In my last article I wrote about the pains I went through trying to decide what to do, and the relief that came with finally taking the decision to make Company Connecting my priority above all other business and work options. So now all I had to do was figure out how to make Company Connecting a reality.
I wanted to crack on with all the data and research side of things – something I really enjoy doing. Some may call me sad, I would say I am inspired. Fortunately, I understood that the business would not succeed by data alone.
The online Stanford University technical entrepreneur course stood me in good stead with various aspects of the business and creating a Business Model Canvas. The technical side of figuring out how to do the data meant that I needed to develop a methodology for classifying IT companies. I also needed to get in front of people to try out my pitch, get feedback, and also be able to meet up with other people starting up a business. There are loads of events and workshops available for new businesses and it can be daunting identifying those that will be the most useful.
I received help from Elizabeth Pirrie of Business Gateway who introduced me to various people. She also let me know about the Investing Women catalyst event. This was a two day event organised by Jackie Waring for women entrepreneurs in early stage businesses. The event covered all sorts of interesting stuff related to starting up, preparation for investment, tax advice, building value etc. The two aspects of the 'catalyst' which in retrospect were of great importance to me, were the networking, and doing an off the cuff pitch with little preparation. It made my business real.
At the event I met people who were working on a variety of business ideas. Three of us in particular clicked and I expect we will be lifelong friends. We were all doing very different things. On the face of it, you may well ask what a café / restaurant, a fashion company designing reflective clothing, and a company helping IT companies connect have in common? The businesses themselves may be different but we were all at an early stage with our companies and all experiencing similar uncertainties and issues. Sooz Chirino of Sansooz was the furthest along, and delivered a terrific pitch. Liz Cairns of Sweet Mumma’s Kitchen had been planning her café and its unique style for several months, and I had been working with data, and shaping up the Company Connecting concept. My strap line at that stage was ‘Internet dating for IT companies’
Meeting Sooz and Liz has been invaluable. We regularly go out for dinner and all our businesses are now up and running. We have shared ideas, frustrations and successes, but most of all we have given each other support through the growing pains of our businesses. Things don’t always go as we would like. The vision and the actuality can be very different, and... the time…. everything takes longer than you think. You just have to keep learning, keep going, make changes, have bags of enthusiasm and a load of energy. Having friends who you can share all of that with over a meal and maybe the odd bottle of wine makes a difference.
I suspect that the three of us were particularly lucky to meet when we did. I am not sure that I would have realised the importance of that type of support network if I had not met Liz and Sooz. We are due another dinner very soon, and if I glean snippets from them on the joys, trial, and tribulations of launching a business then I will write about that too!
Shortly after the Investing Women meeting, I applied via Interface Online to get help. I received several expressions of interest which led to the development of the Company Connecting proof of concept with Strathclyde University. More about that next week.