Leaders and entrepreneurs in focus: Alec Dobbie, CEO and Co-Founder at FanFinders

Close up shot of red darts arrows in the target centre. Business target, focus, goal success and winner concept.

Making goals ‘numeric’, the changing role of a CEO and the importance of having a consistent leadership approach – the Co-Founder of a performance marketing company talks to Business Impact

You need to set tangible targets to determine if your entrepreneurial venture is working or not, says Alec Dobbie, CEO and Co-Founder, FanFinders – the performance marketing company behind Your Baby Club, a platform that connects brands with parents.

‘Make it numeric,’ Dobbie says. ‘Whether that’s ‘X’ number of users or a certain amount of revenue – these [goals] help you determine whether you’re on the correct path or if it makes sense to pivot.’

Get more advice on running a business and an insight into the changing role of an SME’s CEO in this interview with Business Impact.  

Can you tell us a little bit about your current role and what it involves?

Month-to-month, there is some consistency in my role as CEO as far as devising our strategy and forward-planning. But, day-to-day and week-to-week, the reality of running any small business is that your position evolves constantly.

We’re in the middle of recruiting for our finance team, so this week I’ve been lending some support in that area, while last week I was assisting our software developers. It differs as priorities shift or circumstances change, because an SME doesn’t have multiple layers of teams just waiting in the wings to replace others. Individuals have to be able to step into other roles and take on different responsibilities. This keeps it really interesting.

What single piece of advice would you offer undergraduate and postgraduate students of business and management who plan to start their own companies after completing their studies?

Go and do it. Don’t wait for a perfect opportunity to do it, make it happen. Work hard at something and use pre-set goals. You need a way to determine what ‘good’ or ‘terrible’ means in your market and how you get there; and make it numeric. Whether that’s ‘X’ number of users or a certain amount of revenue – these help you determine whether you’re on the correct path or if it makes sense to pivot. I’m not suggesting you quit early, but I am suggesting that you have the flexibility to move away from something that isn’t right.

Mentorship schemes in business are becoming increasingly popular. Who would have been your dream mentor when you were at the outset of your career and why?

It would be one of those people who just got up and did it, so perhaps someone like Peter Jones. I admire those who have achieved off their own backs but not pontificated about it too much. It would be nice to say Mark Zuckerberg or Sergey Brin [Google Co-Founder], but they operate in a different world to me. Otherwise it would be someone truly defining and inspirational, like Dame Stephanie Shirley [a UK businesswoman who, starting in the 1960s, worked to create job opportunities for women with dependents and adopted the name ‘Steve’ to help her in the male-dominated business world].

What are some of the challenges and opportunities you’re currently facing, both as a leader and as an organisation?

As an organisation, it’s finding new ways to connect with people in a competitive digital market. People continually relocate to different platforms and their habits change, so it’s making sure you stay ahead of the curve – ‘cutting edge’ not ‘bleeding edge’.

For me, it has been becoming more organised and making time for myself. The likes of exercise and meditation are just as important as any ‘work’, because if you’re not the best ‘you’, you’re not going to be that at work either.

Do you feel that leading a company has enabled you to make a positive impact? If so, how?

I always reflect that eight years ago this business didn’t exist at all and was just an idea. We now provide the opportunity for people to work somewhere fun. Internally, we’ve been able to implement things that we think matter, like unlimited holidays, fully remote working (before the pandemic) and giving people back that 10 hours they were spending commuting each week. On a strategic level, I think our ambition has always been to build software that creates better experiences for users and, as we look to introduce personalisation, this objective remains the same.

Which three words best describe your approach to leadership (or your management style) and why?

1. Consistent: it’s vital to be consistent in your approach and feed this across the business.
2. Fun: because if we’re not enjoying our work, we should just pack up and go do something else.
3. Accessible: making yourself available to new ideas and engaging people at all levels can really help foster innovation.

What tops your list when looking for new hires at manager level and above?

Regardless of level, for companies of our size we’re looking for cultural fit. Can they work within the structure we have and with the other people in our team? Some people wouldn’t suit working here, because there might be too much independence. If you need a check-box list of tasks provided or managing throughout the day, this environment wouldn’t be a great fit. They need to be hardworking, proactive and self-motivated. All of those are at the top of the list, because we have an established culture of autonomy.

Alec Dobbie is CEO and Co-Founder of performance marketing and consumer intelligence company, FanFinders. With more than 20 years’ experience as a developer, Alec and his co-founders started FanFinders in 2013, with the aim of evolving marketing to parents. Its self-coded consumer platform, Your Baby Club, now has almost 6 million members and operates on two continents.

