital of my own to be able to get GIG off the ground. Without this the journey would have been even harder. You need to convince, often more business savvy but naturally more risk averse people than yourself, that your idea is a good one and worth backing. In some respects, the obligatory seed funding trail is not necessarily a bad thing, people who want to start their own business naturally believe that their idea is “the one” and sometimes it’s better to go through the pain of finding out that it isn’t before you’re too far down the road to turn back.”

“The first few years will be tough, there are no overnight successes with or without the seed funding, although the eager investors breathing down your neck may well change the goal posts of what ‘success’ looks like. You might get some cool PR and attention just because you’re new, which is always great but that won’t immediately translate into sales and growth. In its first 2 years GIG expanded and contracted from an internal staffing perspective 3 times, constantly fighting that battle of having to speculate to accumulate whilst also trying not to go bust.”

“Don’t get me wrong, running your own business is great. kicking around an idea and watching it become a reality is one of the best feelings in the world but it comes at a price; You will work 7 days a week 12 or more hours a day, for a startup to succeed it has to become your world, you will have to sacrifice relationships, you will have sleepless nights and lets not forget that even if you are prepared to go through all this…it still might not be enough to make it work. All that said, when you can sit back 5 years down the line (it seems to take generally 5 years before things start to stabilise) and see all your hard work paying off, I can honestly say it is worth it and was worth the risk of it all being in vein.”

 

Sam Whigham, Founder at Wilton London 

 

Sam-Whigham-Wilton-London-founder

 

“The idea for Wilton London was conceived after I took a trip to the US, and discovered people were using all of these incredible, inspiring cleaning products where fragrance took centre stage and environmental credentials were a priority, but I realised when I got home there was nothing like it on the market.”

“I’m pretty obsessed with fragrance, so I began to think about how I could match my fondness for botanicals, and creating a company for good, with my knowledge of building brilliant brands gained during more than 8 years working in advertising, developing creative brand and advertising campaigns and crafting imaginative copy.”

“Mike and I are partners in business and in life, so starting up Wilton has been truly all consuming – at moments it’s been great to share the highs, but the lows are tough as you both have to try to pick one another up, despite both feeling the impact.”

“I’d say the moment when Mike and I mutually agreed that I’d close the door on my ad career and leap full force into Wilton, was one of the scariest moments of our business journey. I had reached a real peak in my career in the ad-world and I’d worked really hard to get there. It was a poignant ‘hold hands and jump’ moment. We realised we’d have to plough everything into the business – our money and our time, while also sacrificing some things like big holidays or big changes to our home.”

“But we truly believed in what we were doing. We also believed in the greater purpose of Wilton, having become somewhat disillusioned with some of the unethical tactics adopted by big corporations, so we’ve been on a real mission to create products that make a positive impact on people and the planet.”

“In the early days, I was basically adopting several roles, one of which was pretty much door to door salesman, trying to get our products listed. It can feel like such a blow when you hear a number of no’s and knockbacks, because it becomes so personal – but it made me more determined. Today, seeing our botanical range sold across the UK with retailers including Ocado, Booths, Lakeland, leaves us feeling incredibly proud of what we’re doing and the difference we’re making. People are increasingly selective about the products they buy and bring into their homes, and when we see them choosing Wilton, it feels like a real ‘pinch me’ moment for us.”

“Despite the challenges, when those rewarding moments and milestones do come and you’ve achieved something you set out to, it reminds you why you do what you do everyday. We set out to become a B-Corp which has come with its own set of challenges, but when we achieved B-Corp status in under two years, it felt like our little idea was becoming a big opportunity.”

“We now have 8k+ digital customers and 300+ UK sales locations and our growth rate isn’t slowing down. Our plan is to continue to bring great to use, great looking, household cleaning products to homes across the country – and help people make the move to eco cleaning products easy. We’re not a niche brand, we plan to be a ‘household’ name (pun intended) and we know that’s going to take more hard work and more sleepless nights. I’m sure there are many more roller coaster rides ahead but when you achieve what you set out to, the highs make you remember why you had to go through the lows.”

 

For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.

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Giuseppe Caltabiano and Egi Messito, Co-Founders of EverUp

 

Giuseppe-Caltabiano-and-Egi-Messito-EverUp

 

“We are long-time friends – we’ve known each other since 2006. In the past we have also worked together on a few projects, so we know each other’s capabilities, what we can and what we cannot do. This close friendship bond has helped us, as we work well together. We also have different skillsets and domains expertise, and EverUp was born out from the blend of our different backgrounds (financial services vs. lottery and gaming, but also willingness to sell vs. product expertise). Startups are super hard and take a lot of time, persistence is the name of the game. The emotional and social support that come with friendship is a powerful ally.”

