Tag: entrepreneurship

What I learned from the New Frontiers programme

learn-new-frontiers

I founded my visual effects startup, Glue, in 2013 and was looking for a dedicated startup programme that would complement my industry experience with the business knowledge and structure I required. In 2014, I participated in Phase 1 of New Frontiers, and subsequently went on to Phase 2 later in the year.

I learned a huge amount on the programme and Glue is gaining momentum; we’ve been able to grow our team and develop custom systems to improve our processes. Looking back, I’ve identified seven areas that were key to my startup journey.

Building on an idea

New Frontiers was my first major step in starting up the business. Personally, I found it extremely helpful and challenging in so many ways. First of all, it challenges you to dismantle your idea and test to see if it’s a viable business model. This happens with group discussions, one-to-one meetings, review stages and presentations. Secondly, it helps you to build your idea from the ground up, while putting proven business theory into practice.

Creating processes

Establishing business processes was the most important aspect to benefit Glue. We have now developed processes and backend structures that allow us to keep track of projects and to clearly show both staff and clients how each project is progressing at the various stages. Not only this, but putting solid terms and conditions in place for new customers helps avoid confusion down the road. For us, it’s a simple ten-line document which lets both parties know where they stand before work commences. The help given by New Frontiers in streamlining this process alone has been invaluable.

Core team and culture

I also believe that culture is incredibly important, even at early-stage. I think every startup should make clear decisions about how their company will behave and ensure that all staff enjoy what they do and are happy with the work they’re producing.

So much of these thought processes have benefited from specific  personality tests given during the programme to identify how an individual ticks and to develop symbiotic relationships between staff, based on their particular strengths and insights.

Knowing how you think and what type of person you are will allow you to understand how others perceive you. I have applied some of the lessons learned from the personality tests given throughout the programme to my whole team – with great results. This allows you to plan more efficiently and allows staff to identify qualities in each other that are necessary for delivering the best product.

Pitches and sales

There is a lot of great advice given regarding presentation skills, something I was quite poor at in the beginning but which I quickly improved upon through pitches to the class and at review stages. Basic things, such as having your pitch video recorded so you and your colleagues can dissect it and give constructive feedback, or being supplied with templates and pacing advice all come together to help you pitch better.

One very important factor in running a business is, of course, sales. How to successfully sell is paramount to the success of your business. There were many great tutors on the programme, such as Andrew McNeille and Dermot McKonkey, who both opened my eyes regarding sales and negotiating. I would happily purchase training videos from the tutors on this programme, simply because the information given is so in-depth; I still find myself looking over class notes from time to time.

Learn

A lot comes down to the individual entrepreneur, but if you are driven to make your business a success you’ll find that there’s a huge amount of information available to you on the programme. From the basics of structuring everything you do to clearly defining goals and milestones, you will learn many elements to help you set up and run your business.

Mentoring was a great help, as were the one-to-one sit downs with experienced professionals – which allow you to review each stage you have reached and gain great insight and knowledge.

Focus

The €15,000 grant paid over the course of Phase 2 (six months) gives you the space to concentrate on your business idea and give it the time and focus it needs to develop.

Network

For a digital video creation company like mine, the networking aspect has been especially helpful. Not only to share experiences and advice with like-minded entrepreneurs, but also as a test bed for us to sell our services.

New Frontiers gives you information on many business events throughout the course. Managing your time effectively is certainly one of the most difficult aspects, but ultimately the most rewarding as you learn and develop under their structured guidance.

Anyone can learn how to start up a business, but having the right mentors and structure around you will make the process easier and help it to happen sooner. Even if you know that you have a viable product or service, it requires a certain mindset to take the leap – especially if you have been working for someone else for years. It can be daunting at first, but my advice is to jump!

About the author

Ray-Mongey-New-FrontiersRay Mongey

Ray was a New Frontiers participant at DIT and is founder and Managing Director of Glue, a visual effects company. Glue specialises in creating videos that present services or products using a mix of 3D graphics and video footage and they have clients in the UK, Ireland and UAE…. [Read Ray’s profile]

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New-Frontiers-Entrepreneur-Development-Programme

Muhammad Ali summed up his boxing style with the now famous phrase, “Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” This perfectly captured Ali’s ability to glide around the boxing ring yet unleash a mighty punch when required.

This phrase has stuck with me and for many years now and it is something I purposefully remember every time a prospective entrepreneur walks into the office or sends in a programme application form. For me, it forms a sort of yardstick that I always use to gauge an application: will this business idea float and does the promoter have a sting in the tail?