Leaders and entrepreneurs in focus: Anthony Chadwick, The Webinar Vet

Founder of The Webinar Vet, Anthony Chadwick, explains how a growing pet population during the pandemic represents both an opportunity and a challenge for a business focused on vets’ continuing education

‘Bringing webinars into the veterinary profession helped to make vets’ and nurses’ lives easier as well as protecting the planet by reducing travel miles,’ says Anthony Chadwick, Founder and Chief Veterinary Officer of The Webinar Vet, an early adopter of this mode of learning.

Part of Chadwick’s role, he says, is ‘to set the cultural tone’ for the businesses he leads. He believes that this is a way to avoid toxic environments creeping in by letting others affect the and helps ensure that those he employs ‘love what they do and have fun’.

In this interview, Chadwick talks about the importance of having a great attitude, why some vets are keen to develop business skills further into their careers, and why he thinks you should learn by working for others before setting up your own company.    

Can you tell us a little bit about your current role and what it involves?

I’m the founder of Alpha Vet International. We have four business units within the umbrella company: The Webinar Vet; Simply Vet; WikiVet; and Conference Virtually. I’m the Chief Veterinary Officer in these businesses. My role within the company is to magnify the brands through my writing and networking as well as the meetings I attend. We are a unique business within the veterinary profession because we take care of continuing education for vets and nurses, as well as recruitment.

Did your Business School/university experience help get your business off the ground? If so, how?

No, vets weren’t taught business skills at vet school. When I qualified, many vets learnt these skills as they became more senior in the practice and eventually became partners. Now, most practices are owned by corporate entities. This allows vets and nurses to concentrate on their clinical skills unless they want to get involved in business. Some vets and nurses will go on to do business qualifications like MBAs or more specific certificates in veterinary practice management.

What single piece of advice would you offer undergraduate and postgraduate students of business and management who plan to start their own companies after completing their studies?

Don’t! After qualifying from Business School, it is always good to go out and learn the practical skills of running a business by working for another company where you can gain invaluable practical experience and make your mistakes. I think this will help you be more prepared when setting up your own business and more likely to be successful.

Mentorship schemes in business are becoming increasingly popular. Who would have been your dream mentor when you were at the outset of your career and why?

The Chair of my board is a man called Rob Noble. He has been a great mentor to me in helping me to grow my business. The key, though, is to have a mentor because it will help your business to develop quicker if you are getting wise advice.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities you’re currently facing, both as a leader and as an organisation?

I stepped down as CEO of The Webinar Vet at the beginning of our financial year to help grow the Simply Vet brand. There is a shortage of vets in the UK as well as a growing pet population during the pandemic. As with everything, this is both an opportunity and a challenge. Vets and nurses are in danger of burning out. Simply Vet’s mission is to make use of the available resources more efficiently and, hence, prevent widespread burnout.

Do you feel that leading a company has enabled you to make a positive impact? If so, how?

I’ve been a vet for more than 30 years. When I set up The Webinar Vet in 2010, there was no online provision for vets and nurses to carry on their continuing education. We had to attend evening meetings or conferences in other cities or countries. This was expensive in time, money and resources and left many of us stressed and tired. Bringing webinars into the veterinary profession helped to make vets’ and nurses’ lives easier as well as protecting the planet by reducing travel miles. As a committed environmentalist, I’m glad that the company contributes to the solution rather than the problem of climate change.

Outline the importance of sustainability to your company’s strategy and why you feel it is important to business approaches as a whole today.

I think we need to be interested in more than just sustainability. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in Europe. We do webinars on sustainability to encourage vets to be leaders in their communities. We are an Investor in the Environment Silver level business working towards Green. We assess our carbon footprint and try to mitigate it. We offset our own carbon emissions. We plant trees for every new member we acquire and have planted a wildflower meadow at work. These are just some of the things we have done in the business.

Which three words best describe your approach to leadership (or your management style) and why?

Encourager, servant, enthusiast.

My role in the business is to serve others and help them to develop personally and professionally while they are with us. I am also there to set the cultural tone. Some businesses can have toxic environments. This is when the leader of the business allows the lowest common denominator to set the culture and atmosphere. I want people to love what they do and have fun.

What tops your list when looking for new hires at manager level and above?

Great attitude. Being able to connect with their team. Problem solver rather than a problem finder, and being aligned to the vision and values of the company.

