Are you backing yourself?

  • by Julia Elliott Brown
  • 12 Jan, 2017

If you're an entrepreneur, how much of your own money (+blood, sweat and tears of course!) have you put into your venture so far?

The answer should be,   as much as you can possibly afford to.

Why is this?

1) The longer you can go with your own personal funding, the more progress you can make without having to give away equity – so you should then get a higher valuation and   give away less   when you do raise externally.

2)   Investors love it   when you have skin in the game. It means you share the risk with them.

3) If you have your own money on the line, it   drives you to achieve more, and be extremely mindful of costs along the way

4) When you make your business a great success, the   financial rewards   to you will therefore be   greater.

5) If you don’t   back yourself, then frankly, how can you expect anyone else to?!

For more strategy tips, tricks and advice on how to successfully crowdfund, then do come along and join my FREE Facebook Group for entrepreneurs:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/mastertheartofcrowdfunding/

by Julia Elliott Brown 24 Feb, 2017

Do your eyes glaze over when you think about preparing your FINANCE stuff for fundraising?

Trust me, you are not alone!

But without having a strong handle on your numbers, and understanding how your business is performing, you don't have a chance in hell of getting investment.

Here's what you're going to need as a minimum:


1) Management accounts

Professionally produced and up to date. So if you've been putting all those receipts in a big box, or just tracking things on Excel, now's the time to get this sorted. You can do it yourself (I'd really recommend Xero). Or if you outsource, then for goodness sake make sure you really understand the numbers and what your book-keeper / accountant is doing.

2) Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

These should include not only the critical financial indicators like Revenue, Margins and Profit, but also other indicators that are pivotal measures of how well your business is doing. This will depend on the nature of your business, but can include things like Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), repeat business, marketing effectiveness broken down by channel, customer service measures, production delivery times and quality measures just to name a few.

3) Financial forecast for the next 3 to 5 years.

This needs to be professionally produced, and should show not only your profit and loss, but also your balance sheet, and most importantly your cash flow. You will need to show what your funding requirements are, not only now, but also for any potential future investment rounds.


Once you've got your key information and forecasts, you're going to really need to understand how investors will interpret them, and the kind of financial questions they're likely to ask you.

At  Enter The Arena , we help clients every single day to figure out what they need to do attract and close investors and secure finance in the fastest possible time, whilst also growing your army of brand ambassadors.

If you have a business that is solving a real and painful problem for your customers, that is getting great traction, and has great potential for growth...

If you're getting TIRED of not being able to move your business forward, because you don't have the funding you need...

If you want to secure at least £150k in equity finance...

Schedule some time in my diary, and let me help:

http://www.enterthearena.co.uk/apply

by Julia Elliott Brown 17 Feb, 2017

Let's do the MATHS on how you can achieve and surpass a crowdfunding target of £150k....

1) Ahead of your public crowdfunding campaign, reach out to your network of friends, family, business associates, customers, fans and followers. Let's assume you have 1,000 in your network, and you can get 5% of them interested enough to talk to you, with 30% of these making an average investment of £5k, then you have £75k in the bag. This gets you to 50% of your target, which is perfect ahead of a crowdfunding launch.

2) Create a fantastic pitch on a leading crowdfunding platform; let's assume 5% of the 300,000+ investors on the platform view your video, and 0.5% of these convert to an average investment of £1k. This gets you a further £150k investment

Total investment secured = £225k and you've smashed your target by 150%.

And all this is possible within 90 days. In just 90 days time, you could have those kind of funds, or way more, sitting in your bank account..

So the MATHS are SIMPLE.

Doesn't mean any of this is EASY!

It's up to YOU to make sure you have a really fantastic investment proposition.

It's up to YOU to reach out to your network, and position the opportunity in a really appealing way

It's up to YOU to close the interest from people.

It's up to YOU to create a stellar pitch deck, financial forecasts and pitch video.

It's up to YOU to keep the momentum going throughout your crowdfunding campaign.

