Skip to main content

Bossing ItCardiff Connect

The start-up learning curve – Bossing It

22 November 2022

Setting up a business from scratch can be challenging, so learning from your own journey as well as others can be crucial in ensuring your venture is a success. We spoke to some of our clued-up alumni who have shared their advice on getting your start-up off the ground.

Gerwyn Holmes (BSc 2005)

Gerwyn is the founder of award-winning start-up EcoSlurps and he has always been passionate about recycling and the environment. After studying at Cardiff Business School, he worked at a recycling start-up, where he realised how much we depend on single-use plastic products. In 2019 he founded EcoSlurps, a business dedicated to providing us with reusable and biodegradable alternatives to single-use plastic products. The business plants trees every day to offset emissions and supports reforestation projects around the world.

Get started, fail fast, and learn from it

Don’t be afraid of failing! Get out there and fail quickly in order to validate whether your idea will be a success. The sooner you start, the sooner you fail, the sooner you learn, and the sooner you will move forward. You make no progress standing still thinking about an idea. Failing, and learning from those failures is an essential part of growing any successful business. Remember that those who don’t fail, have never tried. Failure doesn’t preclude you from ultimately succeeding, it’s a vital step in creating the right solution to the market problem you are trying to solve.

Do something you’re passionate about

To help sustain long-term enthusiasm in your business it’s beneficial to be passionate about the sector you’re going into, and the problem you’re trying to solve. When times are tough, it’s a lot easier to work on a business in an industry that you truly care about. Entrepreneurs who are passionate about the marketplace in which they operate will have far greater success, capitalising on opportunities they encounter within the market when compared to those who are simply in the same space to make money. It’s easy to identify authenticity and values-led entrepreneurs and businesses in the fast-paced content-driven world that we live in. Use your passion to become an expert in your marketplace, and build an audience of loyal followers who hopefully will eventually become paying customers and brand advocates.

Paris Collingbourne (BA 2018)

Paris is the founder and MD of PR agency Loud Llama, a boutique team working with global brands and exciting start-ups. Having been in the PR industry for almost eight years, Paris spotted a gap for a youth-driven agency in South Wales with a core mission of being a feel-good agency that puts people first.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable!

Everything is hard before it becomes easier. Don’t be afraid to try. You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over. Mostly, we are just trying to figure it out along the way, and that’s ok. I have learned that the sense of being overwhelmed I occasionally feel in business is the success I have been working for. Seeing the positives in a situation and using it to your advantage is the key to thriving in difficult times. If you’re feeling defeated, I urge you to do some work to shift your perspective and allow yourself to see the opportunity hidden (usually in plain sight!). Remember, you run your business and it doesn’t run you!

Stay close to the people who want more for you, not from you.

As a first-time founder, making mistakes is inevitable. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and encourage you to be better. Some of the best lessons I have learned have been by listening to people who have ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt’. They’ve learned from their own mistakes and are uniquely positioned to help first-time founders avoid making the same ones. I set myself a goal when I started Loud Llama to speak with someone that inspired me every single week, fast forward two years and some of these business owners we now work with!

Rifhat Qureshi (BSc 1999, MSc 2021)

Rifhat founded Modest Trends London, a fashion business that provides ethical apparel and accessories for the next generation of Muslim women. In 2019 she won the award for New Business of the Year at the Welsh SME awards and featured as the first Abaya and Hijab store in Oxford Street, London. The brand prides itself on ethical sourcing, community contribution and diversity.

Take small steps everyday but always dream big!

During my TED talk in 2018 I spoke about how I always wanted to start my own business. However, as the years went by the dream got further and further away, despite having a degree in Business Administration! Not knowing where to start or who to go to for advice and support, left me feeling overwhelmed and afraid of failure. Riddled with self-doubt, it took me 20 years to finally take the plunge and start my own business and while it has been challenging at times, it quickly became one of the best decisions I have ever made.

You can do incredible things, but you don’t need to do them alone.

Always reach out for help when you get stuck. Find mentors who can guide and support you, but also be sure to give something back yourself too. I love supporting others in their start-up journey and helping them develop the leadership mindset. So, in 2020 I decided to return to studying and do an MSc in Business Strategy in Entrepreneurship, to equip me with tools and language to help support other female founders. Being an entrepreneur has provided me with some of the greatest life-changing experiences. I have met people from different backgrounds that share the same drive and passion to solve problems and make a difference in the world.

The Cardiff University community are a helpful bunch, here to help you get ahead in your chosen career. You can browse through their advice and top tips on a wide range of business topics in our ‘Bossing It’ series. Interested in getting further help from some of our brilliant alumni? Why not use the ‘Find a Mentor’ tool on Cardiff Connected?