#SixtySecondStartUp with Alpaca Coffee

In this week’s #SixtySecondStartUp we catch up with Alpaca Coffee who are making ‘better coffee for you and the planet’:

  1. What does Alpaca Coffee do?

Alpaca Coffee looks to bring better coffee for you and the planet. We are working towards being UK’s first fully sustainable coffee brand by promoting sustainability at every touchpoint:

Ethically-Sourced Specialty Coffee: Traceable sources to support family businesses that adhere to international standards on sustainability, better pricing, and quality

Zero Waste Roasting: Roasted via circular technology with biofuel instead of fossil fuel 

100% Plastic Free & Compostable: 100% plastic-free, from our labels and our bags, all the way to our shipping boxes and compostable tape.

Offsetting Our Carbon Footprint: For every 10 bags of coffee sold, Alpaca Coffee will plant one tree in the Amazon Rainforest.

  1. Why did you set up Alpaca Coffee?

I fell in love with specialty coffee during a trip to South America, but soon became aware of the negative environmental impact of the coffee industry. Due to this, we decided early on to become the new industry standard and to put sustainability at the core of what we do, making quality and sustainable coffee accessible for everyone. 

  1. How did you get your first customer? 

We validated our idea with a Kickstarter campaign. The featured by Kickstarter and our >200% oversubscription jump started our initial customer base and we are fortunate that a lot of the customers from then have stayed with us since then. Despite the fact that we have grown since then, I will never forget the moment my best friends tried our coffee and their amazed look. 

Alpaca Coffee

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

Kickstarter was a start, but when we were featured by the UK Government as part of the SMB Climate Hub, among other publications such as Goodfind and Wherefrom, we knew we were onto something. 

  1. Our business model: 

B2C with a focus on e-commerce. We are rapidly expanding into the retail and B2B space so hit us up for a chat 😉

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

We are currently organic-heavy with our marketing, and so far has offseted >1,300,000 grams of carbon with >3000 bags of coffee sold. Social media has brought in great ROI, from word-of-mouth through user-generated content to collaborations with brands with similar philosophies. The team is working hard to further our presence by strengthening our branding and unboxing experiences. Stay tuned for our launch in December 🔥.

  1. What we look for when recruiting:

We look for people who share our values in sustainability and understand our mission. Being a challenger brand, we want to recruit fearless, passionate people. Diverse backgrounds, perspectives, talents, and ideas are important to us and we are driven forward by this diversity.

Coffee?

  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

Saying yes to too many things. I’ve learnt that it’s important to approach any part of our business with a clear goal and understanding of the return on investment. We now approach anything we do together as a team with a clear understanding of how it fits with our mission and vision, and how it drives the business forward.

  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

We are part of the “fourth wave of coffee”. As one of the most consumed drinks in the world, the quality of coffee as well as its impact on the environment and society, has become increasingly important to people around the world. As a specialty coffee company with sustainability at its core, we hope to become the new industry standard and push for better coffee for you and the planet. 

  1. We worked with AIN because:

AIN democratises angel investment and offers an unprecedented access to a supporting ecosystem and community of entrepreneurs and investors. This helps level the playing field and empowers entrepreneurs like us to grow. 

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

#SixtySecondStartUp with IBS Coach

Liamhl Asmall shares the story of IBS Coach, a digital dietary treatment for the 800 million people affected by IBS.

  1. What does your company do?

We help the 1 in 7 people who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome to get instant and effective digital treatment from the phone in their pocket. It may come as a surprise, but IBS is one of the most common digestive conditions on the planet. It’s not life threatening and is still taboo (which is most likely why it’s been so overlooked for so many years), but it severely impacts relationships, work, travel, and ultimately, quality of life.

In one study patients with IBS were willing to give up 15.1 years of their remaining lives to achieve perfect health. People are desperately seeking a cure.

  1. Why did you set up this company?

Healthcare for IBS is inefficient and unaffordable. It is incredible that patients have to wait a reported 1 year to see a specialist on the NHS, or pay up to £320 for private treatment. We set out to solve this problem that our friends and family had faced. Our mission is simple: to make effective digital treatment accessible, affordable, and scalable for this 800 million person IBS healthcare market.

