As part of a new feature on stwcharity.co.uk, we are catching up with some experts across the business and entrepreneurship space within Leicestershire to get their thoughts on the current business landscape and the opportunities that are available.
First up, we’re pleased to introduce Ben Ravilious, who founded Leicester Startups in 2013 to help existing and aspiring startup entrepreneurs find advice, mentorship and co-founders…
Firstly, what do you feel makes a successful entrepreneur?
Well firstly, I would say that ‘entrepreneur’ isn’t a personality type and people from all walks of life can be entrepreneurs – it’s not something you necessarily have an inherent ‘talent’ for. What I can say is that certain behaviours and mindsets are more likely to lead to success. In particular, being curious about how things might be improved (including addressing annoying or difficult things that no one else want to touch) really matters – entrepreneurs run towards the fire not away! The other mindset that really matters is an experimental one. Starting a new business is full of uncertainties which many people don’t want to deal with. An entrepreneurially-minded person will run experiments to reduce the uncertainty – for example you might run a pop-up for a week before you commit to opening a shop. A lot is said about requiring ‘passion’ and you certainly need a bit of that to keep you motivated, but you also need the objectivity to listen when the universe tells you that you haven’t got it quite right yet. It’s hard to be both passionate and objective about your business!
In the current economic climate, do you feel that now is a good time for aspiring entrepreneurs to be following their dreams and setting up a new business?
It really depends on what you’re attempting. A difficult economic climate can just make it harder to start a company (e.g. banks not lending or customers unwilling to spend). On the other hand, economic strife can drastically change markets and create new opportunities (look at how Zoom or Netflix flourished during lockdown). If you do your research and run some experiments, you can get closer to finding out whether your business idea is a good one, regardless of the wider economy.
Within your role and network, can you give us a flavour of the types of success you have you seen among Leicestershire entrepreneurs?
In my role at Leicester Startups I mainly come into contact with innovative, scalable ‘tech’ businesses and there have been some notable recent local successes including Reviews.io selling their business for $72m. There are also loads of smaller scale companies that have recently managed to prove their ideas and get a foothold so they can keep going. Getting your first ten paying customers can feel like a million dollars when you’re just starting out!
How valuable do you think The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s offer of interest-free business loans up to £20,000 is to new and existing businesses in Leicestershire?
We’re incredibly lucky to have STWLC in our region – I don’t believe there’s anything like it elsewhere and it must be the world’s oldest loan company too. It’s important to make sure that taking on debt is the right thing for you, but I know the STWLC team cover that in the application process.
For more information on STWLC’s interest-free business loans, which are available up to £20,000, please click here
If you’d like to contact Leicester Startups for their support, please email email@example.com