As part of my growth as a business, I searched for ways to boost my chances of success early doors, but looking into investment funding. This was obviously not going to be easy, as coming by a grant opportunity for your business is very rare. However, my thought was if you don’t try you won’t find out. So after a week of searching, I came across a local business competition run by Business Enterprise Support (BES) and Stoke-on-Trent Council called Start Up Competition. It is also in association with Virgin Start Up, which to felt like an amazing opportunity to become a part of. It is only in it’s second year of running, yet the popularity is already high, as you can imagine.
After applying, I waited patiently, not really expecting much, only to receive a chance to pitch to a judging panel about my business ideas! It was a excellent experience that left me feeling over-whelmed and determined all in one. The pitch involved me talking for 5 minutes about my business, what is stands for and where I want to take it. Then there was 5 minutes of questions from the judges, which was probably the most daunting part! They seemed to be impressed with how passionate I am about making a difference, but I had this feeling that I hadn’t done enough preparation of finances to win them over.
All applicants were invited to attend the awards evening, where we would find out who the four finalist were. They would then need to pitch their ideas live to the final judging panel and the audience. Each finalist would be given a prize funding to help their business develop. To be honest, I didn’t think I would actually be as nervous as I was. The idea I could actually be in with a chance of taking serious actions, to making my goals happen, was a lot to get my head around.
The evening was full of inspiration and advice from business owners and entrepreneurs, which included the key note speaker Jo Fairley, Co-founder of ‘Green & Blacks‘ – so yes, there was free chocolate to be had!
Her journey to where she is now, was wonderful to listen to. Like myself, she had no expectations of owning her own business, when she was growing up but found a passion in another career path beforehand. Though she was successful ,she took a chance and left journalism to embark on a whole you life, founding the UK’s first organic chocolate company.
One thing that as definitely stuck with me, was that she told us all about a postcard quote that encourages you to take risks because you don’t want to look back and say you could have done it. This is something I can heavily relate to, as I have already taken huge steps to change the way my life is going, from leaving university, paying to study for a new career and becoming self-employed. But the risks can’t and won’t stop here. I have to keep putting myself on the line, making every new phase a challenging one, as it is the only way I will ever get to where I wish to be. There are going to be many setbacks, but they are learning curves, making me stronger and wiser from them.
The four finalists gave great pitches to the four finalist judges on the night, and I wish them all the very best. Though I may not have come away with riches, I am now rich with knowledge for how to expand and develop my business, and show you all just what I am capable of. Sure it was disappointing to not get through, but I have literally only just begun. Three weeks in and already there are several things going on, that I hope will make a massive difference to this city and beyond. I am glad I entered, it gave me opportunity to network and learn from established individuals about how to progress.
What ever your chosen path in life, I too encourage you to take the risks you face. Whether it is win or loose, there will always be something to be gained by doing them.