The IBS Coach App
  1. How did you get your first customer? 

When developing a medical product you’ve got a long road to walk before you can sell to customers. Our journey went from achieving medical compliance to setting up a closed beta testing group for people with IBS, to launching in the app stores. The overwhelming positive feedback gave us confidence that patients would buy our product. We launched commercially in October this year and had our first sale almost immediately. It’s a good feeling to know we’re helping people manage their IBS.

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

We interviewed 30 people with IBS at the start of our journey and just listening to their stories and frustrations showed us there was a clear need for an affordable, simplified treatment for IBS. Very early on we shared a post on Facebook and had almost 200 sign ups in the first 24 hours. These were early points of validation and were supported by lots of desk research.

  1. Our business model: 

IBS is a lifelong condition that needs ongoing symptom management. Because of the ongoing nature of IBS, we aim to support patients throughout their life. The business model is a recurring revenue subscription and we are currently testing our acquisition channels and pricing. One of our goals is to establish a marketing flywheel with our next SEIS fundraise. 

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Organic sales in the iOS app store. We’re now putting marketing spend behind Apple Search Ads and Google Ads which are ‘high intent’ channels. We’ve run multiple Facebook campaigns to test landing pages and messaging, and we’ll be exploring ways we can partner with brands.

  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

One of the early mistakes was focusing too heavily on the product (we have a great product, and as a medical product we perhaps needed to spend a lot of time here!). However, if I were to start over I’d spend slightly less time on product and more time testing sales channels. It’s a fine balance as founders have to wear many hats. The risk is that founders focus on the jobs they like, or feel most ‘comfortable doing’. It’s good to be aware of our bias towards tasks.

  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

IBS is a lifelong condition and the latest reports suggest the rates of IBS have actually increased during Covid. Couple the above with the mass adoption of digital healthcare, the large unserved market, and the scalability of our effective digital program and we have the right trends for our company to grow. 

  1. We worked with AIN because:

AIN has a reputation as one of the best platforms to share our ambitious plans with engaged angel investors; We hope to make many new connections and raise our current SEIS round.

If you are interested in learning more about IBS Coach, please get in touch via the Angel Investment Network platform.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

SixtySecondStartUp with HyperionDev

We caught up with Riaz Moola, CEO and CoFounder at HyperionDev. HyperionDev are aiming to close the global tech skills gap by enabling education as an accessible alternative to more traditional university degrees. Doing this through specialised mentored coding bootcamps, offered online and on-site at its Johannesburg and Cape Town campuses.


What does your company do?

At HyperionDev we teach people to code. Not give lessons. Teach.  Intense, immersive courses that get completed in 3 – 12 months (course dependent) with a unique human led mentorship that is built upon our unique codebase. A meld of automation and human touch that scales and works. 

At our core, HyperionDev teaches people the essential skills they need to find fulfilling, rewarding careers in tech. However, we do way more than just teach: over the course of 3 to 12 months, we immerse our students in a high-pace dedicated coding environment that takes them from total beginner to a job-ready industry professional.

Our meld of automation and human mentoring gives us the power to give each student in-depth and personal attention, but in a way that we can scale to students in over 40 countries. 

Why did you set up this company?

We didn’t go looking for a problem to solve, we found a problem that really needed solving. At university in Africa, a group of friends and myself were shocked at the extremely high dropout rates that affected not just our classes, but classes across the country.

We decided to do something about it: we started a mentorship program to help students to master the fundamentals of coding. We added mentor after mentor, until our network spanned dozens of universities across two continents. 

Later on, I realised the difficulties people faced with learning the skills that could get them rewarding, fulfilling careers – and so HyperionDev expanded to teaching people even outside of university.. 

How did you get your first customer? 

A government-run research group that carries out AI research actually approached us, saying that we were the largest trainer of the Python programming language in their region, and asked us to train for them.

We initially thought we’d have to raise money to do the training, and were surprised when they offered to pay us. In the end we charged 10 times less than we should have for the service!

We knew we were onto something when? 

We just didn’t have people stop signing up for our courses every day, and didn’t have a month where we didn’t make revenue from our online courses. At the start you think it a temporary, short-term demand, but when you see the continual interest, it feels like you’ve unlocked something completely new.

