Q: I have an early-stage food business and I am looking for an investor as I need to fund additional equipment etc? Can you direct me?
A: This is a classic case of the chicken and the egg. In many cases, investors won’t invest in an early-stage business as they will need to see proof of concept and results.
The business owner will argue that they can’t prove the concept or show results unless they get much-needed investment.
That is the dilemma you are going to face. It is particularly difficult, but not impossible, to get investors into early-stage food businesses, as some investors perceive a low return in the short to medium term.
I am not sure if you are familiar with HBAN (Halo Business Angel Network) http://www.hban.org/. This is an Enterprise Ireland supported initiative where investors set out their willingness to invest in certain sectors.
My understanding is that there is a food sub-group within this, although I would caution that many may only be looking to invest in medium-sized businesses that already have a track record.
Don’t be disillusioned, as there are many other sources of funding apart from private investors. I meet two or three companies every month now which are able to tell me that they have been able to secure significant funding from their bank or other sources like Micro Finance Ireland. I would also encourage you to look at those in your immediate circle. You may well have a family member or someone close to you who could have the resources and an interest in investing. It does not have to be a total stranger.
Before you talk to anyone, do make sure that you have a solid investor prospectus, as you don’t want to attract someone to have a look at the business and find that it is not investor-ready.
Q: What is your top advice for all entrepreneurs trying to create a successful business?
A: Believe in yourself, has to be somewhere at the top of that list. As an entrepreneur, you will meet many obstacles on your journey and sometimes will doubt whether you have taken the right direction or not. That is when strong self-belief, energy and passion come into play. Be determined and stay focused.
Talk to others. During my Superquinn career, I made a point of attending as many conferences and seminars and building up a global network of others in the sector. I found it invaluable and very often a 15-minute conversation with someone else from your own industry can stimulate thoughts and ideas, which you might never have come up with yourself.
For most of the challenges that you have in your business, someone else has already solved them. You just need to find these people. Peer learnings are invaluable and the good news is they cost nothing.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you can keep this philosophy central to your business, it will serve you well. By putting yourself in the customer’s shoes on a constant basis, and ensuring that all of your team do the same, you are sure to get an advantage over your competitors. Very often, I found that even very simple initiatives that were focused on the customer led to some of our biggest successes.
The last one is simply to have fun on your journey. You only live and run your business once. It would be a shame if you didn’t enjoy every moment of it!
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