Anthony Chadwick is a serial entrepreneur and the Founder and Chief Veterinary Officer of The Webinar Vet, a provider of online veterinary education. He is passionate about providing high quality education and services to veterinary professionals in an accessible and affordable manner which is also sustainable for the environment. The Webinar Vet training has reduced travel mileage by several million miles since starting in 2010 with concomitant carbon reduction.

Leaders and entrepreneurs in focus: May Flanagan, Global Green Family

A person is carrying an eco-friendly fabric shopping bag with a green leaf logo stating 'eco'. The person is standing behind a bright solid orange background.

Pursuing purpose while running your own company and the opportunities presented by remote working to empower others. An interview with the Founder of a website that aims to ‘make sustainability simple’

‘I am able to get a positive message out there about saving the environment and our impact on it as consumers,’ says May Flanagan, Founder of Global Green Family, a website that aims to change the way people think about everyday products and raise the standards of sustainable living.

In this interview with Business Impact, Flanagan underlines the importance of networking for other budding entrepreneurs and outlines why Bill Gates’ penchant for lifelong learning makes him her ideal mentor.

Can you tell us a little bit about your current role and what it involves?

As the Founder of Global Green Family, I am always thinking of what’s next for our organisation and the brand itself. I also spend a lot of my time strategising, analysing Google Analytics, and staying on top of trends to make sure that I am always aware of what’s going on with our organisation and what’s new in the sustainability industry.

Did your Business School/university experience help get your business off the ground? If so, how?

I did business studies and information technology (IT) at school as an A-level student in the UK. These subjects definitely sparked my interest to study accounting and finance at university. Looking back, I think having a good understanding of these subjects helped me get my business off the ground because I had the skills necessary for its upkeep, such as learning how to budget and having an eye for detail in all aspects.

What single piece of advice would you offer undergraduate and postgraduate students of business and management who plan to start their own companies after completing their studies?

If I were to offer a single piece of advice, it would be to network. There are a lot of opportunities that will come your way if you get your brand out there.

Mentorship schemes in business are becoming increasingly popular. Who would have been your dream mentor when you were at the outset of your career and why?

My dream mentor would have been Bill Gates because of the noteworthy qualities he possesses as a leader.

He has passion for what he does, which is supported by a deep knowledge in his area of expertise. Bill Gates also has this winning, ‘always learning’ attitude and an eagerness to gain more knowledge and expertise in the tech industry. Bill Gates is also resilient – he is committed to his craft day and night in the pursuit of success, even when faced with many challenges.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities you’re currently facing, both as a leader and as an organisation?

As a leader, I think the pandemic has had an influence on how people feel and this has definitely changed priorities for me.

Being flexible in my approach to running the company has been challenging. However, through remote working, new opportunities have arisen and I get to help make people feel more empowered during these trying times with my website.

From the organisational perspective, I find it challenging to keep organic search visitors increasing as user intent is changing. Plus, Google’s algorithms are updated regularly so it can be really challenging for my website to rank higher and remain one of the best in our niche.

Do you feel that leading a company has enabled you to make a positive impact? If so, how?

Definitely. Through Global Green Family, I am able to get a positive message out about saving the environment and our impact on it as consumers. I am happy that I am able to educate people and have an influence on sustainability.

Please outline the importance of sustainability to your company’s strategy and why you feel it is important to business approaches as a whole today.

Sustainability is everything we stand for, as exemplified by our organisation’s tagline, ‘Let’s Make Sustainability Simple’. It is our ambition to transform the way we all think about everyday products in our lives. We also aim to inspire people to use eco-friendlier organic natural materials that will enrich our own lives and have a better impact on the planet we live on.

Which three words best describe your approach to leadership (or your management style) and why?

Empathy, humility, and empowerment (of others).

‘Empathy’ because understanding the people that work with me and seeing how they feel is crucial to me because that has an impact on their work.

‘Humility’ because of the importance of understanding that the people that work with me have their own aspirations. I  try my best to help them on that journey by recognising their perspectives and letting them know they are doing well.

Lastly, ‘empowerment of others’ because I believe everyone is equal and unique in their own abilities and are presented with opportunities to succeed. I truly believe that if people are happy at work they will do their very best not because they have to, but because they want to. That’s what truly makes a difference, because as they say: ‘People are your biggest asset’.

May Flanagan is a digital marketer, fashion writer, and the Founder of Global Green Family, a website that aims to help consumers to be more mindful of their impact on the planet.