Our business model: 

There are essentially two, B2C online immersive courses that are cost effective, and accessible from anywhere in the world that we  built to scale. The courses, while cost-effective for students, are profitable to us as we grow. We reached profitability in Q1 2020.

Our Code Review base is a B2B SAAS product under the CoGrammar brand, used by tech companies and even other leading software schools internationally 

Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Our alumni network – we still see word of mouth driving a huge number of new students. The network effects from this group has been critical to our growth.

What we look for when recruiting:

A-players. People who can work in an intense environment and are driven by our mission to create people who can take up the vacuum in the global tech skills gap.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

Not realising that we could build a really good profitable business , as well as create awesome social impact, sooner.  You don’t need to be a non-profit to truly help people.

We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

Nature abhors a vacuum! Every startup is facing the same problem, where to get talent. The group of startups is growing, the talent pool isn’t keeping up. Know what that is? We call it opportunity. And with that opportunity we solve real global socio-economic problems and make a difference in people’s lives. It is one of the best problems worth solving that we know about.

We worked with AIN because:

Networking is perhaps the most important part of any future-facing business or campaign. It’s what got us started as a grassroots organisation of coding mentors, and it’s what grew us into the continental tech education leader we are today.

You can only get closer to the success you envision if you surround yourself with the right people, with the same vision and goals: and the AIN networks are one of those alignments. 

 How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

We have moved to a remote first way of working, from a previous policy of a remote friendly. And the positive response had been fantastic. Execution and productivity are actually up.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

South Africa’s biggest problem is unemployment. The numbers are staggering. We are actively supporting communities directly with scholarships, education and the resultant access to the global shortage of coders in the market. The knock on effect is heartwarming to say the least.  

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

#SixtySecondStartup with Halal Fresh

Saima Duhare is the founder of Halal Fresh, the UK’s first halal non subscription meal kit service predominantly catering for the Muslim community.

  1. What does your company do?

Halal Fresh is a meal kit service providing freshly preportioned ingredients, with an easy to follow recipe card to cook great tasting meals. Making dinner times stress free and enabling our customers to be adventurous in the kitchen, as well as supporting their healthy lifestyles.  

  1. Why did you set up this company? 

 My vision was to bring back the joy of cooking by offering every Muslim household the opportunity to cook homemade fresh meals from around the world, making dinner tables exciting to sit at. 

I grew up in a household where food was the catalyst of bringing people together, my Grandma, Mum and Aunty are amazing cooks and would cook foods from around the world and we would always have family and friends over. I felt we were losing the importance of having a home cooked meal which gives an opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends over a great meal.  

Given the rise of fast food and the ease of it, coupled with  the busy lives we lead, I felt this aspect of our life  was slowly disintegrating. So Halal Fresh was born to make people’s life easier and offer varied, healthy delicious meals they cook from scratch at home, in addition to being mindful of our carbon footprint since everything is proportioned so there is no food waste and all of our packaging is recyclable 

  1. How did you get your first customer? 

We had no budget for marketing and when we launched we pretty much prayed we get customers, lucky for us people were googling  for a halal meal kit service, thus, my first customer was a Dr who kindly posted our service on  Instagram, result of that we approached various influencers from different professions,  and and from that we organically built and grew ourselves this is going back in April 2019 and still we haven’t spent any money on marketing apart from a offering a recipe box in exchange for a shout out, plus our lovely customers a promote us

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

We were approached by a journalist from the Independent and at the time we had no clue which publication she was from until I delivered the box and we were included as being one of the best recipe boxes in July 2020.

  1. Our business model:

    We are an online non subscription business model, which people enjoy because they can use the service without feeling tied in, and that works for us and them.

    We’re currently only serving the London region, however, we are looking to expand nationally. We are growing slowly but surely and organically.  And the interest we receive daily in bringing it to other parts of the UK is promising and exciting. We are learning as we develop, progressing and improving our offering and service.
  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Instagram and  word of mouth from our customers and being in several reputable british and British Asian papers has helped us and put us on the map as a 5* Halal Recipe Box.

  1. What we look for when recruiting: 

We are a very small team, and the team we have are very passionate about food and the industry. We look for people who are creative and open to learn as much as we are, and contribute to what we are trying to achieve, to make people’s lives easier, and can work on their own initiative.