“From time to time we argue, like all founders, but there aren’t any hard feelings. Inevitably you spend a lot of time with your co-founder, discussing a number of things, from day-to-day operational challenges to long-term strategic decisions. It’s much more of a grind than glamorous. Paraphrasing Matt Damon in “The Martian”, at some point, everything’s gonna go south on you… everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how my startup ends. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, your startup is successful. That’s the essence of startup life. And you can pivot your idea, but you cannot pivot your co-founder.”

 

Ofri Ben-Porat, Co-founder and CEO of Edgify

 

Ofri-Ben-Porat-Edgify

 

“One of the biggest things you learn quickly as a founder is that it’s always a lot tougher than you imagine. When you’re starting a company and looking for guidance, you’ll hear the same things – ‘move fast and break things…be bold…be different’. But the reality is that even if you have a brilliant idea, product market fit is more important. People should really pay more attention to that in business school. The reality is that a lot of people with great ideas don’t validate it in the market – yet it’s the market that will make or break your idea. Is your product viable and what about it could be changed to make sure it is? Even if that means adapting your initial concept, making your offering fill a need in the market will help you succeed. It won’t reduce the hard work and long nights needed to grow the business, but it will make sure that you’re delivering a product or solution to an available audience.”

“Even if you have a really great idea, and the buy-in of colleagues and loved ones, the effort that goes into starting a business is immense. If you’re really serious about being successful, it should be equated to bringing a child into the world. The commitment level has to be there. Of course you should believe in your business and strive to succeed but don’t be naive.”

“Looking back there are a few things I would change about how I started the business. Firstly, focus on the people you are hiring and start thinking about diversity from the get-go. It will always be important to get more voices in the room and it is a lot harder to do that reactively. Secondly, growth isn’t the most important aspect of the job, product market fit is.”

 

For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.

techround

 

Hannah Jackson, Founder of Little Ant

 

Hannah-Jackson-Little-Ant-founder

 

“Starting a new venture is somewhat daunting but incredibly exciting at the same time. Having to juggle your career and progress a new business is tiring but well worth it.”

“The biggest struggle for me as a new business owner is there just isn’t enough time in the day! I think about Little Ant as soon as I wake and sometimes often dream about the next steps I need to take to make this company succeed. My dream is to become a household name and hope that people start to buy more ethically when it comes to gifting.”

“As the world starts to open up from the pandemic, people are becoming more aware on how we need to start taking care of our planet. We use natural resources, sustainable produce, thermal printing and non-plastic packaging across all of our products. All of the flowers have been carefully sourced to ensure it has minimal impact on the environment and promotes the health of our planet.”

“A lot of time is spent searching for the right suppliers who are also passionate about sustainability, but design is also key! Sustainability doesn’t have to be boring!”

“Little Ant focusses on sleek, minimal and contemporary designs and ensures that the consumer is aware that their product not only looks good but has been sourced ethically.”

 

Joshua Elash, Director of MT Finance

 

Joshua-Elash-MT-Finance-director

 

“We started this business at the height of the last financial crisis in 2008, which was both scary, and exciting, in equal measure. Myself and my business partner Tomer Aboody had an idea to bring an innovative, tech-focused, specialist lender to the market at a time when the major banks had practically shut their doors. We did not, however, have any idea as to how to actually do it, nor did we have any money to make it happen!”

“I remembered reading an article about Shawn Fanning when I was still at university, about how he would work day and night on the coding behind Napster. The image of that work ethic had stuck with me, and so it was, with no investment behind us, no contracts in the industry, a shared laptop, a bottle of vodka, and a commitment to working our asses off that we launched MT Finance.”

“We paid a programmer we met at our local five-a-side football game £500 to get our first website up and running. It wasn’t great, but it was something.”

“The reality is that launching a company is easy, but when the initial fanfare settles (mainly from our mothers), and the quiet fills the room, the real challenges begin. Staying focused and motivated was hard, and there were definitely days which finished a bit earlier than they should have in those first couple of months (that bottle of vodka came in handy).”

“The key was to motivate each other and to stick at it. We began learning new skills; from using Xero to handle our accounts (our marketing budget for the year was a whopping £500), to coding Mailchimp emails to get the brand and information about what we were doing out at little-to-no cost.”

“We spent hours researching the industry, learning about our competitors and what had happened to them during the financial crisis. We reached out to people, making as many friends and contacts within the space as we could. Meetings (and nights out) with the founders of Montello (who would eventually become Lendinvest) gave us a social group and conviction that we were doing the right things.”

“Slowly, but surely, the networking, the long hours of research and the questionably-designed mailshots, began to pay off. The journey had not been perfect, but we managed, through supporting each other, and working hard, to get from 0 to 1.”

 

For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.

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