It's up to YOU to get those people viewing your pitch to make an investment commitment.

If you have a business that is already getting great traction, and has huge potential, and you need the funds to help you grow it to the next level..... but you're just not sure how to approach the crowdfunding process...reach out and I can help.

For more tips and tricks for Equity Crowdfunding Success, join my free Facebook Group for entrepreneurs:

some   https://www.facebook.com/groups/mastertheartofcrowdfunding/

by Julia Elliott Brown 12 Jan, 2017

If you're an entrepreneur, how much of your own money (+blood, sweat and tears of course!) have you put into your venture so far?

The answer should be,   as much as you can possibly afford to.

Why is this?

1) The longer you can go with your own personal funding, the more progress you can make without having to give away equity – so you should then get a higher valuation and   give away less   when you do raise externally.

2)   Investors love it   when you have skin in the game. It means you share the risk with them.

3) If you have your own money on the line, it   drives you to achieve more, and be extremely mindful of costs along the way

4) When you make your business a great success, the   financial rewards   to you will therefore be   greater.

5) If you don’t   back yourself, then frankly, how can you expect anyone else to?!

For more strategy tips, tricks and advice on how to successfully crowdfund, then do come along and join my FREE Facebook Group for entrepreneurs:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/mastertheartofcrowdfunding/

by Julia Elliott Brown 02 Nov, 2016

If you're an entrepreneur with a reasonably early stage business, you're probably thinking about raising investment for growth at some point in your journey.

You're might already be talking to angels and wealthy individuals about the investment opportunity, or thinking about   crowdfunding .

The thing is though, unlike VCs, those people you're talking to have absolutely no mandate or imperative to invest. This means that they’re usually looking for a reason to say ‘NO’ whenever an investment proposition comes before them.

So it's absolutely critical for you to understand where an investor might see risk in your business, and address their concerns up-front. There are at least   99 questions about your business that an investor might have in their head , and I am astounded on a daily basis how many entrepreneurs don't know the answers!

So get ahead of the pack and make sure you're well prepared. Here's a summary of the key areas that most investors will consider:

  1. Vision   - what your personal vision for what you want to achieve, and why?
  2. Problem   - how large and acute is the problem you're trying to solve?
  3. Solution   - how does your offering solve the problem and why is it the best way?
  4. Market   - is this an identifiable, large and growing market?
  5. Competitive Advantage   - what's your unique selling proposition and how will you maintain this?
  6. Customers   - who specifically are your early adopters, and which customers will then follow?
  7. Business Model   - how will you make money and what's the lifetime value of a customer?
  8. Route To Market   - how will you reach your customer, and what are the costs and timescales involved?
  9. Traction   - what proof do you already have of product to market fit?
  10. Intellectual Property   - what patents, trademarks, copyrights, domains and trade secrets do you have that give you an advantage?
  11. Team   - does your core and extended team have the right skills, experience and drive to take this idea forward?
  12. Finance   - what are your historic and future projections on revenue, costs, profit and cashflow?
  13. Risks   - what are the social, environmental, political, operational, technical and competitive risks that you might face, and how will you mitigate against them?
  14. Investment Proposition   - what is your planned funding journey, how much do you need to raise now and at what valuation, what will you do with the money?

For a really comprehensive list of what you need to prepare, download this   free report   "99 Questions To Answer Before You're Ready For Investment" . And if we can be of any support to you as you prepare to go out to fundraise, or in running a crowdfunding campaign, then do   get in touch .

by Julia Elliott Brown 08 Sep, 2016

Equity crowdfunding is an exciting and rapidly growing alternative way of raising money for business growth, and something that many entrepreneurs are considering for their next funding round. Crowdfunding is certainly an attractive route if you’re looking not only to raise finance, but also get the marketing halo that comes with putting your campaign in the public domain and attracting new investors that become your greatest brand ambassadors.

But let me warn you folks, a crowdfunding campaign is not EASY! Far from it.

