After the rush of our win at the Belfast leg of the AIB Start-up Academy Summit series on Thursday, it was straight down to business on Monday morning for day 1 of what promises to be an intensive but exciting accelerator program to drive our businesses forward.
Day 1 is always the most exciting for me. I personally thrive off the buzz of expectation and anticipation and couldn’t wait to meet the other startup founders. This years participants are from a diverse group of industries but it’s great to see a strong representation from the food sector. Joining me to fly the flag for the food industry is Ken from Fresh From.., Amanda from The Little Pharma, Niall from Origin Protein Bars and Jennifer from Tipperary Boutique Distillery. The group is made up of people from various different backgrounds, nationalities and age with varying levels of experience which I know will bring a wealth of learning. I often find that I learn as much if not even more from other participants when taking part in these things so I’m looking forward to growing my network and my knowledge through this group of inspiring go-getters.
We kicked things off with Lisa Hughes from Arena Coaching taking us through networking – what better way to get to know one another off the bat! Networking is often lauded as a key element in the startup journey but at the same time it’s the one thing that can strike fear into the most confident of founders. Lisa is a natural presenter and epitomises the enigmatic and charismatic entrepreneur . She also very clearly knows what she’s talking about and not only talks the talk but walks the walk too. I found that I learned as much from how she presented and interacted with us as I did from the content and really enjoyed her session.
When I started on the journey of FEED there was nothing I dreaded more than the prospect of walking into a room full of people and striking up conversations. I struggled, a lot at first, and sometimes still do, but I eventually found a system that worked for me and gives me the skills to approach any situation with confidence. Listening and interacting with Lisa on day 1 made me realise how far I’ve come so for those of you that baulk at the idea of networking I’ve outlined what works for me here:
- Go in with a plan; not just what you want to get out of any connections but also recognise what you have to offer and be confident in your own abilities, skills and experience and share that
- Be open: There’s no original ideas in the world and I firmly believe that the only way you can create something amazing is to share your idea with the world and get constructive feedback to make it better. Don’t be precious, you never know who could have the solution you’re looking for
- Understand that you’re not the only one, most people that are going to the event are nervous and would be extremely relieved to be approached by you first so just go for it
- Remember the other people at the event are humans and deserved to be treated so – be nice, ask questions – aim to make friends and not ‘contacts’ i.e. don’t be an asshole
- If you do meet someone that you connected with, don’t be shy about following up with a linkedin request and personalised email saying how nice it was to meet them. Let them know they made an impression and that you’d like to stay connected
Business Model Canvas
The afternoon session was led by Dermot Casey from NDRC who led us through the Business Model Canvas (BMC) framework and how to use it to define, test and refine sustainable business models for our business. I’m pretty familiar with the BMC at this stage having used it extensively during my postgrad at The UCD Innovation Academy and during Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers Program. I was fairly confident with the mechanics of the canvas and thought I’d fly through it but Dermot quickly burst my bubble and I’m so glad he did. The whole point of his session was to ensure that we had a laser sharp focus on the customer and to become familiar with what they value most ensuring we build products and services that directly address these needs. I’m confident that I know the FEED customer inside out after extensive research and testing over the last few months but Dermot revealed a glaringly obvious weakness – the way I was communicating the benefits of the product didn’t directly align with the specific consumer and their needs. He outlined that I needed to readdress the narrative around the product to create clear and consistent messaging that the FEED customer will understand and connect with immediately. The BMC is an excellent tool and shouldn’t be dismissed once you’ve decided on the business direction. It can also be used to get a clear view of competitors strengths and weaknesses, understanding your current business to reveal weaknesses or opportunities or strategizing.
All in all a great start to the program and I’m excited to see what is to come! Looking forward to next week at the AIB Startup Academy, it’s all about Social Media!