It's that time of year where Startups, the UK’s leading independent, online resource for anyone starting and growing a business, organises its annual awards, which includes the ‘People’s Champion’ award. This year it’s even bigger with 77 finalists and you get to choose your winner. Voting is now open and closes on 5th November.
There are five businesses on the shortlist that are Funded Club members and need your help! Find out more about the finalists below:
This online marketplace, which connects the best tutors to students hassle free and at a fair price, was founded by friends Mark Hughes and Scott Woodley. Their most recent funding round raised over £704k from 540 investors, its second crowdfunding round on Crowdcube. Tutorful has been nominated as Crowdfunded Business of the Year.
How did you and Mark come up with the idea for Tutorful?
I was working as a primary school teacher in Sheffield and often had parents asking me to recommend a tutor. As the good teacher I was, I'd try and help them find someone and came across a couple of tired old sites and local, expensive agencies. At the time, Mark, my co-founder and long-term friend, was working as a technology analyst for a large investment firm. When I raised this with him, we started to discuss how we could tackle the problem and ultimately, Tutorful was born.
What has been your proudest achievement as a business to date?
It's hard to put your finger on one thing - I think it's more of an accumulation. When we hit 100,000 lessons taught through the platform, that felt quite significant. To sit back and think of how many people we're helping to learn something and improve their skills is mind-blowing, especially given that it still feels like we've only just launched.
What are your top tips for running a start-up?
Firstly, to go for it and be ambitious. Secondly, to do things that don't scale - sorry Paul Graham (I'm stealing one of his tips). It's so important to be willing to put the initial leg work in and to test your assumptions by speaking to people. We initially launched with absolutely no backend to the site and personally matched every student and tutor. It seems crazy looking back on that, but I think it's what allowed us to truly understand the needs of our users. I'd certainly recommend that other founders do the same - to be scrappy, wherever possible and even as you scale.
Read more about the Tutorful story here.
Floom is an online marketplace that makes it easy for consumers to buy high quality, unique flowers from independent florists. In April 2017, the company raised over £500,000 with the support of 329 investors. Floom has been nominated as Crowdfunded Business of the Year.
What was your inspiration for starting Floom?
I started out as a PA at Burberry and had huge frustrations when trying to send flowers, locally or abroad. I had to spend so many wasted hours looking for florists who were right, who then didn't have e-commerce sites, and most of the great ones are still unknown to most. I wanted to build something that simplified this discovery and purchasing process, but without just building an online floristry website, I knew it needed to be built around these independents and their skills - and so Floom was born.
What has been your proudest achievement as a business to date?
It’s hard to choose between getting the first customer sale on Floom (which was obviously a huge moment), and also building my team. It’s been the most difficult thing to perfect, especially with the speed we’re required to grow, but when you realise that all the people around you everyday are incredibly intelligent, hard working, and teaching you new things as well, there’s not much else that feels as rewarding.
What are your top tips for other start-ups?
Don’t be afraid to tell people about your idea, that is the best thing you can do for the idea to grow in the right direction.
I would also say that if there’s something you don’t feel is your strength, go looking for someone who might be able to help. There's no lack of information and people out there willing to help someone who's chasing their dream.
Find out more about Lana Elie and her story here.
Cornerstone delivers high quality razors and shaving supplies on a flexible, personalised schedule to their members. The company, which is founded by Oliver Bridge, nearly doubled their target in 2015, raising over £870,000 from 229 investors. Cornerstone have been nominated for Product Business, Venture Funded Business and Young Entrepreneur Business of the Year.
What inspired you to start-up Cornerstone?
It's quite simple - I hated shaving and hated shopping for toiletries. I was stood in Boots one day, queuing up to buy some over-priced razors that I knew would tear my face to shreds, and I just thought, 'there must be a better way to do this'. That evening I started researching what it would take to launch my own shaving brand and come up with an online shopping site that would remove the need to even go to the shops too. It all started at my kitchen table in 2014 - three years, £8m of funding, 30 members of staff and 150,000 customers later, here we are!
What are you top tips for raising funds for your business?
People invest money into your business because they see a potential return - it's quite simple. Therefore, you need to have a plan that credibly shows a way for you turn their capital into something greater over time. My philosophy and approach has always been to hugely over-prepare when speaking to investors - produce high quality forecasts, think everything through thoroughly, make well-branded investment decks, have answers to every conceivable question. If you raise multiple rounds of money however, this isn't good enough - you need to deliver results in between the funding rounds, so ultimately it comes down to top notch execution and delivery - being a good salesman with investors isn't sufficient.