Here’s a quick reality check on what’s involved, and how long it's likely to take:

by Julia Elliott Brown 18 Mar, 2016
Starting and growing a high growth potential business is one of the most exciting things in the world. But being an entrepreneur is also incredibly challenging as you try to navigate your way along the journey, often on your own, with very limited resources.

I have personally found having a business coach to be transformational for me over the years, and so worth investing in. For me, the value add is really clear:

  1. Challenge your thinking
  2. Give you perspective
  3. Help you set goals
  4. Keep you on track
  5. Give you an honest viewpoint
  6. Help you focus on priorities
  7. Work through specific problems
  8. Give you ideas
  9. Help with connections
  10. Keep you sane

  Every time I come out of a coaching session I feel refreshed, focused, and ready to take on the world!

Having a business coach doesn't need to cost the earth. You can see someone for a few hours every month, more intensively when you have a pressing need - for example when you're getting your business ready to raise investment - or just when you feel the need to. It's important to find someone who you like and can work well with.

At Enter The Arena , we help busy entrepreneurs successfully crowdfund, as well as getting them investment ready. As part of this, I work with many dynamic entrepreneurs as their business coach - the fact that I've been a successful entrepreneur myself over many years means I often know how they feel and can help give guidance and perspective. But that doesn't stop me needing my own business coach too!

If you're thinking about getting a business coach, particularly if you're at the stage where you need to get your business ready for investment, then do drop me a line and let's have a chat.

by Julia Elliott Brown 03 Feb, 2016

Although the statistics for parachute failure are not well recorded, about 1 in 500 fail, and the US Airforce estimates that 2-3% of jumpers will be injured and need help. Wow, sounds risky right? I’m not sure that I’d take my chances and jump right off a cliff, not really knowing whether my parachute was going to open, or whether I’d break my ankle at the bottom. Besides, I’m really scared of heights.

But that’s nothing compared to the risk of starting your own business, where the risks of catastrophe are so much higher. In the UK,   20% of businesses fail within the first year, 50% within three years . Which makes you wonder why the hell anyone would embark on the intrepid path of entrepreneurship.

The thing is, for many of us, entrepreneurialism is kind of in the blood – whether you do that within a corporate environment or out on your own. A love of taking an idea and making it happen, a constant journey of learning and growth, building a business that you always dreamed of, and taking control of your own destiny.

Starting your own business is a massive risk of course. But like parachute jumping, there is great joy and reward to be had on the descent, and there are many things you can do to mitigate that risk and increase your chances of a soft landing:

Consider a tandem jump

Starting on the entrepreneurial journey on your own is hard. I started my last business, Upper Street, with my sister Katy, and was so glad I did. It’s far less lonely when you have someone you can bounce ideas off and you can support each other through the challenges. Plus if you can find partners that all bring complementary skills, your business will get off to a great start.

Sign up with a reputable instructor

When embarking on the challenge of a lifetime, a good instructor can impart their experience and knowledge of how to open the parachute and not get tangled up in the cords like an idiot. Seek out a strong business mentor or seasoned advisors you can call on for specialist knowledge. I’d also recommend joining a few entrepreneurial or industry networking groups or signing up for a business incubator program; the support and learning you get from others will be invaluable. I was lucky enough to get onto the   ASTIA programme , and it really gave me the leg-up I needed.

Get some practice jumps in

Despite the prolific media coverage of the teenage start-up success story,   the average entrepreneur is aged 40 . The wealth of experience you can gather by working in corporate life or having started or run a business before should not be underestimated. My sister and I had both done plenty of ‘practice jumps’ – between us we had over 20 years of business experience before we started our own venture, and I had also run my own consultancy. The point being that you’re never too old to start a business, and in fact it can give you many advantages.

