How to grow your business in the early stages

Feast It co-founder and CEO Digby Vollrath shares his tips on how to develop your small business in the early stages.

We launched Feast It in 2017 after spending years working in the festival and events industries.

Hugo Campbell (my business partner) and I grew incredibly frustrated at the amount of time we were spending trying to hunt down the best caterers – finding out if they were available and then trying to book them.

This led us to build a modern and simple platform that would let people book incredible food and drink for their next event, whilst making it really simple to do so.

Starting your Business

Starting your own business is a challenge, but one worth every second. Having been through the process first-hand and now almost out the other side you can’t help but be amazed at how far you’ve come.

When we launched, it was a pretty daunting experience. One of the scariest things was how under-prepared we felt and I’m sure many founders feel the same – being two 24-year-olds sharing a flat together transitioning into pitching to big companies as experts was a massive shift!

When we started out at the very beginning, every decision felt vital and we felt we were desperately treading water just to keep your head above. It can be quite overwhelming, and makes switching off almost impossible, but you just need to go with your gut, use your brain and hope for the best.

The chances are that you’ll notice your mistakes more than others pay attention to them.

The challenges we faced

It’s felt like a bumpy ride at times, but when we look back over the last 18 months, we’ve been incredibly lucky. It has been a whole lot of work though, and more stressful than either of us truly anticipated.

Securing funding was one of the most challenging aspects. We didn’t have the experience or the skills to create or understand complex financial models which made things extremely difficult. Investors expect you to know financial models, but we simply didn’t have the knowledge at first.

Fundraising can be very jargon-heavy, almost designed to keep people out. The terms underlying the jargon aren’t complex, but when investors are spouting them out quickly, you can get a bit lost and confused. Looking back now, we definitely wish we’d been a bit more clued-up on finance before getting started.

That being said, we took a step back and educated ourselves and we learned a lot in a short amount of time.

Another aspect that’s been challenging is working out what advice to believe.  There’s a lot of contradictory information out there. We just took an educated guess and adapted our strategy as we went along.

Also, things change all the time, and you need to be prepared to be flexible. It’s happened that I’ve gone for a coffee with someone as a favour to a friend, then ended up getting a cheque for investment the next day. It’s lucky I didn’t cancel! It’s a great example of how very often you don’t know what you’re getting into.

We’re also incredibly lucky that we’ve avoided any big mistakes (well, so far). We’re very conscious of the horror stories where start-ups fail due to internal disputes, so we’ve always been really careful on who we hire.

For us having a good cultural fit is key. It’s so important that people get along and gel well when you spend so much time building a company.

Growing your Business

Growing your business can feel like a challenge, however there are some simple steps you can follow to take you in the right direction.

Network

The network of people out there willing to help you is incredible, you just have to make the effort to find them.

Find people who inspire you, email them ask why they do what they do, and nine times out of ten they’ll take the time to let you buy them a coffee and chat over your idea.

Asking for a quick coffee or a 15-minute chat was the best thing we did – we met almost all of our investors through this method.

Consider funding

When growing your business, it’s important you have access to the level of funding you need to achieve your goals. Whether you’re starting your business, expanding, upskilling employees or developing new products, funding can point you in the right direction.

There are a lot of financing options available so a great way to begin is simply researching to find the best financing for you and your business.

Define your business plan

A business plan is an essential strategy. Not only does it make you consider all parts and functions of the business but can aid in securing investment.

Our business plan was very broad and incredibly ambitious but was essential in helping us define our business objectives and goals, consequently getting us to the next level.

Get stuck in

Our biggest bit of advice would be to just get on with it.

You’ll think of a million reasons why you shouldn’t do something, and you’ll come across nearly as many people who will question your ideas but the quickest way to find out if you’re right is just to get out there and do it.

When we launched we just went for it – we ended up doing the marketing ourselves. We decided to give the Google Awards a go, and without really knowing how to use it set a few ads live.

Just 15 minutes after setting them live, we got a £30,000 booking which was pretty incredible. Our friends thought we were going to be able to retire in days!

Grow your team

Hugo and I did everything ourselves until we physically couldn’t handle any more work.

By the end of this phase, we were running around like maniacs rather than taking the time to plan who we needed to hire in good time. Since then we’ve made sure to plan where and when we need to hire, but at the beginning we wanted to keep ownership over as many of the tasks as possible, it really helped us understand each aspect of the business.

From our experience, when it comes to growing your own business there are a lot of challenges you’ll face. However, we hope these tips will provide you with confidence and a boost to stick it out and reap the benefits.

Digby Vollrath is co-founder and CEO of Feast It

Further reading on growing your business

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