What makes an entrepreneur

The most obvious example of entrepreneurship is starting a new business, but there’s clearly more to it than starting up.

Chaired by Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of London Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI), the entrepreneurs panel at Battle of the Backers placed four fast-growth London business owners in the hot seat, to answer the billion-pound question: how did they do it?

The most obvious example of entrepreneurship is starting a new business, but there’s clearly more to it than starting up. Considering that more than half of all new businesses fail within five years, the dream of founding the next big thing may be hard to realise.

With this in mind, business resource GrowthBusiness organised a myth-busting event for small and medium sized business owners, Battle of the Backers, to tackle topics as varied as which finance option may suit them best, to how to vote of the then-impending EU referendum.

Battle of the Backers opened with a fast-paced EU referendum debate, also moderated by LCCI’s Colin Stanbridge. Making the case for SMEs to vote to remain in the EU, the debate featured Laura Sandys, former MP and current chair of the European Movement campaign, and Diego Zuluaga, financial services research fellow, Institute of Economic Affairs. On the Brexit side, former MP and current chair of S&U plc, Anthony Coombs, was joined by current Councillor for Oxfordshire, Tom Hunt, an official spokesperson for the campaign group, Vote Leave.

“Starting the event with an EU referendum debate was a great way to rile up the audience a day ahead of the vote. There’s so much noise out there on which way to vote, the fear is that SME owners may not have all the facts they need to vote for what’s best for business,” Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of LCCI said.

“Each of us is about six degrees of separation from a job that is supported by the EU,” Laura Sandys said during the debate. “Ultimately, the vote is not just about yourself, but your customers and suppliers. Who wouldn’t want the EU and the rest of the world, and not the rest of the world without the EU.”

According to Diego Zuluaga, the UK and the EU’s symbiotic relationship has long fuelled both economies, which is why voting to remain would have made the most sense for the UK’s 5.4 million small and medium businesses. “Britain was the sick man of Europe when it joined the EU. Now we are poised to become the strongest economy in Europe, and that is largely from the UK’s strength in the EU. Interestingly, the EU has become more British in the last decade, and that’s been good for everyone,” he said.

As a business leader in his own right, Anthony Coombs stressed the independence that leaving the EU would afford the UK. “Supporters of voting to remain in the EU often prophesise the end of days if we choose to leave. The truth is that we can always aim for an amicable separation rather than a messy divorce,” he said, citing EU regulatory red tape as a burden on British businesses.

For Councillor Tom Hunt, it’s a simple case of proving British ingenuity and resilience separate from the EU. “The EU is fraught with inefficiencies. Each decision takes a long time to come into effect, and we simply cannot afford delays on our journey ahead. The EU is just not an appropriate body for making decisions,” he asserted.

Just a day after the high-octane debate, the UK voted for a Brexit, and since then the nation has plunged into a period of uncertainty. Just as that was expected by both sides of the debate, this post-Brexit period may be the best opportunity for the British entrepreneurial spirit, known for its resiliency during trying times, to shine through.

Closing out Battle of the Backers, the entrepreneurs panel featured four very different businesse leaders, from a thriving pan-European financial services business to an eighteen-month-old start-up that has made headlines for innovation. The panel featured banker-turned-entrepreneur and business mentor, Jenny Campbell (YourCash Europe), Queens Award for Enterprise Promotion winner and tech entrepreneur Guy Mucklow (PCA Predict), London-based food tech entrepreneur Rahul Parekh (EatFirst), and restauranteur Alex Wrethman (Charlotte’s Group). LCCI’s Colin Stanbridge chaired this panel as well.

“Every business has a unique growth story, so it’s great to hear how each of these founder CEOs started their companies, and their journey from then to now,” Colin Stanbridge said while moderating the panel.

From bootstrapping their business to pitching for VC funding, the entrepreneurs shared which mode of finance helped push their businesses past growth obstacles, along with what makes them get out of bed every morning, and the traits every entrepreneur should develop if they’re planning on scaling their businesses.

“Being an entrepreneur is not a magical DNA code. It’s not just something you’re born with. It’s partly environment and attention to detail,” Guy Mucklow, president and founder of PCA Predict said. Mucklow built his business with co-founder Jamie Turner from scratch, fuelled by rejection for venture capital in the company’s early days. Since then, he has turned down a $100,000 offer to buy the business.

Read more about Guy Mucklow and PCA Predict

For Jenny Campbell, decades of working in the banking industry helped her hone her business model on the principle of attracting and retaining the best talent. “Getting the right quality of people is the most important element in growing a business,” she said. YourCash’s business model is based around core benefits of ATM services both from retail provider and consumer, and the business currently employs close to 100 people, all hired based on Campbell’s own principle of getting the most of teams.

Read more about Jenny Campbell and YourCash Europe

Rahul Parekh is another banker-turned-entrepreneur on the panel, with a unique take on London’s food delivery business platforms. His business, EatFirst, is the capital’s first ever online-only restaurant that brings healthy gourmet meals to the city’s busy professionals. After seven years in banking, Parekh sees the entrepreneurial journey as one that may be arduous but full of rewards. “I have enjoyed the start-up phase of business so much, I can really see myself doing this again someday. Is it aspirational? Yes,” he said on the panel.

Read more about Rahul Parekh and EatFirst

As a restauranteur in one of the food capitals of the Europe, Alex Wrethman explained the intrinsic emotional link between the entrepreneur and enterprise that usually fuels business owners through the tough times. “The first thing that drew me to the hospitality industry is the community around it, he said. “In the hospitality business, every single person you meet is a VIP because they are an important part of what makes your restaurant thrive,” he explained.

Read more about Alex Wrethman and Charlotte’s Group

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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