This yardstick is particularly useful during Phase 1 of the New Frontiers Programme. Often, nobody – neither the promoter nor the programme managers – knows if an idea will float and the purpose of this first phase is to help determine whether it could.

Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee

So, Phase 1 provides the sparring ring that allows participants to start to learn about their opportunity and to discover their skills. Is there a market? Will people buy? Can I sell to them? Can I make money? How much will it take to get something to the point where it can be sold? These questions are jabs, discovery punches, that allow us to size up the opposition. It allows us to determine the gap the business will have to cross to land a winning punch.

But that is only half of the yardstick; the second element is about the sting. Is the promoter determined to succeed? Does he or she have the necessary drive and commitment to make it happen? Does the promoter show real ambition? Phase 1 helps me to answer those questions, as I get to spend time observing and interacting with the programme participants.

How to prepare for Phase 1 of New Frontiers

With limited places available, what can a promoter do to strengthen their position before applying for Phase 1? I believe it’s important to have answers to the following:

What’s the real pain?

Talk to people (including some you don’t know) about your idea. What do they think of your offering? Is it solving a real world problem?

What’s the idea?

How will you solve the problem? How is it being solved at the moment? What makes your approach different? Brainstorm as many possible solutions to the problem as you can at this stage. Often, this can produce a much stronger proposition, which will help you get the support you need.

Go beyond your comfort zone

Don’t just discuss things with friends and family. Are you comfortable doing this? Get to know yourself; it will help you to honestly assess what skills you bring and those that you may need to bring on board.

Show commitment to the project

Keep a record of the time and cash investments you’ve made in the project to date. How many meetings have you had and with whom? Have you bought software, equipment, registered a domain, etc.?

Can you take the pain?

Starting out to build a business is not easy and getting into the ring will result in you taking punches. Are you willing to pay this price? Are you resilient enough?

Be under no illusion, to succeed in business and to progress onto Phase 2 of the New Frontiers Programme, you will need to learn how to float and sting. And to prove to others that you can.

About the author

Garrett-Duffy-New-FrontiersGarrett Duffy

Garrett is the New Frontiers Programme Manager at Dundalk Institute of Technology. He has a background in engineering and has lectured in information systems, computer applications and new venture creation. He has been the Enterprise Development Manager at DkIT’s Regional Development Centre since 2007… [Read Garrett’s profile]

Top tips for startup entrepreneurs

tips-startup-entrepreneurs

These are some of the best pieces of advice I can give based on 12 years’ experience of bringing ideas to reality as an entrepreneur and innovator.

Imagine your business start up is a new bus. You are the driver. You are about to begin a very long road journey on a totally new route in a place you have never been to before. You need to know where you are going and directions to get to your destination. You need to stock up on resources for the upcoming journey:

Find and follow your passion

Do what you love doing. Watch the doors open and you will enjoy the journey even more.

Believe in yourself & your idea

Believe in you first. Believe you can. Believe you are the right person to do this. This will help you build the right team, the right product and bring the right customers.

Learn from the best

Educate yourself by learning from the best. Learn from experts in your business domain.

Have a clear vision of the future

Planning the business journey is like planning any other type of journey: it requires a destination (or goal) and a clear path (or direction). Apply this to your business at all times… and don’t begin until you have it clear in your head. Visualize your goals and how you will get there, often. Imagine how it will feel to achieve your goal.

Plan your time

Prioritise and plan your day and week. I spend 15-30 minutes every Sunday evening planning the week and it puts me in control of my business and my life, not the other way around.

Challenge yourself & get out of your comfort zone

This may be difficult at first, but when you apply it regularly you will see great results and you will be amazed at how much more you are able to do. Do the things you feel are a challenge and watch yourself grow.

Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people

Getting a good mentor is an important part of this. You also need to build a team that shares your passion, goals and philosophy.

Trust in yourself and others

Have faith in your choices and follow them through. You have the amazing gifts of choice and free will, so the only wrong choice is to not make a choice at all.

Look after your health

It’s crucial to find a work/life balance that keeps you healthy. Exercise and good diet are great places to start. For me this involves getting outdoors, keeping fit, eating plenty of ‘live’ foods, drinking lots of water, prayer and meditation.

Get the right plan & funding in place

Be prepared and plan early for funding so that your idea doesn’t become sabotaged by a simple lack of cash flow. Seek advice from experts and talk to other entrepreneurs who have been successful getting funding.

Enjoy the journey and stay strong

It’s all about persistence… with a smile.

Daunting? Initially. Impossible? No way!

