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The Startup Blueprint
100 minutes | Oct 25, 2019
#17 Giles Humphries: It's All About MVP ... and a "Fuck It, Let's Do It" Attitude!
In this episode, I am joined by Giles Humphries, the Co-founder of Mindful Chef. Giles runs a healthy recipe box business and, in his own words, is “building a brand that is a force for good whilst maintaining a premium position in the market”. The market he is talking about is expanding quickly and there are already a number of established players with very deep pockets. Nevertheless, he and his team have scaled quickly largely thanks to the fact they have identified and focused on a single USP, tapped into key consumer trends and implemented a successful fundraising strategy. Whether or not you are a foodie or a food entrepreneur, you are going to love this episode. It is full of advice on everything from co-founder agreements to raising money, and from hiring staff to expanding your business into different channels at the right time and in the right way. So, what are the key takeaways? Firstly, Giles is adamant that Mindful Chef would not be where it is today without the combined efforts of all three co-founders. The advice here is simple; look for co-founders with different but complementary skill sets and don’t overcomplicate things. Mindful Chef also proves how critical it is to niche down, both in terms of your target market, your value proposition and also your operations. This will ensure you can reach your audience and then actually utilise the funds you have to deliver what they expect. Niching down also means staying focused and resisting the temptation to try new things, introduce new products and spend on anything other than your core offering. There is some great advice on how life-changing external investment can be and how to successfully get through your first few rounds of investment. It takes time, hard work and a lot of coffee meetings, but it is all about finding the right investors. These could be your clients or institutional investors, in which case you should always ask what else (other than money) they might bring. In Giles’ words, these investors should “not be sharks but should be razor-sharp people” who challenge you as a founder. But for me, the key takeaway is the importance of adopting an MVP approach as a startup. You need to reach your customer as quickly and early as possible and find out whether they are willing to buy what you are offering. And if you are ever in doubt here, follow Giles’ advice and adopt a “fuck it, let’s do it” attitude.
55 minutes | Sep 10, 2019
#16 Stuart Macdonald: The Best Peanut Butter in the World … But People Come First
In this episode, I am joined by Stuart Macdonald, the Founder of Manilife. Stuart is shaking up and “premiumising” the peanut butter category by introducing a deep roast, craft product. In the process, he has built a great team, a beautiful brand and attracted both external investment and the attention of major retailers. I am a massive fan of peanut butter and of Stuart’s also - so I knew I would enjoy this episode. But it is also full of fantastic advice and insight. So, what are the key takeaways? Firstly, Stuart recommends that you only quit your job when you are ready to break, which recognises that working for an established company not only offers stability, it also provides you with a platform on which you can begin to work on your startup. Stuart has also shares insights into what being a founder really requires; like taking your time with recruitment and finding the time to celebrate your successes. What he described as the “founder:team dilemma” is also a tough lesson that many founders really struggle with - there are simply instances where you have to accept that no one loves your baby as much as you do! Stuart, like many of my guests who started their journey as a sole founder, also states categorically that if he were to start another business, he would 100% look for a co-founder. I always find this interesting, not least because you rarely see the reverse (i.e. co-founders who vow never to start another venture with someone else). But the biggest takeaway for me lies in Stuart’s ‘why’. Why did he start Manilife? It is often thought that every business needs a problem. This also plays out in 99% of investor decks … problem slide followed by solution slide. However, what this episode has shown is that it is not necessary for every startup story to begin with a personal problem that the founder then sets out to find a solution for. For Stuart, Manilife has always been about the people more than the problem and even the product. Even so, let me reassure you that the product is making a lot of peanut butter lovers (including myself) very happy! ENJOY!