Leaders and entrepreneurs in focus: Nicky Story, Supplies for Candles

An entrepreneur who has seen his fair share of setbacks, Nicky Story offers advice based on his experience and five tips for growing a successful business

‘“Overnight success” is a total misnomer,’ says Nicky Story, a 29-year-old entrepreneur and owner of successful online companies, Supplies for Candles and the Soap Kitchen, with more than 100,000 customers and 100 employees across two UK locations.

After graduating with a degree in business and management from Leeds University, Nicky set up his first enterprise from his dad’s garage but found the road to success is riddled with pitfalls and that it can take years and some serious failures and lessons to get there.

In this interview for Business Impact, he details his experiences, before offering five tips for growing a successful business.

Tell us about your first setback as an entrepreneur

I was working on my own in the freezing cold every day with no support and I was just failing. I was utterly miserable and I didn’t want to get out of bed anymore to even pack a few orders in the garage. I didn’t want to do it – whatever I did, didn’t work. I had no money, or motivation, and realised that my business, as it was then, wasn’t going anywhere. My parents were so worried that I sought help and was prescribed antidepressants.

What made you want to try again?

This one year working for someone else made me realise what kind of boss I didn’t want to be. This guy wasn’t a great leader and lots of the staff were unhappy. I remember sitting in the office thinking, ‘when I run my own company, I’ll never act like you do or treat my staff like you.’ I also knew that owning and running my own business was exactly what I wanted to do.

I quit my job, bought some wax, glass and fragrance and set up Supplies for Candles in 2016. Just six months later, sales started to boom and I needed a helping hand. I employed my best friend and everything took off.

What advice would you give to business graduates and budding entrepreneurs?

My message to other entrepreneurs and business leaders is keep going. Business can be tough, but it can also be incredible. One of my favourite quotes is from the late, great Muhammad Ali who said: ‘Don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ I have this quote in my gym and I think it’s a great motto to live by in life, but also in business.

I want to encourage entrepreneurs, from their kitchen tables to their online marketplaces that they can do it! But, it takes determination, flexibility and teamwork.

Five tips for growing a successful business

In the below, Nicky Story offers five tips for entrepreneurs who are seeking to set up and sustain a successful business:  

1. Determine what drives you

Even after four years of failure, I knew I didn’t want to work for somebody else, I wanted to make a success of myself. Everything I learnt in the four years of a failing business and also within employment for a year, I applied to my business, and see that experience not as wasted time, but as lessons learnt that are now enabling me to reach my full potential. I kept visualising what I wanted and that kept me motivated daily.

2. Understand yourself and your market

The market I went into initially wasn’t big enough and that’s why it didn’t make money… and I wasn’t in the right place in myself either. That year in employment really helped me to see the kind of entrepreneur I wanted to be and why it was so important to me. We often forget about the ‘why’ in pursuit of the ‘what’ and for me, it’s not just about being successful, but bringing other people with me.

3. Be fearless

One of the biggest lessons second time around was having the resilience and confidence to just go for it — I’d lost everything once already and decided it was time to take some risks. I learnt to be fearless — I invested all my money into marketing to make Supplies for Candles work — I really drained it down to my last £1 GBP this time. Previously, I played safe and was constantly so scared of it failing that I was really conservative but continued to fail anyway. This time, I took some risks in order to gain.

4. Generate good quality content

Top tips, how to guides, blogs, videos… focus on your content — it all helps with customer interaction. We aim to make it easy too — so once our customers have viewed the content they can click and add everything to the cart in one go. We know that the more quality content we produce, the more sales we get on the back of it.

5. Be prepared for the long haul

Cue Muhammad Ali – don’t quit. Your dream is worth pursuing. And now that we’ve determined that success isn’t going to come overnight, you can develop realistic strategies based on realistic timescales. If it happens more quickly, then great, but it will help you from becoming despondent. Keep going!

Nicky Story is the Director and Founder of Supplies For Candles, and Director of the Soap Kitchen.

How prioritising prices has hurt businesses, consumers and the planet

Price wars push manufacturers to produce more for less, at the expense of employees and the environment, and often result in products that consumers are ultimately unhappy with, says Mei Xu, author of Burn

When I set out to look for a niche in the home fragrance industry, national big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Bed, Bath & Beyond engaged in heated competition for consumers. These stores offered everything from diapers and shampoos, to fashion items, competing for the same middle-class American demographic.

Trying to find a space in this daunting, pre-Amazon-dominated, global retail landscape meant that I had to contend with price. How does Target compete against Walmart when selling the same box of Tide detergent and bottle of Pantene Shampoo? The answer, of course, is price. Over the years, retailers advertised more and more discounts and coupons on core products, even if it meant losing margin on those items. They figured that if they could lure consumers through their doors to buy the detergent or shampoo, these customers often stayed to purchase other staples as well as impulse items like fashion, toys, and even candles.

Retailers’ race to the bottom

While national brands in the US, like Tide, have more established retail pricing, smaller brands which lack consumer brand recognition often can’t compete. Consumers expect to purchase their ‘go to’ brands at discounted prices, making their everyday purchase an impulse buy.

Retailers’ race to the bottom has meant that manufacturers are forced to ‘value engineer’ their entire sourcing and production processes. When retailers offer a discount of 20% or more, often to stay competitive during seasonal or holiday promotions, global factories must race to find cheaper suppliers to save on packaging materials, accessories, and raw ingredients.

Consider the example of candles, a product that has five essential ingredients: wax, colour, fragrance, wick, and vessel (or ‘holder’). When competing on price, factories could substitute refined petroleum wax for unrefined alternatives; switch quality fragrance oil formulas – the results of long hours of R&D – with cheaper alternatives; and replace pure cotton wicks with blended synthetic wicks that cost half the price.

Unfortunately, consumers cannot detect these manufacturing decisions when shopping. Factories know how to make cheaper products look appealing on the shelf. It is only when consumers burn the candle at home that they can appreciate the differences. As they often discover, candles with low-quality wax emit a gassy, almost petroleum-like odour. Rather than having a predictable flame that evenly consumes wax, non-cotton wicks have trouble trimming themselves, resulting in large, sometimes dangerous flames, or candles self-extinguishing as their wicks become submerged in pools of melted wax. Instead of diffusing beautiful fragrance notes into the home, such candles can send dark soot into the air and damage walls and ceilings.

Over my career, I often saw consumers returning those candles to retailers, demanding reimbursements. This represented a financial and reputational loss for retailers, factories, and supply chains, but there was little recourse if they wanted to remain in business.

Repercussions of a relentless focus

As large retailers competed with one another on price, factory owners squeezed more production out of each shift, creating a stressful and toxic work environment, while securing lower-priced raw materials that degraded the environment. This relentless focus on lower prices has been driving manufacturing into developing countries where abundant labour and a lack of worker and environmental protections enable this global low-price manufacturing and retail system.

We often hear stories about fires in garment factories that claim human lives, or waterways near textile mills becoming so polluted that residents suffer long-term health problems like cancer. When factories produce goods with the cheapest possible materials the result is that workers, communities, and the environment ultimately suffer.

I founded my company, Chesapeake Bay Candle, not to compete on price, but simply to create wellness-oriented and fashionable products that were creative and affordable. After pursuing this for more than 20 years and establishing three factories in Asia and the US, I feel that I have discovered a formula that benefits workers, protects the environment and serves the consumer. It was the best choice for my business and could hold the answer for many more retailers as well.

Mei Xu is a Chinese American entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of three global companies – BlissLiving Home®, Chesapeake Bay Candle® and Yes She May, the latter of which is an e-commerce platform designed to help women-owned brands survive and thrive.
Xu is also the author of the memoir, Burn (Wiley, 2021).

BGA members can benefit from a discount on the RRP for Burn, courtesy of the BGA Book Club. Please click here for details.

Where and how to look for early-stage funding

Early-stage funding can often seem elusive to those eager to get their business ideas off the ground. David Pattison, author of The Money Train, outlines your options, and shares the questions you must ask yourself before you get going

Starting your own business is an amazing experience. It’s not easy – if it was then most people would do it, and most people don’t. Equally, looking for investment is very hard. There is no money tree growing in the garden that just requires a shake.

At the earliest stage of setting up a business, the whole idea of fundraising can feel daunting or even impossible. Whether you are at a Business School, a university incubator, or just a young startup, knowing where to start looks hard.

It’s also easy to underestimate how hard it is to raise money. This isn’t helped by the current market environment – 20 years ago, most people’s career ambitions were to ‘get their boss’ job’. Now, most people in their 20s want their own business. It’s an expectation that has been largely driven by the investment community.

Let me explain; there is a lot of investment money out there looking for a home. It’s hard to get but it’s there. The current model encourages young businesses and startups to take investment, or carry debt, to accelerate the growth of their companies. Not all of these businesses actually need to give equity away to investors to be successful. Some would get there anyway, albeit at a slightly slower pace and with a different financial model.

Do you need funding?