Study the weather report

You wouldn’t jump off a cliff in gale force wind. Equally in business, you need to get a strong sense that the market conditions are good before you leap. Understand the competition, the gaps in the market, the size of the potential, and whether there is underlying demand from consumers in what you are offering. Do your research! For us, this was a mix of desk-based research, but also canvassing target customer opinion (our friends, over pizza and wine). What are the possible ways the wind might blow so you can calculate where you might land? All of this should be captured in your business plan, and keep on checking the weather report all the time, as the wind can easily change direction.

Check your equipment

To make your business work, you need to have the right people, product, technology and systems. But you also need to take small steps. You wouldn’t buy your own parachute until you really became a seasoned jumper now would you? Work out what is business critical and what can be outsourced. Plan how you can keep things lean and watch your cash until you’ve got more proof points; test things out before you make major investments. We started our business by funding it ourselves and working with freelancers; it wasn’t until we had the proof points we needed before we took on external investment to try and scale the business more significantly.

Check that you have what it takes

Some people are comfortable with risk and like jumping out of planes or off cliffs; some would prefer to go for a nice walk in the country. It is not easy being an entrepreneur. It’s a lifestyle choice; it’s all encompassing. It will keep you awake at night; it will encroach on your family and social life at times. It will drain you of all the money and resources you have, at least for a while, and possibly permanently. And it is really likely that you will fail. But then again, you might succeed! You have to be comfortable with that.  

JUMP!

At some point you just have to take that leap. So buckle up, stop talking about it, and get on with it. Remember, you’ll never have all the answers before you get started, but at least try and recognize what you don’t know. Positive naivety is what’s needed, and a very big pair of balls. Good luck! If I’d known then what I know now about how difficult it is to build a luxury design-your-own shoe business, I probably would never have done it. But I’m glad I did.

And of course, a safe landing is only the start. Because you’re then going to ditch that parachute, and enter the war zone terrain of entrepreneur country. Are you ready?

This post was originally published in   Apex Women  

by Julia Elliott Brown 12 Oct, 2015

Offering specialist skills -  in a small and growing business, budgets are tight, so when angels offer to help out it's great - this might be in areas like financial strategy, marketing or technology. Geeta Sidu-Robb from Nosh Detox tells me that her angel investors give her access to city contacts she wouldn't normally come across. And I have a good handful of angel investors I've worked with like Richard Nall from The Brand Garden who have provided me with amazing support, it makes all the difference.

Being a brand ambassador - for many businesses where word of mouth is a really important way for new customers to discover the brand, it's really amazing to have an army of fans beating the drum for you. With my previous business Upper Street, where women could design their own shoes online, we made sure that all of our investors were wearing the best shoes! Crowdfunding is a really great way to give your customers the chance to become investors, as they can participate for relatively small amounts of money. And I know that Will King of King of Shaves will agree with me on this, as he's always raving about his 'shaving bond' and how he's built an army of committed fans through this, as well as a great source of finance.

A network for recruitment - Lisa Rodwell from Wool & The Gang tells me that she's often reached out to her angels for contacts either for employees or potential partners, and sometimes asks them to help with the interview process. Great idea. 

Support and encouragement - it can be a lonely old place running a start-up sometimes, and it's great to have more cheerleaders on your side to encourage you to persevere. It always made my day when one of our investors dropped me a note to say that we were doing a great job. Please, angel investors, make sure you keep on patting your entrepreneurs on the head!

by Julia Elliott Brown 21 Sep, 2015
Crowd-funding is growing in popularity for both entrepreneurs looking for investment, and for angel investors looking for new and exciting opportunities to build their portfolio.