77 minutes | Jul 11, 2019
#15 Robert Rowland: Putting the Fun into Sweat and Why the Wrong Hire can Cause Chaos
In this episode, I am joined by Robert Rowland, Co-founder and Chief Boom Officer of Boom Cycle. Boom Cycle exploded onto the London boutique fitness scene in 2011 and is a true pioneer in the market. The brand is grounded in personality and community and carefully balances health and hedonism. The company now has 5 studios, significant financial backing and ambitious plans for expansion. Together with his wife and co-founder, Hilary, Robert has been on an incredible journey - a journey that has seen them leverage their strengths, learn from their mistakes and build a seriously impressive business. It is also a journey that we can learn a lot from. So, what are the biggest takeaways? Firstly, aspiring entrepreneurs should not necessarily expect a dramatic eureka moment. Robert’s decision to start Boom Cycle was the culmination of various experiences, conversations and market research. And even then, Boom Cycle started as a hobby before it became obvious that it was destined to be a full blown business. PR has played a big part in the marketing and growth of Boom Cycle. A lot of startups struggle in the space, typically because of the difficulty of tracking the return on investment. But it is clear that Robert and Hilary had faith in the process from the beginning. At the same time, they know that PR is only one part of the process and Boom Cycle has clearly focused on creating multiple positive touch points at every opportunity, which is something every startup can learn from. Another massive takeaway is the importance of understanding your why. Why are you doing what you are doing? Why does your business exist? Boom Cycle is on a mission to make fitness fun, to introduce personality, to build community and to hammer home that it is about how you feel and not just how you look. Two things struck me when listening to Robert speak about this (1) happiness and euphoria are almost s a KPI at Boom Cycle; and (2) knowing your why saves time and money by making every decision ten times easier. But the biggest takeaway for me relates to recruitment. Robert considers hiring the wrong people to be the most damaging mistake he and Hilary have made. Their approach initially was, in Robert’s words, relaxed and almost flippant - an approach that has the potential to cause chaos within your company. But things have clearly changed and the recruitment process is more considered, structured and professional. And there is even a BoomUniversity. But the biggest sign of the progress made in this area can be seen when Robert describes what he is most proud of - the team he has built and the 72 people that take a wage from Boom Cycle.
66 minutes | Jun 25, 2019
#14 Laurence Kemball-Cook: Turning Footsteps into Electricity and Data
In this episode, I am joined by Laurence Kemball-Cook, Founder and CEO of Pavegen. Pavegen converts human footsteps into electricity, data and rewards using groundbreaking technology. This technology is installed in smart cities, transport hubs, retailers and companies, and as pedestrians walk across it, the weight from their footsteps compresses electromagnetic generators and produces energy. They have successfully rolled out over 250 projects in 36 countries around the world and have captured over half a billion steps. The goal is a billion a month. This episode is full of great advice and insight, including the difficult lesson that our biggest failures in life can often open up our greatest opportunities. There is also a valuable reminder of the importance of self-belief and understanding what drives you. Laurence clearly believes that what he is doing is important and necessary and it is this belief that has helped him to persevere, even when he was shown the door by over 150 VC funds. Laurence believes that sales are the lifeblood of any business, that the CEO should be the best salesman in the team and that selling is all about building relationships and storytelling - solid advice that every entrepreneur should listen to. Pavegen has raised finance in a very specific way, favouring smaller and more frequent rounds. In effect, this has required Laurence to constantly remain in fundraising mode, something that doesn’t appear to have negatively affected either his ability to raise or to grow the business. There is certainly something to be said for a young business that is able to capitalise at short notice and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. But the biggest takeaway for me is that entrepreneurs need to learn how to, in Laurence’s words, have a “normal, human life”. The default mode is all too often 16hr+ days, 7 days a week. As this episode shows, this can have horror-show scale consequences on your personal life. The goal is finding the right balance, which Laurence clearly is these days. And when you do find this balance, it is not only your health and happiness that will improve but the health and happiness of your business as well.
70 minutes | Jun 23, 2019
#13 Nic Oliver: Democratising Data, Taking on Google and Facebook, and Burning Out.
In this episode, I am joined by Nic Oliver, Founder and CEO of people.io. Nic is on a mission to give people back ownership of their data and let each and every one of us connect with the value of our own personal information. In a way, he is democratising data but he is also challenging the status quo and attempting to “invert the global data model”. In effect, this means picking a fight with the companies that control the global data landscape today - namely, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft. If this were not enough of a challenge, he has also been fighting against the unavoidable fact that most people don’t actually care that much about their personal data. There is a lot in this episode: Nic is a passionate visionary, there has been multiple rounds of investment, groundbreaking partnership agreements and explosive user growth. But there have been many mistakes and lessons learnt. Nic also admits to burning out on more than one occasion. In short, there is loads we can learn from. Firstly, Nic is an expert on data - how it’s created, moved, stored, used and abused. He also makes it clear that it is not the data itself that is valuable; rather, it is the insight that data can provide. And this is something that even the earliest stage startups can learn from and take advantage of. This episode is also a prime example of how you need purpose and vision, but these must be matched by drive and energy in order to succeed. Businesses need to understand their customers and people.io know that this means understanding psychographics as well as demographics. As is often the case, the most useful lessons in life lie in failure and not success and the biggest takeaway for me from this episode is that entrepreneurs need to take care of themselves, mentally and physically. Nic has hit walls, been paralysed by decision fatigue and has burnt out on more than one occasion. You need to be able to step back, switch off and relax - not only for yourself but for the health of your business as well. Crucially, you will need to resolve the feeling of inner guilt caused by not working on your business all the time. But, as Nic points out, the challenge is stopping yourself from always wanting to do more.