The important thing to remember is that you are in complete control of the journey, where you go and how you get there.

You decide who (your customers) you will take to where they want to go. You decide when to start the bus (begin your start up) and when to switch off (when to stop or when to step back and unwind). Which road to take (your business model) and how fast or how slow (when to put in extra hours or make quicker decisions). When to invite new passengers (your team) on board. You’ll see signs along the way (advice and choices) that will help you. You will have markers (targets) along the way too and every time you pass them you’ll know you are getting closer to your destination (your goal).

I have used this and it has worked and still works brilliantly for me as an entrepreneur.

So get on the bus, take the wheel and begin this amazing journey. Go for it!

About the author


Anthony Carroll
Anthony Carrol

Anthony is a New Frontiers participant. He has a passion for sports, and has combined careers in sales and business development with football coaching and training. He was also a professional football player. Anthony’s startup, Gateway Sports, is an online asset management platform for grassroots/amateur sports bodies and sports organisations… [Read Anthony’s profile]

My two babies: being a parent and running a business

gail-condon-new-frontiers

Someone in this world calls me Mummy (well not quite yet, she is only one year old). Being Rosie’s Mummy is the most wonderful and most important role of my life. And the toughest. I also have a business – a new business. People refer to it as my other baby, and they’re right.

Becoming a parent and starting a business are similar experiences.

1. Sleepless nights

It is a given that when you become a mother, you are never going to sleep again. Never, ever. The same thing happens when you start a business. They both need your attention, your time, your patience… and, of course, you worry about them at all times. People ask me if I sleep when she sleeps, I don’t. When she naps, I go back to my desk and work. There is always work to do.  I will sleep when Rosie is an adult and when my business is where it needs to be, i.e. the successful children’s publishing house that I know it can be. Slumber is over rated anyway, isn’t it?!

2. If I don’t do it, who will?

My daughter Rosie is glued to me at all times. She is a mummy’s girl and although she has an amazing dad and we both have supportive families, sometimes she just wants me and no one else will do. My business is the same. It needs me all the time and delegating is tough when you have nobody to delegate to! You have to be a master of all trades to run a startup.  If I’m not working, the business isn’t working. It is normal to be stretched in the early days of a new business and it is often easier to do things yourself rather than explain what you need done to somebody else. Prioritisation is the key! My daily to do list is my best friend.

3. Social life

Obviously, I mean the lack of of a social life. Although I wouldn’t say that I have no social life, I would say that it is a whole new social life. Two new worlds of socialising have opened up for me: with Rosie I see my friends much more in the daytime, which is lovely, and since starting a business I have been exposed to a huge secret start up world and culture. You learn a new start up language, eat start up food and suddenly you have new idols and new friends. It really is an adventure.

4. The future

The worry! I worry about Rosie all day. Most of the time it is sweating the small stuff: her next bath, what I have in the fridge, if she’s getting a varied diet, if she’ll behave for my mum when I go that meeting… On top of that, I worry about the world. I am not just worried about my little bubble, but the whole world. I feel so vulnerable in it. I want the world to be a better place for Rosie. I worry about pollution, waste, war, child and animal rights much more now than I did before. The future needs to be carefully planned when you have a child, Mick and I must select schools, save up, look ahead.

That is similar to the worry and planning involved in a business. I worry about the business every second; again, most of the time it is the small stuff, but I worry nonetheless. The future is a little hazy in the startup world, I plan as much as I can, but every day there is a new opportunity, or a new disaster to fix. So my plan is to plan as much as I can!

My advice to a new start up is to try to embrace the unknown. It is exciting to steer your business in your chosen direction, but there are icebergs, storms and sharks waiting for you. Plain sailing it ain’t. But there are also sandy beaches, calm seas and glorious sunshine ahead.

5. Love

Love, love, love! As the Beatles said, “All you need is love.” This song also has some other inspirational messages, they could be words of encouragement to new mums or to new businesses:

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.
Nothing you can say, but you can learn
How to play the game
It’s easy.
Nothing you can make that can’t be made.
No one you can save that can’t be saved.
Nothing you can do, but you can learn
How to be you in time
It’s easy.