My graphic designer for instance has had very little experience but her work excited me. I tend to go with my gut feeling, of course they need to have the skill but not necessarily the experience.  

  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

    Having no experience in opening a business I have made lots of mistakes, but  one of them for instance, when we had our soft launch I spent £6,000 to test the model on 40 people, in hindsight I could have tested the model on 20 people and tested it for much less.

    I created the MVP as if though it were a fledgling business, with 9 recipes, 2 chefs, all the packaging and pre portioned ingredients from suppliers, which I could have easily pre portioned myself and less recipes and 1 chef.
  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

    The halal sector is booming – in 2019 it was valued at  £31bn, considering there are only 4.1 million Muslims in the UK, that staggering. It’s very exciting times for the food industry despite the current climate. We are becoming more mindful about what we put into our bodies and becoming conscious consumers.

  2. Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

    We are heavily involved with our local food bank which was set up by a friend of mine, and have volunteered, distributed food as well donated food. This is something we are also passionate about, which is giving back and helping those that are vulnerable in our community, so much so we are working on embedding this into our business model.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

#SixtySecondStartUp with Pharma Sentinel

We caught up with Rav Roberts, CEO of Pharma Sentinel to hear his plans for their new ‘Medsii’ app, which makes it easy to discover if your medicines have unsafe side effects, give allergic reactions or have been recalled for safety reasons.

Rav Roberts, CEO, Pharma Sentinel
  1. What does your company do?

    Pharmasentinel.com is a pioneering B2C2B healthtech, leveraging AI to provide our users with trusted, timely and tailored medicines and medical conditions (mental health, diabetes, skin conditions) news, information, alerts and related content such as video podcasts, live streaming.

    We also give 10% of our profits to patient-support charities such as Bipolar UK & the British Menopause Society, as chosen by our users. We launch with our consumer app called Medsii (medicines information for me) in 4 weeks time, yikes!
  1. Why did you set up this company?

    Our Chief Scientific Officer Nasir (a Co-Founder) used to work for the UK’s medicines regulator (the Department of Health) and noticed a big gap in the market for timely medicines information, e.g. drug safety alerts & recalls, clinical trial results & opportunities.

    I also suffer from Diabetes, as does my mother, and our research showed that 46% of the UK’s population (29 million people) take at least 1 repeat prescription for a chronic condition. It’s not all elderly people either, as 50% of women in their 40s do so.
  1. How did you get your first customer?

    We haven’t yet, already we have many friends and family who take regular medicines lined up to try the app. It’s completely free to use and has a very engaging ‘Twitter’ style interface, so why not give it a go?!
  1. We knew we were onto something when?

    When we realised the Total Addressable Market and Serviceable Obtainable Markets were huge; many people use Google (over 1 billion health related searches a day, but results include ads, links to blogs) and even social media for important medicines info, but that could contain wrong or misleading results; no one helps people by linking them to patient support group charities for help;

    No one provides personalised, relevant, trusted medicines & conditions info via easy to understand push alerts. I have used our product in testing to warn me against drinking grapefruit juice with one of my medicines as it’s extremely dangerous!   
  1. Our business model:

    1. We launch with our consumer App called Medsii (Medicines information for me), which will collect 1st party data on users in a GDPR compliant way (side effects, locations, medicines/conditions liked, followed, shared, saved) and which already has its own data, e.g. clinical trial results.
    2. We augment this 1st party data with 3rd party data.
    3. Our data platform runs machine-learning algos to identify patterns and predict future events, e.g. the probability of a drug that has passed a phase 1 clinical trial eventually being approved, and roughly when.
    4. We sell this data-as-a service to businesses, e.g. pharmaceuticals, insurance, financial analysts even companies like Unilever and Chanel (who will be interested in the skin condition data insight we’ve collected). Note that we also monetise our consumer App (subscriptions, in-app purchases and advertising (no drug ads though!).
  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been:

    Without a doubt, Facebook. Not only are billions of a target customers there, but we can micro-target them with custom and lookalike audiences and even better, they have people who walk you through how to do it really well! (Fiverr also has some great marketers on there).