86 minutes | Jun 14, 2019
#12 Ben Camara: Risk, Trust and Making it Work with an Argos Squat Rack
In this episode, I am joined by Ben Camara, serial entrepreneur and Founder of No 1 Fitness and Remote Coach. Ben has had a fascinating journey that has required him to wear many hats and stretch an often limited budget. His various entrepreneurial ventures offer great insight into how to start and scale a successful business. For example, it’s ok to juggle more than one project and one passion in life (something that is often frowned upon) provided you can give each enough attention and provided that you are comfortable with risk - a characteristic that Ben clearly feels lies at the heart of entrepreneurship. Next, make sure that you continually revisit and understand your ‘why’ - knowing this will be a key factor in whether you succeed or not. Trust kept appearing in this episode. Most obviously, No 1 simply would not exist without the trust Ben and Harry, as co-founders, had and continue to have for each other. But this trust extends to the wider team. As is often the case, the growth of the business accelerated as soon as the founders started bringing in other people to help and trust is always key in this process of handing over responsibility. And on the topic of team building, Ben has clearly learnt a lesson that every entrepreneur needs to learn; ensure the people you hire share your values and are the right cultural fit. But the biggest takeaway for me is that you can get your business off the ground for a lot less than you think. Ben’s words from the beginning of this episode about Argos squat racks and hand-me-down plates show that there is always a way. The key is to find a gap in the market, understand and believe in what you offer - and then be creative, hard working and persistent. And if you want a further insight into what this looks like in practice, please do ignore Ben’s words, head to YouTube and watch this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsAoLQ2sgbQ&t=103s). It is what startups are made of!
90 minutes | Jun 8, 2019
#11 Abdul Bangara: Swapping Drug Dealing for the Meal Delivery Business
In this episode, I am joined by Abdul Bangura, a former drug dealer and current Founder and CEO of Fresco Box. This isn’t your typical “boy meets problem, falls in love with solution” startup story but trust me when I say that it is jam-packed with advice and insight, as well as some pretty eyebrow-raising moments. In fact, hearing Abdul describe the inner workings of such a radically different business model really brings into sharp relief the fact that certain steps are critical in every business. Like many entrepreneurs, he went through a process of establishing product market fit, he took steps to minimise risk, he operated a lean team and he built a less hierarchical culture designed to bring the best out of the people he worked with. I also love the straightforward, matter-of-fact approach to feedback and new product development - if the client is buying from you, just ask them what they want to eat! This episode also demonstrates how one connection, one chance encounter and one conversation can change the course of your business and your life. Which leads neatly onto the biggest takeaway for me: it is always possible to turn your life around provided you have the right mindset and the necessary transferable skills - such as patience, an understanding of human psychology, an ability to network and a willingness to work damn hard.
84 minutes | Jun 1, 2019
#10 Gordon Greenhorn: Angry on the Internet and Asking for What You Want
In this episode, I am joined by Gordon Greenhorn. Gordon is a fitness and nutrition coach that has done something very cool. What he has done, and it’s something that very few people do in life, is periodically stand back, create a clear plan of action (effectively a set of business and life goals) and then execute on that plan. This has resulted in him building an awesome brand, a great business and (importantly) the lifestyle he wants. There is some awesome learning in this episode - about professionalism, understanding your client and continual learning. Gordon clearly has a deep respect for his work and I love his goal of becoming a ‘better craftsman’. There is a moment in this episode where Gordon struggles to explain what makes him unique, which I think reveals more than he realised. He is humble and modest and has clearly never felt the need to follow the crowd and blend in. Being himself is what makes him unique (something we all need to remember in an age of constant social media driven comparison) and it is this that has allowed him to build an engaged audience and an online client base that has, in turn, enabled him to live out his dreams and travel the world. It is this last point that I absolutely love and it ties back to my opening words - Gordon took the time to ask the simplest of questions: “what do I want?”. He decided he wanted to go travelling with the women he loves and he then put a plan in place - a plan that, with equal simplicity, directed his passions, skill set and experience at ensuring he achieved his goals. The rest was hard work, sticking to his core values and consistency … 210 days of consistency to be exact.