OK, it isn’t easy. You’ll need a lot more than love, but it is a good place to start. I love being a mother. I could not love my daughter more. She fills me and all those around her with so much love. You also need to love your startup, which I do. It is a childhood dream to do this – to write children’s books. Like a baby it can be challenging, tiring and all-consuming. Nevertheless, you need to be passionate about it and to believe in it. If you don’t believe in it, who will? Without love, you cannot survive in this start up world or in the parent world. No, it is not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

About the author

gail-condon-new-frontiers-writingfortinyGail Condon

Gail is a New Frontiers participant at DIT. Her startup, Writing for Tiny, creates personalised books to help children understand important life events and situations. The inspiration for her business came from Gail’s experience as a pediatric nurse, when she would draw illustrations to distract patients from unpleasant procedures or explain their condition to them… [Read Gail’s profile]

Finding your feet as an entrepreneur

find-feet-entrepreneur

The reality of business is that you have to make money. If you’re in it for giving back to the community, helping others or world peace, then you’re just not a business person. Making money is the first thing on every entrepreneur’s mind. What they do with it and where they spend it is up to the successful entrepreneur. But first, you have to generate revenue to be a successful entrepreneur.

Becoming an entrepreneur looks easy from the outside. I mean, how hard can it really be? At the end of the day, surely it just comes down to:

  1. have a good idea;
  2. people will want to buy it;
  3. make money and give back to the community!

Easy, right?

WRONG!

There’s a difference between doing something, and doing it well

Becoming an entrepreneur is easy, becoming a successful entrepreneur is hard! Lots of people call themselves entrepreneurs; for instance, I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a child. From selling my old toys at age 5, organising a community cycle at 7, making bathroom soap holders from building site wood and beach shells at 12, distributing sport supplements at 19, experimenting with a multi-level marketing company at 21… and many other endeavours along the way.  The only problem was that I wasn’t doing one crucial thing – making money! Yes, I paid for some trips to the cinema, funded a car and a holiday, but really they were all just steps on the journey. A journey that I’m still on – becoming the best entrepreneur I can be.

In business, as in life, we often talk about your ‘slice of the pie’ – It often relates to money and how much you’re getting in a deal. I want to show you what the P.I.E. represents for to me. Each aspect of the P.I.E. determines the success you have/will have (or in other words, your slice of the pie).

Passion

Do you care about the industry you are entering? Is it in an area you would spend your time in, even if you weren’t getting paid? Do you really love it?

Personally, I love sport. I train well and I want to run as fast as I possibly can. This passion gives me an understanding of the sporting world and I have set up a company that makes it easier and cheaper for sport enthusiasts to enjoy their sport and achieve their goals. There are a number of elements to this: corporate sponsorship, crowdfunding and community building. The aim is to make athletes at the top of their sports more attractive to sponsors.

Having a passion for what I do makes it easier to make things happen. Because I’m on a quest to create change that I believe in, it means that when it comes to putting in the extra hours, I get stuck in and get it over the line.

Intensity

So now we know you care and you’re passionate about it. The next thing you must bring is the intensity. Imagine you’re playing a match; you go out on the pitch all guns blazing, full of enthusiasm and ready to win, but in the first minute you get winded and now you have two choices:

  1. Whimper away and let the game slip by.
  2. Suck it up and dig deep for the rest of the game – grind out a winning performance.

In business, this is the point at which you’ve had 10 rejections in a row, but you continue to pick up the phone and make calls. It’s easy to look at a person who has made it and think “Sure, they have that great client who brings in loads of sales for them.” Or, “They have it easy – their product/service sells itself.” The reality is that they have taken the hits, sucked it up and kept making the sales.

Paul Kenny sold cobone.com for an estimated $40 million and he made a great point. Once you have a customer, you have a business. It’s then your role to find more people like them who want to buy from you. To me this is the intensity. Keep doing the right things and you will get the breaks.

Expertise

This is a vital part to any business. Are you the best at what you do? If you were in the buyer’s shoes, would you buy from you?

It’s your job to know your industry inside out. Stay up-to-date with the latest trends, evolve, pivot and be the best at what you do.

At an ITLG (Irish Technology Leaders Group) event in Limerick, John Hartnett made the point that Nokia used to have the mobile market, now Apple have it, but maybe Samsung could win it next? If you’re an expert in your field, you can compete and win, but if you become stale and allow others to catch you then you will lose the battle. And it is a battle. You must use your passion and intensity to make sure you become – and remain – an expert in your field.

So how much P.I.E. do you have and how much of the pie will that get you?

About the author

David O’Sheadavid-o-shea-new-frontiers-2

David is an international sprinter and entrepreneur. He represented Ireland in the 60m and 100m sprint (with a personal best of 6.95 and 10.78 respectively). Having experienced the difficulties of funding an elite sport, David saw a gap in the market and created a platform for raising money for training and equipment needs: nTrai.com… [Read David’s profile]

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