    LinkedIn is really good for engaging with business people (for our B2B products) and Twitter is great for linking up with angel and VC investors, all over the world!
  1. What we look for when recruiting:

    Passion, integrity, evidence of continuous learning (even following people on Twitter to learn more about a particular subject), desire to help other people less fortunate and ideally EVIDENCE that they’ve actually done it (e.g. volunteering to help the elderly or doing a fun run to raise money for breast cancer etc).. We run a very flat organisation and we were all virtual even before Coronavirus hit! 
  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

    So many really. I guess my biggest was in my  first startup in San Francisco: We had a great product but I didn’t think about our go-to-market and distribution strategy, i.e. how to get and increase traction (users, usage) for our online gaming products.
  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

    Even before coronavirus hit, more and more people were taking repeat medicines for chronic conditions and with people living longer, this means several decades. There has also been a large theme about fake news on social media, where millions get their medicines info from.

    But now with Coronavirus, people more than ever before want trusted, timely medicines and medical conditions information that is relevant & readable (unlike the patient information leaflets that come with their pills!).

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

#SixtySecondStartup

Ruari Fairbairns is the CEO and Co-founder at One Year No Beer (OYNB), a platform focused on changing people’s relationship with alcohol.

What does your company do?

OYNB is a global alcohol prevention program, aimed at anyone drinking more than three glasses of wine a week. Our mission is to help people change their relationship with alcohol which leads on to most of them, fundamentally transforming their lives.

We are developing technology that will enable members to connect over the common goal of changing behaviour, such as caffeine, sugar, gambling, social media, ultimately empowering people to live life better. 

Why did you set up this company?

For years I worked in the city as a successful oil broker in London. That’s where two worlds collided, partying and being successful, and the more I partied the more successful I was.

After a few years of this lifestyle, I started to experience a number of health problems, IBS, anxiety, dry skin. I got introduced to something called Headspace and I started meditating on the train to and from work, and this is when I realised that alcohol was causing me more trouble than good. I approached my boss and said that I was thinking about taking a break from booze and he said that this would be committing commercial suicide!

Six months later I finally plucked up the courage to do it and when I finally did, I was blown away with the benefits – I got fitter, faster, healthier, a better husband, a better dad. I grew my oil broking business and reduced costs by 30%. My IBS and dry skin disappeared and there was no area of my life that didn’t improve.

I wanted to make people understand how big these benefits are, so I decided to create a challenge, and in 2016, we launched One Year No Beer, a 90-day challenge, and gave it away. It rapidly went viral and in the first year we got over 20,000 signups. This is how One Year No Beer was born.

How did you get your first customer? 

In our first year, when we set up the free challenge and promoted it via social media, we got over 20,000 members. It was only then that we realised what a huge impact we were having. One Year No Beer was having a positive effect on people’s lives but also on their wallets.

Our research with Stirling University verified that if we were to convert our business into a paid-for model – that people would actually be more likely to not only commit, but also to stick to the challenge. This was because generally, if you have skin in the game, you actually apply yourself – so we reinvested and relaunched as a paid for model in 2017.

We knew we were onto something when? 

In that same year (2017), I sent a tweet to a journalist and off the back of it we got a 10 minute feature on BBC World news in over 200 countries. That single BBC broadcast generated £70,000 of revenue for the business in 10 days so we quickly learnt that the success of One Year No Beer was going to be down to exposure.

In 2018 we launched our book. It went to number one in its category on Amazon and in that same year, we sent out an email to all of our members telling them that we were thinking about crowdfunding in six months’ time. After sending that email, I expected to come into a couple of replies but instead, I opened up my email the following morning to find 74 emails with people offering to invest and we raised £1.1M in just five weeks from our members alone.

Our business model: 

In a little over four years, we’ve created and grown an online business that has attracted customers from across the globe. Turning over £2.7M per year and supporting over 70,000 members in 90 countries across the world, and the business continues to witness 300% growth YoY.

We want to flip the drinking model on its head. From one of admitting you have a problem and having to go to a church or community hall and sit in a circle and talk about being stigmatised for the rest of your life, to one of positive change. We want all of our members to be able to say that they are out there, living a better life, proud of their life choices.