62 minutes | May 24, 2019
#9 Joel Burgess: Know Your Customer and Understand Your Aha Moment
In this episode, I am joined by Joel Burgess, Founder and CEO of Nutrifix. Joel is building an app that puts healthy on the map. His mission is to help people lead healthier lives by allowing them to locate the best places to eat and select the best choices from the menu according to their own unique nutritional requirements. This episode is an absolute goldmine for entrepreneurs, offering advice and insight into mindset and working practices, hiring strategy and team building, and how to (and how not to) build an awesome app. There are lessons about balancing optimism and patience, about proactively structuring and organising your day and about maintaining a healthy work-life balance. There is also invaluable insight into how to hire the right people and build the right company culture. Joel has also grappled with a common startup issue; when is the right time to launch? Launch too soon and you might not be ready, launch too late and you risk running out of money, falling behind your competition or simply never launching. Ultimately, Joel’s launch did not go to plan but it was also when the rela learning process began. Listening to Joel is also a powerful reminder of the importance of understanding your customers. And this is not a theoretical or a strategic exercise; speaking with your actual customers is critical for early stage businesses. But for me the biggest takeaway from this episode is the importance of understanding the metrics that really matter in your business. Nutrifix is focused on what Joel calls “hard activation” - the “ahha moment” when the user first engages with, understands and loves the app. What Joel is effectively describing is Nutrifix’s “north star metric” - which is a single metric that best captures the core value that his product delivers. This metric has the ability to unify the entire company around a single outcome - and every startup, entrepreneur and side hustler would gain a lot from finding out what their north star metric is.
82 minutes | May 17, 2019
#8 Joe Welstead: Building Trust with a Quality Product and Outworking Everyone on Planet Earth!
In this episode, I am joined by Joe Welstead, the Co-founder and CEO of Motion Nutrition. Joe is on a mission to build the most trustworthy sports supplements brand in the world. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, when it came to identifying his first customer he started with himself. Which was a pretty good place to start, given the fact he swam in the Commonwealth Games for his country. His company has remained razor-focused on quality, convenience and environmental friendliness - values that don’t always mix easily. But he managed to stay lean, market in a resourceful and innovative way, raise money at the right time and for the right reasons and work damn hard. This episode is full of incredible advice for entrepreneurs, side hustlers and startups - such as the importance of self-belief, adopting the right mindset and thinking creatively and innovatively. Joe also believes that fundraising is not just about getting money in your account - there is a right way and a wrong way to raise and startups need to deliver consistent value to investors at each round. But the biggest takeaway is the importance of creating a quality product that consumers believe in. Motion Nutrition is a product-led business built on credibility and reputation, all of which comes down to one word; trust. And as Joe says, trust is all about creating a product your clients can believe it - it’s not just some marketing exercise.
52 minutes | May 11, 2019
#7 Ben West: Dealing with the Competition and Just Going For It!
In this episode, I am joined by Ben West, the Co-founder of 360 Athletic, one of the most exciting new entrants to the London gym scene in recent years. We talk a lot about building a personal brand as well as a corporate brand and all the challenges that go along with this - juggling unfamiliar priorities, making time-sensitive critical decisions, building a client base from scratch, being a boss for the first time and competing with larger, more established brands. Ben is a zero BS dude - he is also down to earth, open and honest. This honesty extends to his willingness to discuss his mistakes and shortcomings. But what I really love about this episode is the fact you can see how hard Ben has worked to correct these mistakes and it is in this process of self-improvement and correction that we can learn the most from Ben. We are reminded that as an entrepreneur you need to be client centric - you need to shape your brand, your product and your sales process around your target demographic. The episode is also reminder of the value that a co-founder can bring to your startup, as well as how important both patience and positivity are in any entrepreneurial journey. But the biggest takeaway for me is that as an entrepreneur, you need to focus on your own business. Of course you need to understand the market and your competitors but you need the confidence do your own thing. Or as Ben says, “stop worrying about what everyone else is doing”.
56 minutes | Apr 26, 2019
#6 Ed Hauck: Building a Food Brand Based on Bangin’ Flavour!
