This year I launched a new business. Fuelled by my own experience of taking up athletics at 32, (pole vault) and eventually winning 3 gold medals nearly 8 years later, I wanted to create a space where women could go and be inspired. We wear so many hats these days and so much is expected of us, I know myself that unless you are a great mum, earning a good salary, totally contented, AND manage NOT to look like a bag lady in the process, life is not quite as you think it should be.
However whilst I definitely love my business, and it is growing well, the hurdle of fund raising to take it to the next level is a process that completely baffles me. It is a whole new world full of contradictions, bravado and bloody hard work! The latter is something thankfully I am not afraid of and having been use to setting goals in training, the daily input of positive work flow comes relatively naturally.
The rest is very confusing. Take the process of the business plan as an example. A business plan must explain the idea, ( ok so far) then the projections and the exit strategy. After you spend days, and nights working on the figures that seem to make sense, and are asked to substantiate these in full, you are then told that this is only guess work and really mean nothing until you can prove them! Which leaves me a little bewildered as to why it was so necessary to be so in depth in the first place, let alone how you intend to get out of the very thing you are trying to raise money to grow!! Whilst I understand the need to prepare financials, ( for me as much as anything) they seem to be easily thrown out, and don’t talk to me about valuing your company which is pre profit.
Finally you have what seems like a good proposition, and then they tell you that business plans are pretty much out of date as soon as you have finished them, as a start up changes so quickly. Argghh! As part of any healthy investment proposition you must show scalability, (seems reasonable) but here is the tricky part: You have to be able to show it as if you have investment, as invariably it takes investment to get to those lofty heights. Then they ask you how you can justify those figures without having any track record to prove that you can make this a scalable business!!
As a 40 something mother of 3, and a reasonably tenacious and bright woman, I have been astounded at how very stupid I feel at certain stages of this process. However I also feel so very alive and as I feel like a new character out of the movie “Limitless” as I learn at 100 miles an hour how this process works. At the heart of what I do, I am immensely proud of the site we have built and phase two which we will be released next month. Just when you think you are never going to be able to create forecasts, write brilliantly entertaining, informative exec summaries, and all the other challenges you face along the way, you manage to somehow draw a very deep breath and find a way, because you believe so very passionately in the business and its potential.
I applaud every start up who draws inspiration from a dream and a belief they have in an idea. That dream grows slowly but surely into a physical work of art that is etched by tears and laughter. It is the ultimate challenge to test yourself against everything you dont know fuelled by a belief in something you do know and believe in passionately
I would love to hear your start up stories!