Start Upwards

You’ve done your market research and have belief in your idea. We asked entrepreneurs and investors to share their tips on the next steps to start-up success…

01

— Start

If you want to start a business, work in a business you admire most in the same sector. Learn about product and service, but also about systems and best practice. There is no need to reinvent the wheel – if you start in a new sector with almost no experience, you will spend a lot of time and money learning things that others know. And if you feel that your business must start now before someone else does it, you have the wrong business idea.
Spencer Craig, Pure 

Road test your idea. Run it past as many people as you can. Get the idea out in the open and really think about the comments you get back from the people you trust. Don’t be put off by one comment in isolation.
Alice Whiteley, Yawn

The tech startup world has popularised the “lean startup” model and the idea that you should launch quickly and learn. It’s why there are so many apps that don’t really work that well. The value of a well-crafted product is super-important, so do try and move at pace, but don’t launch something that you know just isn’t quite good enough.
Frank Lampen, Distill Ventures 


02

— Maverick

Break the rules if your heart tells you to. Lots of people told us – “you can’t do this”, “how is that going to work”, “that’s not what London wants or needs”. But we had a vague (and I mean vague) idea of what we wanted to achieve and even though it broke various restaurant conventions we went ahead as it made sense to us.
Mark Selby, Wahaca

Create your own path. As a start-up you have the opportunity to shape the business and culture you believe in. Whilst you can and should learn from industry best practice, borrow ideas from other industries and implement your own ideas; that’s where innovation comes from and is what will make you stand out. This autonomy and flexibility is your advantage over big hierarchical businesses – don’t relinquish it.
Alex Lee & Laura Reed, Hey! Holla

Do not accept “because it’s not the way it’s done” as the answer to the question “why can’t this be done?”. If that’s the answer you’re given you’re not working with the right people.
Dan Walsh, Fantasy Festival


03

— Connect

It’s great to do everything once, so you know all parts of your business from how your product is made through to doing the books. But it’s even more important to work out where you add the most value and find great people to do everything else. Time is your most precious resource so use it wisely.
Frank Lampen, Distill Ventures

Listen to everyone. You don’t have to act on it, but anything is worth considering for a moment. Frustrating as it might be when someone tells you something you don’t want to hear, its important that you properly think about it and assess it as there will be some logic worth considering.
Mark Selby, Wahaca 

Choose partners wisely. Talk with any potential partners about what might go wrong and ensure there is a real sense of mutual respect and trust. If you can discuss frankly your worst fears then it is a good sign of a strong relationship that can withstand the pressures of growing a business.
Alice Whiteley, Yawn

Your business only works because of the people who actually do the work. If you find someone as passionate about the business as you are, find a way to hire them.
Megan Thomas, Full Fat PR


04

— Make

Balance information and instinct. We’re infamous for getting our trusty “panel” of friends to vote on new product lines, but there comes a point where you can end up talking about things so long that you miss the boat! Your gut instinct is often spot on!
Alex Lee & Laura Reed, Hey! Holla

Whatever you think your lead times are for either getting a new product developed, sourcing packaging, working with designers – double it. Everything out of your control will take twice the length of time that you think.
Melanie Goldsmith, Smith & Sinclair

Never put more than three things on a to-do list.
Megan Thomas, Full Fat PR


05

— Fund

Focus on a realistic profit. In the world of tech companies, the idea of creating a unicorn is very seductive. But running a business that does not make any money for a decade in the hope of a big payout at the end leads to a constant fundraising effort and walking a very thin tightrope. Instead, focus on making a profit and paying yourself a decent salary. If the only way to make money is to double in size every year, you can make bad decisions. If you have an income and lifestyle to protect, you’ll make better decisions and have more chance of being around in a decade (which is really at least how long it takes to build a business).
Spencer Craig, Pure

The best fundraising pitches are ones that inspire belief. Don’t start with big numbers about billion pound opportunities or get lost in the detail of your business plan, just focus on making the people you’re pitching to believe in your mission and believe in you. If they buy into you, all the detail can come later.
Frank Lampen, Distill Ventures

Research, analyse and assess as much as is humanly possible. Anyone who has raised external investment will know that in order to get that cash in the bank you will be subjected to days, weeks and probably months of scrutiny and interrogation. Without the necessary knowledge even the best ideas and business models will fall apart.
Dan Walsh, Fantasy Festival

Think about funding not just in financial terms. Negotiating supplier payment terms that help with cashflow, can be as effective as a bank loan. Bringing in partners with essential skills can add as much value as a cash investment.
Alice Whiteley, Yawn


06

— Shout

Your best marketing is your customers. They will be your brand ambassadors if the product is the best. We ask ourselves “would someone walk 10 mins at lunchtime to get this salad and tell their colleagues about it?”. Without the best product in the market, there is no point in even starting.
Spencer Craig, Pure

As an entrepreneur, you are your best ambassador. Get out and tell everyone about it. Everyone loves a start-up story, and you’ll be surprised at the positive reaction and helpful advice, even from complete strangers.
Alice Whiteley, Yawn


07

— Thrive

Surround yourself with positive people. It’s true of life and business. You’ll soon work out which of your friends and family are your business cheerleaders: they’re the ones telling their work friends about your business and always asking you for the latest update.
Alex Lee & Laura Reed, Hey! Holla

Be patient and enjoy the ride. There is no such thing as overnight success – a lot of hard work is required and it will be hard – so get your kicks from working with amazing people (thank you Roly and Phil) and creating a business you can be proud of.
Alice Whiteley, Yawn

Be humble, however great you think you are. There are so many amazing people – our investors, our staff, our suppliers who have done amazing things in our business, and help drive constant improvement and innovation.
Mark Selby, Wahaca