We are now the leader in preventative behaviour change, and our plan is now to diversify into lots of other behaviour change models, not just alcohol. We’ve realised that when people change their relationship with a negative behaviour like alcohol, they build self-worth. It’s that self-worth that creates the platform for them to further change other areas of their lives, so we are now diversifying into other vertical markets such as caffeine, sugar, porn, gambling and drugs.

Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

We use Social Ads widely but our most effective channels have been the extensive publicity we have received as well as word of mouth from our customers. 

What we look for when recruiting:

We have an incredible team who not only love what they do, but they also care deeply about the impact they are having on the lives of people who follow our challenges and remain part of our online community. It takes a very unique person to work as part of the One Year No Beer team because they have to be able to deal with emotions and difficult situations each and every day.

Not only do they have to be able to do this, but they also need to be able to think like marketeers and successful business people, in addition to all of the other elements of their specific job roles and I will always be truly grateful for each and every one of they as they are responsible for making our company the community that it is today.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

I can’t wait to write my book – I’m going to call it the 1001 Things Not to Do in Business. These things have cost me an absolute fortune, after all this is my 6th start-up! The biggest lesson that I have learnt since being in business is: Surround yourself with good people who compliment your weaknesses – for me there are so many, so I need a big team!!! Jokes aside, we can’t all be good at everything so build a team that compliments you and you’ll go far!

We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

The research that we conducted with Stirling University in 2017, showed that 93% of people had a drink when they didn’t want to, and 84% had experienced bullying from friends to drink alcohol, so we know that peer pressure surrounds our cultural relationship with alcohol. We want to challenge these cultural norms and help people to make better life choices. That is the fundamental principle of One Year No Beer. There are 2 billion people in the world who drink alcohol, and around 1 billion drink hazardously – all of whom are our target market.

We worked with AIN because:

We’ve previously raised very successfully from our own network and members. With our current raise we wanted to bring on investment from new sources but from people who share our vision. Angel Investment Network allows us to search investors and grow our presence further. 

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

#SixtySecondStartup

This week we spoke to Sara, Co-founder of On Good Authority – a premium outdoor lifestyle brand with sustainability at its heart. In the middle of fundraising before Covid-19 struck, Sara spoke to us about how they have had to change their business plans and why shopping sustainably is more important than ever.

Co-founders Sara & Hannah

Our interview with Sara:

What does your company do?

On Good Authority is a premium outdoor lifestyle brand that merges contemporary styling with waterproof technology using recycled fabrics and non-toxic water repellency techniques. We bridge the gap between fashion and function in a truly conscious way.

Why did you set up this company?

We felt frustrated at the compromise between style and practically in women’s rainwear. 

How did you get your first customer?  

Like many startups, our first customer was a friend who experienced the same challenge and had been looking for a stylish waterproof for years.

We knew we were onto something when? 

When we started speaking to our friends and wider circles. We realised it wasn’t just us that shared this frustration and with our relevant industry backgrounds it occurred to us that it was a problem we could actually solve.

Our business model: 

We are primarily a D2C fashion brand supported by wholesale partnerships.

Our most effective marketing channel has been:  

Speaking directly to our audience, whether that’s organically through our social media channels, at Pop-Up events or with carefully curated influencers with shared vision, style and values.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Maybe being a bit too conscientious and trademarking our name quite early on in the overall process to then re-brand and change our name! 

We think that there’s growth in this sector because: 

We’re at the forefront of an emerging global movement where consumers are demanding sustainable product and conscious lifestyles. It’s not a fad, it’s here to stay because we have to make fundamental changes in the way we live and consume if we are going to secure a future for our planet and the next generations.

Has Covid-19 had any impact on your fundraising plans? And if so, how are you adapting? 

We were in the midst of fundraising when Covid-19 hit the UK. It soon became apparent that investors were unlikely to take risks on new business startups, as they may need to step in and financially support those already within their portfolio. So with this in mind, we decided to put our fundraising efforts on hold.

We are now taking the opportunity to hone our proposition even further and reframe our business plan so that we can relaunch in summer 2021 in tandem with the UK music festival season. We believe (hope) that by then the economy should have settled and people will be extremely keen to get outside and party come rain or shine!