Having previously successfully crowd-funded for my business Upper Street, the British luxury shoe label where you can design your own shoes, p eople are always asking me for advice on how to best run their campaign, so I've put together my Top 5 Tips which I hope you might find useful:

  1. Make an emotionally engaging video – you have just a few minutes to get your audience to connect with your story and vision, so make it count; it will make or break whether they decide to view the rest of your pitch.
  2. Set your target to ‘just enough’ – if you don’t hit your funding objective, you get none of the money; better to set the target a little lower, and over-fund.
  3. Run your campaign like a military operation – build a strong communication plan for all key stakeholders; your customers and business contacts could be your richest source of investment.
  4. Get early support – secure early commitment from existing investors, and trusted contacts before you make your campaign live; seeing that others have already backed you gives the ‘crowd’ greater confidence.
  5. Keep the faith – when it feels like your campaign is losing momentum, keep on asking people for commitment; it’s often only in the last few weeks that campaigns gain velocity and hit target.

by Julia Elliott Brown 17 Sep, 2015

Imagine a world where women ran half of all companies. Consider the impact this would have on the way business is done, not to mention the social implications as women plough back profits into their local community and the education of children.

Women now start over half of new businesses in the UK . Yet a only tiny percentage grow those business to more than £1m turnover (it’s only  four per cent in the US ), and there are still only seven  female CEOs leading FTSE 100 companies.

Women are just not scaling their businesses, and it’s a hugely wasted opportunity for growth in the economy, especially when  female entrepreneurs generate a better return on investment  than their male counterparts.

Lack of access to finance is one of the main issues holding female-led businesses back. The thing is: people invest in people like them.

And with only 12 per cent of angel investors (who back projects with their personal disposable finance) being women, and the venture capital world still dominated by men, it’s not surprising we have such a gender bias.

In fact, only  12 per cent of angel funding  and a mere  four per cent of venture capital funding  goes to women at all. Shocking figures.

The answer in my mind is simple: crowd-funding.

Speaking as a female entrepreneur who’s been through the more traditional routes of raising finance, as well as a crowd-funding round, it certainly feels significantly less intimidating to create and run your pitch online than having to present at a testosterone fuelled pitching event, or walk into the fancy offices of a venture capital firm for an in-person grilling from the guys in suits.

It could just the thing that democratises investment for - and by - women.

And for the uninitiated female investor, it’s a lot easier to browse company prospectuses and watch video pitches online from the comfort of your sofa, dipping a toe into the water with a small investment or two, as opposed to putting chunky amounts of money into businesses via syndicates.

Crowdfunding opens the door for female investors in the same way that online gambling opened up betting for those women to nervous to go into the traditional high street bookie.

(Not that I’m directly comparing venture investment with gambling, although the risk factor probably isn’t that different).

Darren Westlake, co-founder and CEO of  Crowdcube , tells me that since launching in 2011, 14 per cent of the 262 businesses to fund on his platform were founded by female entrepreneurs; with the number rising to 21 per cent this year so far, demonstrating a real growth in the trend.

And those businesses are more likely to have a successful crowdfunding raise when compared to their male counterparts.

There’s also a rapid rise of female investors drawn to crowd-funding with 24 per cent of Crowdcube's 185,000-strong investor community being female.

My business,  Upper Street , allows women to design their own shoes online. We previously successfully crowd-funded a small investment round on Seedrs, closing £230k from 170 new investors.

I was encouraged to see that 36 per cent of our new investors were women, who incredibly put in on average almost four-times as much money as the men.

Women get what we do, and they’re comfortable backing us. I believe that the more exciting female-focused businesses there are on crowdfunding platforms, the more female investors will be attracted, and the cycle will continue.

But are crowdfunding platforms doing enough to make the opportunity appealing for women? I wish I’d seen more female businesses featured on the recent Crowdcube underground advertising campaign in London – all the posters promoting beer companies appealed to… you guessed it, the guys.

Seedrs’ announcement in August 2015 of their strategic partnership with Andy Murray will do great things to raise their profile. But wouldn’t it be fantastic to see a female sporting heroine like Jessica Ennis-Hill investing her well earned millions in fledgling British businesses, and her profile being employed to promote crowd-funding to women?

We owe it to the economy to do as much as we can to help female-led companies scale to generate growth and employment.

I strongly encourage all women looking to take their business to the next level to consider crowdfunding. And if you have a little money to invest? Then check out all the great female-led businesses who are crowd-funding right now – they need your support.

This article was originally published in  The Telegraph

More posts
Share by: