By Eddie Holmes, founder of Launch 22
Launch 22 is an innovative charity which operates incubators based in Old Street, London and Liverpool.
In non-start-up speak, this means we help new entrepreneurs build their dream start-up by providing a communal workspace, matching up business owners with expert mentors and hosting workshops relevant to our members’ needs.
Essentially, Launch 22 provides them with the tools to set up, run and expand their micro businesses. The difficulties I experienced myself in working from home when starting a business led me to wonder why the help that incubators were offering was limited to high-growth tech businesses, rather than being available to the entrepreneurs themselves, regardless of the business sector they operate in.
Unsurprisingly, leading an incubator that aims to help other businesses is full of surprises.
No two days are ever the same. But that said, I try to be strict with timings and deadlines. Every moment is precious and being in control helps me to keep track of the multiple plates I find myself spinning. As a control freak, that’s kind of mandatory!
Normally I’ll wake up early, at about 6am. I do a quick check of the news on my phone and respond to any urgent emails or messages from the evening before.
I’d like to say that I make the time to exercise most mornings too, but it slips the agenda more often than not. I usually continue to catch up with messages, try and sort of my life admin and get into the office around 10am.
Our co-working office plan has been designed to create a community-based feel for our members. We wanted to create a collaborative working space so that our members can bounce ideas off each other. There’s always a real buzz about the place, particularly in the morning when everyone is fuelled up on caffeine. Our office dog, Juno, also boosts working morale – everyone loves her, and she normally does the rounds with me in the morning to say hello to our members.
I’ll make sure to catch up with Tom, Launch 22’s general manager, when I arrive, and see if there are any pressing problems he needs help with in either the Liverpool or London offices. We first opened in London, which took off pretty quickly. Only 18 months later, we opened our second office in Liverpool, which is three times as big!
I’ll spend the rest of the morning checking in with our members. People often think that mentoring is about telling an entrepreneur what to do and solving a particular business problem. My experience, however, is that it’s often more about helping someone understand that they are not alone and, of equal importance, that whatever the problem they face, it has been tackled by thousands of people before them. The solutions just require some thought and discussion.
In the early afternoon, I’ll often grab a quick bite to eat on the go. I rarely take a proper lunch break as there’s usually something more fun to do than eat. In my previous job, I couldn’t be flexible at all with my day, everything was so regimented. That’s one of the reasons I love the somewhat chaotic feel of running a business. I choose where I devote my time and when I take a break – from when I take some proper time away for a holiday, to when I want to eat my lunch or go for a walk to gather my thoughts. This summer I’ve been experimenting with being a “digital nomad” and it’s been interesting to see that the thought of being distant from the business was actually much scarier than the reality.
In the afternoon, I’ll respond to calls and emails, particularly focusing on developing the business. The best thing about being based in an entrepreneurial hub is that you’re constantly learning about new challenges and opportunities faced by our rising business leaders. Plus, it’s a huge benefit to become familiar with our different members. You really feel like a part of their journey, it’s hugely rewarding.
Towards the end of the day, I’ll grab a time to catch up over the phone with the mentors we work with. Catching up with them helps me to understand the real issues our members need help with. I received mentoring support in the early stages, so I know how helpful they can be.
While we’re in a relatively comfortable position now, it hasn’t always been easy. As a charity start-up, it was tricky to secure finance in the early stages. Traditional bank loans and crowdfunding options weren’t really available to us, mainly because both of these wanted to see a return on investment. It’s ten times harder to secure investment as a budding charity and we still often face impending cash cliffs. As always in business though, the reality of problems are rarely as bad as the thought of them
Luckily, the Start Up Loans Company provided us with the right financial backing. After securing a £10,000 Start Up Loan, I had sufficient access to capital to get things off the ground. Once the loan was secured, we topped the funding up with our own savings and donations from friends and managed to get Launch22 started.
It also goes without saying that I couldn’t do what I do now without the support of my team and the volunteers who so generously give their time to Launch22
The dream is to open more Launch22 sites around the UK. As an entrepreneur myself, I want to be able to replicate our model in other cities and continue supporting enterprise across the country.