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

Right now, we are focusing on keeping engaged with our audience and using our platform to continue to raise awareness about the importance of shopping sustainably. Now more than ever, we are becoming aware of the importance of conscious living. From the way we eat, to how we travel and to how much clothing we consume. It feels like the perfect opportunity to continue to spread this message so that when we come out the other side, we carry forward these new learnt behaviours and consume more responsibly.

We are also keeping in regular contact with our family and friends including those that we have met along our start-up journey. It’s not an easy time but knowing that we are all in it together and that we can all play our part in supporting key workers by staying at home is what keeps us going. We are so grateful for modern technology allowing us to get creative with video calls and virtual house parties!

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

We are using our social platform to share positive and motivational news to help spread a feeling of community. For every sale we make, we are donating £5 towards our nominated charity: RCN Foundation. This is to support the nurses who are so bravely working tirelessly on the front line supporting our nation through this very difficult time.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

#SixtySecondStartup

Our latest #SixtySecondStartup is with Demos Co-founder of Blazon, a new social media service for startups. We spoke to him about why they set up the company, how they started to grow it and what effects Covid-19 has been having on their business.

Co-Founders Nargis and Demos

Our interview with Demos:

What does your company do?

We are a social media services company to help startups be more active on social media channels with a low cost and flexible solution.

Why did you set up this company?

We were frustrated with the types of social media agencies out there not catering for startups. Solutions were expensive and not adaptive to the constant changes in a startup. We know what it’s like to build a startup and we want to champion startups in any way possible to give them a greater chance of success.

How did you get your first customer? 

While at an event trying to build another startup our first customer asked us who actually did our social media. When we told them, we did it all ourselves, they asked for our help because they loved our content. That was the catalyst to start a new service targeting startups just like them.

We knew we were onto something when:

We started asking startups if a service like this was available would they use it. When they said yes and then signed up when it was available, three of them in just two weeks we knew we were onto something.

Our business model: 

Startups £150 per month for us to post across their social media platforms regularly, engaging with their followers and producing 1 x blog per month for them.

We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

Social media is used by almost half of the planet. Many people often look to social media to validate a business or support them if they are customers. In order for that to happen a startups content has to be interesting and engaging for followers. There are so many startups who just do not have the time to get involved in the engagement as they are busy building their startup.

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

As our business is all about other startups, we’re governed pretty much by their business activity during this time. Some of our clients, particularly those based in countries or localities worse hit by the virus, have understandably slowed down their efforts during this time, so we’ve been making sure their social media reflects that and is kept managed despite everything else – but there are other founders we work with who have flourished despite the crisis and their startups are continuing to gain traction and grow. We’re flexible in everything that we do for our clients, so we’ve altered our business accordingly during this time – offering support and guidance to those startups who need it and reacting to the requirements we’re faced with.

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

We’re actually really grateful that we’ve been able to trade at all during this time, as we realise not every business has been so fortunate. Our team work remotely anyway, so social distancing hasn’t affected us in that respect (plus we’re already firm friends with Zoom and other work-from-home resources!), plus working with startups at different stages in different sectors means we’re already used to adapting to different circumstances. Lockdown for our team has involved various strategies, depending on the client we work for and events going on.

So, whether that’s creating new content for social media, filming new videos to offer advice and support to the community, writing blog articles on current trending topics, strategising new ideas for when ‘normal life’ resumes or anything else that’s required of us – we’ve been non-stop! Lockdown has its fair amount of challenges as both our co-founders are working parents, but we’ve been able to support each other and our team and make the most of the situation in hand.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

Most of our time ordinarily is spent chatting with other founders, and during this time that hasn’t changed. We still talk to startups, about everything to do with their journey – their concerns, their challenges, their triumphs, etc. But we’ve enjoyed, particularly more so now, being able to offer them advice, tips or find ways to connect them with people within our network. Some people just need a sounding board, and founders are no different – talking through a situation with someone who just “gets it” can often give rise to new ideas or help solve problems. 