What are your words of wisdom for other young entrepreneurs?
1. Get a co-founder - starting up on your own is very difficult. It's not impossible, but the pressure (particularly emotional pressure) that arises from being a sole founder is a huge burden to bear. I think you increase your chances of success if there are two of you.
2. You need to be able balance the micro and macro - on one hand you need to have a bold vision for what you want to achieve and inspire others to join you on your mission, on the other hand, you need to be on top of every tiny detail - willing to be a complete pain in the ass over the smallest thing you're not happy with (because nobody else will be). For tips on how to be better at both, read the Steve Jobs autobiography by Isaac Walterson.
3. Be prepared to work harder than you have you have ever worked!
Check out Oliver's story here.
Buzzbike, a London based tech-driven cycle scheme, raised £360,000 with the support of 255 investors in July 2016. The company is nominated for Crowdfunded Business of the Year.
How did you come up with the idea for Buzzbike?
After returning to London after working in the US, I was alarmed by the level of congestion in London, but inspired by the significant role bikes could play in helping to solve the congestion, health and environmental issues facing cities. Frustrated that not enough was being done, I resigned from my job running advertising for Apple across Europe and the Middle East, teamed up with co-founder Andy and launched Buzzbike - a tech-enabled city-cycle scheme with a mission to make cycling the dominant mode of commuter transport.
Our business is based on two simple ideas:
1) Remove the barriers to cycling: each rider gets a premium bike, lights, lock, insurance and maintenance with no upfront cost
2) Connect and motivate riders: a mobile app connects to the bike, allowing riders to track their performance and offering helpful stats, which allow them to compete against other Buzzbikers on leaderboards, and win rewards the more they ride.
What has been your proudest achievement as a company to date?
We are very proud of our two partnerships with Braintree, getting the biggest names in tech riding our bikes in the Tour de Tech. We are also proud of how Buzzbike gamification has truly worked and resulted in some amazing stats. E.g. in total, our riders have notched up 86,000 miles (with 3,500 added every week), saving £49,500 (vs public transport), burning the equivalent calories in 13,230 big macs and producing a carbon reduction equal to 3,400 oak trees!
What are your top tips for running a crowdfunding campaign?
It’s all about preparation. Don’t be tempted to rush in. Spend time building up excitement within your community and be prepared to dedicate yourself 100%.
Want to know more? Find out about Buzzbike here.
Pip & Nut
Pip & Nut have created a healthy and tasty range of nut butters and almond milks. They raised £120,000 from 81 investors in 2014. Pippa and her team are nominated for Product Business, Start-up Loans Inspiring Entrepreneur and Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
What inspired you to create your range of nut butters?
Pip & Nut was very much inspired by my love of running. Not a natural connection to nut butter, but essentially I'd eat loads of peanut butter as a way to fuel my training as it's naturally high in protein, but also really tasty. However, the brands I was eating about 5 years ago always had palm oil in them as well as refined sugars, which got me thinking that you could create a much more natural brand, removed all of those ingredients, as well as being able to innovate with flavours and then introduce almond butter to the UK in order to move what is a very traditional category forwards.
What are your top tips for other young entrepreneurs?
Being a young entrepreneur myself, having launched the business when I was 26, I know that it's easy to doubt yourself and lack confidence in your abilities to build a successful business, purely because you just don't have the years of experience that people older than you sometimes possess. What I would say is that you can use your inexperience to your advantage by asking lots of questions and getting experts to help mentor you. As well as this, I'd want to encourage young entrepreneurs to never downplay your idea or your aspirations for your business, because so much of your success will come down to how well you can pitch your brand vision to potential investors, employees, manufacturers, buyers and consumers. Having the confidence to think big will help others get on board with your idea.
What has been your proudest achievement to date?
Probably my proudest moment to date was winning our first supermarket listing with Sainsbury's. It was a real landmark for the Pip & Nut team, as we went from being a regional brand, predominantly stocked in London, to a national supermarket brand, and subsequently the whole business shifted.
Find out more about the Pip & Nut story here.
If you would like to help our Funded Club, you can cast your vote here.