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How to look brilliant in hats, and run a startup

Written by George Biddle

July 20, 2020

As a founder you have to wear absolutely loads of hats. Not all of them look great, and some of them are itchy AF. But would I choose any other job in the world over this fledgling startup? Absolutely not.

A lot of students have great ideas. However the vast majority of those ideas won’t ever come to light because the support for starting a business at Uni is pretty much non-existent. Combine that with the low confidence after being rejected by every company in the world (or at least it feels like it after the amount of applications you send off) and you end up with very few people choosing the startup life. So if you, like I did, have an idea and a desire to build something cool, this one’s for you.

I had no real idea what I wanted to do.

I actually started off with an interest in going into Investment WBanking. Yeh I know lol. I studied Economics & Finance at the Uni of Leeds, bagged myself a 2:1 (absolutely no idea how), and sent off 42 of the world’s finest applications to some of the world’s finest banks. Having been rejected by 40 of those, I found this kind of demoralizing, but stuck it out anyway because all my mates were, and ended up blagging my way into a year at Goldman Sachs in Munich. Fast forward 13 months of long days and little ownership of any work, and I figured it wasn’t for me.

So back to the drawing board, right? 

Kind of.

I’d always been an ideas person, with crazy ambitions and a pretty strong desire to succeed, so I guess I knew somewhere along the line that I’d end up doing my own thing. It just took me until I was doing something that I didn’t love to realise that I was on the wrong career path. This will happen to many, many students unfortunately, because there’s very few people out there actually taking the time to stop and say, ‘hey, what really interests you and how can we help you get there?’

So that’s exactly where I started.

Finding the right path for me

In my period of self reflection (complete and utter headloss) after Goldmans, I realised that the problems surrounding students coming through Uni in trying to forge their way into the ‘right’ career is one of the most under-solved issues we have right now, and it was something that I’d not only just been through (the hard way), but something that I could genuinely help change – and so here we are.

I founded the Grad Soc based on driving that mission – to help inspire students to do something they love, for them. Not because people told them it was the ‘right’ or ‘sensible’ thing to do, or because Uni told them that’s what your degree can get you. And it’s completely changed my life.

So what are some examples of this fancy headwear a founder must wear?

  • I design, build, develop and maintain our website. I prepare and submit the business’ quarterly and annual accounts.
  • I create ideas, new products and new services (pretty much daily) and find a path to turn those ideas into reality in as short a time frame as possible.
  • I design and create our branding.
  • I build different strategies around the ever-changing products and services we offer (from delivery and pricing to market placement and sales).
  • I develop new business with clients, companies, and institutions and design, pitch, and land strategic partnerships.
  • I source, pitch for, and close investment rounds.
  • I find awesome people to work with.
  • I look after those awesome people like they’re my family.
  • I give them the confidence and freedom to put forward their own ideas and give them space to own what they create.
  • I build people up around me.
  • I train, share knowledge and teach.
  • I make my team feel secure and protect them when the going gets tough.
  • I always eat last.

Erm, what?

Yeh it’s pretty intense. But you don’t just start off doing all these things in one go. You build them up over time, bit by bit, and learn as you go. You always start small and build.

You start off with a simple idea, and you start doing. You start building. You start doing what you need to in order to test, validate and get that idea to market.

In doing so, you learn an incredible amount of skills that you may otherwise never have the chance to pick up, as well as learning an incredible amount about yourself – where your weaknesses are, how you learn, what makes you tick, how do you manage your emotions/stress. The list goes on.

Moving yourself forward

The important thing to understand here is that very few people ever know what they want to do coming out of Uni – it’s fine, it’s normal, don’t stress. Looking to your friends to see what they’re doing might work sometimes in helping to guide you, but isn’t always the best course of action in figuring out about yourself.

The only way to really do this is to follow your nose. Try things out. Regularly question your decisions and self reflect as often as possible. Test yourself in as many different areas as possible, even if you don’t think it’s ‘relevant’ (hint: It’s always relevant if you’re learning). Take Every. Single. Opportunity that comes your way. Network. Build relationships and put yourself out there to challenge your comfort zone. Never stop learning.

Do things off your own back, for you, and not because it’s what everyone else is doing. 

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