I wanted to write this with an unpolished approach and attempt to give some fuel to entrepreneurs who are facing the very unglamorous journey with their startup. I sat in bed over 3 years ago now and obsessively sketched, pestered my wife for an opinion and wrote down ideas. I had an idea, I had a few who had stood by my side and I knew one thing, I had to try.
If I could’ve seen then the tremendous roller-coaster of emotions I likely would have thought twice, but luckily I didn’t and luckily started. There was no rule book and it was a void between the next unicorn and me, a likely statistic about to happen becoming one of the many who start and give up, fail or simply go half in. What was good for the business from the start and not so good for my home life was my obsessive nature, impulsive and once referred to as delusional mind. I call it self belief and couldn’t have done it without the boss who at the time I thought was an horrid but now actually thank. I’d learnt a steep and unforgiving lesson prior and turned to the sympathy card afterwards, hoping others would console me and tell me it was all going to be ok. I soon learnt no-one actually gave a damn and all they wanted was to see me pick myself up, grow up and get on with it. Bad things happens. Again, thanks horrid boss, genuinely.
Throughout my journey with Flotespace I was lucky enough to meet some people who without them I can honestly say I wouldn’t have persevered. To name a few, Richard Stubley and Anthony Latimer who are today investors and advisers who backed me, kept me in check and taught me to just keep going. The emotion came out, the long hours kicked in and the immature characteristics I refer to now as false comfort blankets were left in my cot with the dummy.
Startup requires you to keep going when no-one cares, no-one is looking and no-one “gets it”. It takes a massive toll on family life and I will never forget the feeling of seeing my little girl on FaceTime having come up with the “brilliant” idea of driving around the UK in a Skoda with a hairdryer for an engine for 8 weeks visiting 308 marinas and covering 2400 miles alone. The highlight was a launderette and apart from that it was the loneliest, most rewarding and testing time of my life. My incredible wife stayed up every night prior individually populating an excel spreadsheet while I added sticky dots to it. I could tell she thought I was nuts but I could also tell I was the luckiest bugger on the planet. Bearing in mind she had allowed me to stretch our pre-agreed budget of $20k into the hundreds and drained family savings. This had to work.
If you’re still awake I will treat you to a rambling summary or the peaks and troughs that followed. We had been up against laws in Oz that weren’t going anywhere fast and hence had to stay alive as a business. I landed in Gatwick, flogged my one outfit self around the whole of the UK, pitching as I went and had a blend of incredible wins and outright shocking days. Each day I filled my flyers stands, took out my business cards and drove to one of the on average 8 marinas that day, the trusty map crumpled in the passenger side, at times it seemed muttering, “you’re nuts”.
As I crunched my way across the gravel of one of the largest marina groups, I had already consoled myself “knowing” I’d be eaten alive. Instead I received a cup of tea and the response “The fact you actually turned up is commendable, so yes, I’m happy for you to operate here”. Bearing in mind my cold calling for meetings in the middle of the night from Oz to the UK was in some marina’s eyes a wind up. I sat in the car, called my wife and choking tears shouted “we got it babe!” Goosebumps and determination was in full throttle. Nothing could stop me now. Rupert, Steve, never underestimate what that meant.
We got some exciting press and had been on TV at this point which for any entrepreneur is like a Mars Bar from your mum after swimming lessons. Could this be working? Now we had to actually be actual!
Having had a serendipitous meeting with a like-minded entrepreneur in Oz, we saw a large and complimentary opportunity that would either position us as competition or see two determined minds combine for the greater good. He’s a young guy called Mike who I have a tonne of respect for and feel privileged to have him at the helm of Flotespace with me. Note to self, you can go fast alone or far together. Flotespace made a ballsy acquisition of a company enabling further growth internationally. This was a brutal ping pong match of learning and involved some very tough choices. We did however stick to our guns, keep on trucking and religiously remind ourselves that nothing was personal. It’s business. Lesson here, trust your gut, it never lies…..ever.
Flotespace today operate across the UK and Australia, has received early stage funding, been in in-flight magazines, national papers, international news and now have an advisory board that still makes me crack a very proud grin. We are now a business, I am full time, we have a fabulous team of 6 and growing and are lucky enough to offer the likes of Zip Money and Prospa Pay as well as an ever growing list of boats. Our customer base is our core and something we hold as precious as our trust in one another to make this dream a reality. I would also like to drop in another bit of advice, just ask. Embrace nervous, fluff the pitch but just ask. The number of engagements I have had as a result is mind blowing, my favourite being a cold pitch to a big 4 bank CEO who that night sat on FaceTime with me chatting like friends. I believe in fearless and I also believe that without the friends who I have been fortunate to meet along the way such as Mike from Spacer, Bardia, Justin from Camplify and other incredible minds, I would simply have stayed “safe”
To finish I must add an image that still makes me ache. My little girl on FaceTime who just didn’t understand why I wasn’t coming home from the UK. My beautiful little “mouse”, you are my number one driving force and I hope one day you understand why I wasn’t there. The biggest and most painful sacrifice and one I cannot offer better advice on than this. Nothing in business is more important than loved ones.
To summarise, this has taught me more than a classroom ever could, matured me like a stinky blue cheese and made me appreciate what’s possible if you believe in yourself. If you don’t, you can’t expect others to. Lastly to my best friend on earth who allowed me to keep going and never give up.