The challenges of growing a business: advice from two start-up founders
Building a successful company is to say the least… difficult. It’s a play by play of Darwin’s survival of the fittest: in order to succeed you must adapt at every stage. Or like one of our interviewees likes to say: “It’s like participating in the Olympics. There can only be one winner: the one that trains the hardest.
Strong willpower, lack of funding, guidance, attracting the right team,…are challenges every budding start-up is faced with. In the second episode of our podcast we dove into these questions with two veteran entrepreneurs Joëlle Frijters – founder of Inspiring Fifty - and Inge Geerdens – CEO of CV Warehouse. And especially for you, we’ve listed their most important advice and lessons in this blog post.
Entrepreneurship is not a job.
Yes, we know it’s a cliché. But then again: aren’t most clichés true? Starting a business means going all-in, having a passion for solving problems and being proud of it while doing so. But neither of these two ladies started out as entrepreneurs, it’s a fire that was ignited slowly.
Inge started out at an HR agency and when she was fired because her boss didn’t believe in technology and the internet, the decision was easy: she was going into business for herself. She started a Saas- software company, without any IT-knowledge. Talk about dedication, right?
Joëlle has held international roles at whoppers such as KLM and Microsoft. At the last company she saw an opportunity to create a digital marketplace that enables advertisers and publishers to buy and sell advertising space. And so together with her partner, Janneke Niessens, she launched Improve Digital. The rest is history…or not? At the end of 2017, she handed over the company to a new CEO and she started a non-profit, Inspiring Fifty. She now promotes the visibility of female role models in tech in over ten countries.
The lesson here? If you see opportunities, create and do it with a fierce passion. But remember: no pain, no gain. Apply yourself, in order to succeed. For Inge and Joëlle it was about knowing their worth, working with people who support your ideas and having a winning mindset. Both women warn that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. In today’s world start-ups are hyped as a booming business, which in turn leads to some taking enormous risk too quickly.
Attracting investors: Your big break? Or be careful what you wish for?
Congratulations, you poured your heart and soul into your business. It’s time for the next step: attract investors and secure funding to continue growing. When Joëlle started her business 12 years ago, it was not easy for two women in tech to win over investors. She and her business partner were a solid management team, which attracted an angel investor. And that got them started. Her most important tips: Network, network, network and don’t give up. You can never meet enough people. If you have opportunities to go to business events, conferences or mixers, you need to go even if you’re exhausted. Fun fact: she found her strategic partner at an event at 2 o’clock in the morning, while being heavily pregnant.
But before you go looking for investors, you might want to be careful what you wish for. As a women without a background in tech, Inge was treated like a “curiosa” and it was beyond difficult to land an investor. When she won a pitch-contest and brought in investors who turned against her, it left a bitter taste in her mouth. The message?Think twice about who you are going into business with. In the end, she took the brave decision to build a business without investors. Until today, she is still 100% owner of the company. And we are not surprised. If there’s one thing we can say about Inge: she has stamina, confidence and faith to spare. An another important tip from Inge: learn how to pitch. “It is an art to tell a catchy message in less than a minute” she says.
Failure is an option, quitting isn’t.
What do most successful people have in common? Failure. Both ladies aren’t afraid of rejection, on the contrary they use it to fuel their entrepreneurial mindset. They call it a “primal force”. Failure is part of the game, but getting back up is the magic sauce. So if you’re asking yourself: Is this it? The answer for Inge and Joëlle is simple: yes!
Of course having a vision, the knowledge to build and grow a business, and the guts to make good decisions is important. But what binds everything together is determination and perseverance. It’s not a sprint, but rather a marathon without a finish line.
Mentoring as a secret weapon for start-up success.
After years of experience in the industry both Inge and Joëlle are more than willing to share what they’ve learned to young entrepreneurs. Joëlle is active as a venture capitalist and sits in various accelerators and incubators. Inge started a chess program where she teaches children to think strategically. An important skill when it comes to being an entrepreneur. They both encourage using a mentor because they can save you months of work, get you the right connections and give you guidance when it comes to running your business.
Have an hour to spare? Listen to the entire conversation with Inge Geerdens and Joëlle Frijters on Spotify, Apple iTunes or on Stitcher. Perfect for listeners who are looking to build and grow their business.
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