So, the first thing to do is work out if you really need to raise money through investment. Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • What would funding add to the business?
  • How much do I really need?
  • How much time would it save?
  • What would be the costs of raising money and diluting shareholding and controls
  • What multiple of success would it add?
  • Could I run the business without funding?
  • When would I need the money?

Having answered these questions, you should have a good idea of what level of funding you need, if any. At very early stage, that might be a very small amount. It could be as little as £500 GBP, or as much as £100,000 GBP. In my experience, most founders seriously underestimate how much they need to get things going because £5,000 GBP can feel like a lot of money at a young age. For a startup, it isn’t.

You will need the first round of money to get towards proof of concept. Being able to answer these sorts of questions:

  • Does the product/service work?
  • Are people prepared to pay for it?
  • Are they prepared to buy it multiple times?

And to be able to answer the really key question: ‘I know there is a gap in the market, but am I convinced that there is a market in the gap?’

Having got to this point, don’t just jump straight into looking for investors. There are other options, particularly if the money required is at a low level. Look into:

  • Government or commercial grants
  • University business incubators which have funds available
  • Loan options            

I said at the beginning that getting an investor on board is really hard. Getting the first investor on board can feel like the hardest. But, looking for money at a really early stage can be slightly less difficult. The reasons are twofold: firstly, you are most likely to be dealing with individuals and not institutions, and secondly there are often attractive tax breaks available to these individuals. For example, in the UK there are government schemes like the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). I won’t go into details, but these schemes offer instant tax relief to individuals and even offer some relief against losses.

Emotional and rational investors

It’s worth pointing out at this stage that, in my view, there are two types of investor: the emotional and the rational. The emotional tend to be individuals who choose to invest and, at the early stages, this type of investor will almost certainly be who you will be looking to raise money from. The rational are the institutions which have to invest, as they have to commit all of their funds on behalf of their clients. The rational tend to be more formal and much more rigorous around the due diligence and legal processes.

So how do you find these ‘emotional’ individuals and how do you then get them to put money into your business? In its most simplistic form, you need to get out there with confidence and a good coherent story. Show that you know your company, your market, your people, your competition and, most of all, your opportunity and your exit strategy. You have to be prepared to sell yourself and your company/idea to a whole range of people.

Be prepared to drink a lot of tea/coffee and accept that you will be a lot of frogs to kiss before you find your prince/princess.

Sounds easy doesn’t it?

Getting out there

But how do you meet these people? Talk to everyone you know. The first place to go is the three Fs: friends, families and fools. Do not be afraid to ask. If they can’t help, they might know people who can and be prepared to introduce you. These will be your best-ever investors. They won’t be too rigorous or insistent in their demands around the shareholders agreement and may well be there if you hit a bump in the road in the future. They really want you to succeed and will probably be attached emotionally as well as rationally. Just one word of warning, make sure that these investors understand that they may lose their money. Potential investors who can’t afford to lose their money should not invest.

Approach other young businesses in the sector you are in and ask if the founders would be willing to share their ‘war stories’. You will be amazed at how many will be happy to chat to you. Don’t waste their time though. Ask them to point you in the directions of potential investors. There are also angel networks that you can approach. These tend to be more formal, but can sometimes be the solution if you are looking for a larger amount.

Talk to experienced businesspeople you or your family know. They will all know someone who knows someone. Approach experienced people that you don’t know who have been in the sector that you want to operate in. These will probably be people you don’t know. They all operate in informal networks and they will probably be able to advise on more than just fundraising. Again, other founders will know who they are.

Crowdfunding is another option, particularly if you have an interesting product that the investors can get at a discounted rate, or access to something that is unique to them.

There are other options as well, but the basic advice is the same. Get out there and find these people. Be well prepared and explore all of the options. Say ‘yes’ to every potential contact even if on the face of it there is no sense in doing it.

It’s very hard to predict where money will come from at the early stage. You need to be well prepared for all the conversations and be unfazed by disappointments. Remember that the person who is most excited and enthusiastic about your business is probably you. Don’t take someone not investing personally. One thing I can predict is that, at this early stage, money will be offered from places you don’t expect it to come from.

Good luck.

David Pattison is Co-Founder of media agency, PHD – later sold to become part of the Omnicom Group and now a worldwide brand in 80 markets. For the last 10 years, David has worked as a chair or mentor for a variety of businesses and CEOs. He is the author of The Money Train (Practical Inspiration Publishing, 2021).

BGA members can buy a copy of The Money Train at a discounted price, courtesy of the BGA Book Club. Please click here for details.