In this episode, I am joined by Ed Hauck, the Co-founder of The Curators. Ed is looking to disrupt the healthy snack space by building an inspiring, engaging brand rooted in great flavour and taste. His company is barely 2 years old but it has already landed a number of key listings, including Selfridges and Sainsburys. Ed is a self-professed “career schizophrenic”, having worked with major brands such as L’Oreal, Levis, Oakley and Puma, as well as startups such as Fuel, Orchard Pig and Sipsmith. Along the way, he has also set up a recruitment company, a soft drinks company and a sock company. But right now, life is all about The Curators. This episode is essential listening for anyone looking to launch a food or beverage brand. Essential … full stop! It is also jam-packed with learning for entrepreneurs in other industries - Ed offers invaluable advice on finding your why, identifying the right gap in the market, remembering that sales is all about being human and ensuring you have weighed up finding a co-founder before your go it alone. Ed is also focused on building a great team and the right company culture by targeting those who are passionate and possess the right work ethic - hardworking people who understand that startup life can be disruptive and, in Ed’s words, are willing to lean in unquestioningly. But the most important takeaway for me is that you have to love what you do. You have to love your product, the space and your vision. And there is no question that Ed does - just listen when he talks about the theatre of food, the sociability of food and the fact that The Curators is all about bangin' flavour! Enjoy!
61 minutes | Apr 18, 2019
#5 Alex Crockford: From PT to Fitness Model and Fit Tech Entrepreneur
In this episode, I am joined by Alex Crockford, a personal trainer turned fitness model, influencer and Founder of Crockfit, an online platform designed to support, inspire and motivate millions of people to live happier, healthier lives. Alex is such a cool, positive guy but he is also focused, ambitious and highly driven, traits that have helped him rise to the top of the fitness industry. But as is often the case, it all started with an embarrassing, unpolished product. This episode is packed full of important messages for entrepreneurs in every space. Like the fact that success will always depend on hard work and perseverance or that you need to balance short and long-term goals and take action today (as in, right now!). Or advice on how to juggle competing roles and responsibilities, and ensure you are focusing enough energy on what you are truly passionate about. Alex’s journey also demonstrates that there are moments in life when you have to step away from safety and security, take a leap of faith and just go for it. Enjoy!
46 minutes | Mar 28, 2019
#4 Fraser Smeaton: From Drunken Idea to Iconic Brand (A Spandex Story)
In this episode, I am joined by Fraser Smeaton, Co-founder and CEO of Morphsuits, which was founded in 2009 and achieved an impressive turnover of £1.2m in the first year. They have fuelled growth through strategic partnerships, major distribution deals and licence agreements with an awesome array of household names such as Star Wars, Marvel and Power Rangers. Despite the impressive growth, the company was started by accident after the three founders received free drinks and a load of attention from females on a night out (all because they were wearing all-in-one spandex costumes). But there has also been some serious low points, including a reported loss of nearly £1 million in 2016. This episode is an absolute must for all entrepreneurs and startups … target market analysis, using your audience to fuel product development, investing in the right people, identifying the right company values, the (all-important) difference between profit and cash flow and the importance of working hard and persevering. Trust me when I say this is an absolute gold mine. Enjoy!
56 minutes | Mar 15, 2019
#3 Tom Brazier: From Disillusioned PT to World Class Coach
In this episode, I am joined by Tom Brazier, the Founder of Total Body Conditioning. Tom has built one of the most respected and successful fitness and physique coaching businesses in the world. He has helped hundreds of clients step on stage and has coached 4 world champions. What impresses me more though is the well-oiled business Tom has built. It is a business that is grounded in quality training, respect, community and an uncompromising focus on results. Tom also serves as a powerful reminder that entrepreneurs need to focus their time on building a business rather than just delivering a service - in Tom’s own words, you need to invest in professional systems and structure today that can drive your business forward for years to come. Enjoy!
43 minutes | Feb 28, 2019
#2 George Hughes-Davies: From Mum's Kitchen to Harrods Food Hall ... Building a Juice Empire
In this episode, I am joined by George Hughes-Davies, the Founder of Daily Dose. Daily Dose is a London-based cold-pressed juice company that started in George's mum's kitchen but now produces over 40,000 juices per week. The business has gone through two rounds of investment and where there was once just George there is now a team of 20. This episode is full of great advice on the importance of resilience, building a strong team and bringing a quality product to market. George also recalls the moment he made his first sale ... a beautiful moment for any startup. Enjoy!
49 minutes | Feb 4, 2019
#1 Tim Slee: Being Honest, Being Human & Building an Awesome Media Brand
The Startup Blueprint kicks off by interviewing Tim Slee, the Founder of Square Up Media - a media brand that owns a host of iconic publications, such as Foodism, Escapism, Hedge and Square Mile. These days the business turns over £10m and has offices in three continents, but it all started in a cupboard in a wooden shed in Shepherd’s Bush Market - before it moved to an office overlooking a porn set! This episode is packed with great advice on building the right team, the right company culture and an awesome brand. It is also a powerful reminder that you don’t need to be driven primarily by money. You can prioritise human connections, being present with your team and (above all else) being honest. Enjoy!
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