The final of the second round of the Scottish EDGE takes place today and I’m lucky enough to be part of the judging panel, listening to the pitches of 30 inspiring entrepreneurs.
Throughout a start-up’s journey there are many defining moments. The chance to relieve a little financial pressure by winning this competition is an incredible opportunity.
But it’s not all about the money.
It’s about the confidence that the budding entrepreneurs will gain to take the next step – perhaps spending money on finishing a product, hiring a key member of staff or starting a marketing campaign.
Most entrepreneurs are faced by the fear of failure − externally they may look very confident, yet typically they are much more cautious than appearances show. Entrepreneurs love to take risks, however, these are balanced and calculated to minimise the downside. Gaining access to some support gives them the ability to take the next step.
We are very lucky to have the drive and determination of Jim Duffy and the team at Espark who had the determination to go and ask the Scottish Government for support. Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway have also been instrumental in their support, by creating an ecosystem to support ambitious entrepreneurs.
When we started Diet Chef in 2008, the global banking crisis had just begun. Investors were nervous about start-ups and, although we had a very supportive banking relationship with RBS, we couldn’t get funding to grow our business.
So we used a slightly different model than most start-ups − we worked with our key suppliers.
They were the businesses that wanted us to grow and more customers allowed them to become more efficient in production.
We worked closely with them to help extend and plan our finances, cash flow and deliveries – helping us to streamline our growth and manage the limited investment we had.
We were bold.
We told one manufacturer that we would be bigger for them than Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco combined.
Initially they laughed at us but we guided them through our plan and showed them how we could work together.
Twelve months on, we achieved that goal.
This is one of the many occasions that people laughed at our idea, but to create new companies and products you need to be able to spot a gap in the market that no one else is exploiting.
The difference between success and failure is a sliver of extra hard work!
So, given my background, I’m very much looking forward to hearing the pitches today.
It’s important to encourage more companies and individuals to be brave enough to take the next step towards making their ambitions a reality − the Scottish EDGE is certainly one way of doing that.
Finally, for companies that didn’t get through to the final, it’s important to remember to never give up: instead, think of other ways to fund your growth.