Our regular features, #startupshoutout and #just50, create opportunities for us to champion startups and give them a bit of free promo on our social media pages – and during this time, we’ve tried to ramp that up. It’s hard for some businesses to attract those customers when so much has shut down, so anything we can do to give them a voice, we’re more than happy to do so. The most recent feature we posted was a link to the Save Our Startups petition that is challenging the UK Government to support and save startups from collapse. It’s important to get startup businesses thinking as a community and helping each other – it’s the only way you can grow and economy to flourish.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

#SixtySecondStartup

This week’s #SixtySecondStartup is with Giuliano, the Co-founder of Get Groomed. He started Get Groomed with his Co-founder Sabrina after moving to London and realising how inconvenient it was to get an appointment at a barber shop. Spotting a gap in the market, he started Get Groomed which allows people to book a barber to their home or office. Since starting 2 years ago, Get Groomed has now rolled out across London.

Giuliano and Sabrina, Co-founders of Get Groomed

Our interview with Giuliano:

What does your company do?

We connect mobile barbers with customer. Customers can book barbers to come to their home, office, a hotel or where ever they may be. We also provide male beauty services for weddings and events. 

Why did you set up this company?

When I arrived in London, I tried out different barber shops and salons and noticed some issues with them. Most shops are only open between 10am-5pm, making it difficult for customers to find the time to go. If they go at the weekend, there is often a long waiting time. I also found it difficult to know if a barber would be any good and able to do the hairstyle I was after. My Co-founder Sabrina mentioned that there are apps for women to book hair appointments, however we realised that there was a gap in the market for men. We built a prototype, hired a few barbers and found customers very quickly.

We knew we were on to something when:

A few months after we started, we got approached by a famous Fintech startup to provide male beauty services at one of their events. This was despite us having no marketing budget, and not sending a single email or doing any cold calls. It showed us that there was demand at a corporate level.

Our business model:

Our business model is commission-based. It helps us to keep working hard to connect barbers with customers: the more money they make, the more money we make.

The biggest mistake I’ve made is:

Establishing a strategy to increase revenue at all costs. It might be attractive for people who can burn a lot of money each month, but it is not sustainable over the long term. We believe in lean ways to improve the business: we are now profitable every month and we are growing every month.

We think there’s growth in this sector because:

One word: convenience. We have a lot of customers contacting us because they can’t find the time to go to a salon or it’s inconvenient for them to go as they have caring duties or are ill. In the same way that there was a boom in food delivery services in the last decade, customers are looking for on-demand, high quality male beauty and grooming services from the comfort of their own home.

We worked with AIN because:

We have been running our platform for 2 years and we are operating across London. So we are confident that this is the right time to scale-up and expand to more cities in the UK. We are looking to partner with forward-thinking investors who share our vision and AIN is one of the best tools to connect with those kind of partners.

Get started today and view pitches from entrepreneurs around the world.

#SixtySecondStartup

In this week’s #SixtySecondStartup, we spoke to Will Ross who is the Founder of Tendo, a skills passport for frontline workers. Will started Tendo to make frontline work more secure for employees and to make it easier for companies to hire, retain and train their workforce.

Our interview with Will:

What does your company do?

Tendo allows frontline workers to generate workplace credentials while they do their jobs, building a verified, portable history of skills and hours at the end of each week.

Why did you set up this company?

We started Tendo to make frontline work more certain. For the worker, this means improving their long-term economic security. For the business, certainty comes through having a loyal, dependable workforce and an ability to encourage employees to learn new skills.

What is your business model?

We bill businesses on a per user basis. This monthly charge is a way to offset the cost of workforce churn.

We think that there’s growth in this sector because: 

Frontline workers remain offline. By bringing them online, visibility of supply provides a major step forwards. We also consider this workforce to contain a massive amount of untapped operational and creative potential – we aim to empower.

How did you get your first customer?

By building a feature that removed an administrative overhead for a training provider.

We knew we were onto something when:

When employees indicated that they would be motivated by having a trusted way to generate and retain a record of their work reputation.

Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Going to events where we can speak directly with decision makers.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Spending time marketing to cities where Tendo can’t have a repeatable physical presence.

What we look for when recruiting: 

A willingness to experiment and an inclination to speak more in terms of immediate actions than long-term plans.

We worked with AIN because:

Angel Investment Network provide a clear way to signal company type to a list of investors, ensuring that angels can search for early stage companies where they can significantly influence growth.

Get started today and view pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world.