From Clinician to Canapés: The First Year in the Life of a New Startup Founder (NSF)

JANUARY: A nutritionist and dietitian decides to start her own business. She begins attending entrepreneur networking events, and wastes precious calories on cold pizza in the process. 

FEBRUARY: Attends a Young Entrepreneur Meetup. Meets future co-founder. Discovers local farmer’s markets and spends weekends gorging on the delicious food on offer. 

MARCH: Applies for the Founder Institute (with a kick-ass video, by the way.) Application is rejected, due to scoring low on “emotional stability” and “conscientiousness” on entrance tests. Immediately begins crying uncontrollably, ignores all work for days, and makes many bowlfuls of favorite type of popcorn (freshly popped on the stovetop, tossed in salty garlic butter, then left to cool) to mindlessly munch on while watching Judge Judy reruns on YouTube.

APRIL: Comes up with a business idea: to replace the cold pizza at the events she attends with the yummy food she eats at the markets on the weekends. Pitching at the Lean Startup Machine Sydney Weekend, she frames the idea as a “catering concierge” service, an easy way to get great food to events.  At that moment, she is a New Startup Founder (NSF).

MAY: NSF begins more serious validation. Initial conversations around whether customers would use the service inevitably leads to catering requests, and NSF panics when asked by potential customers to provide the service, stating she is only in the “planning” phase. Realising that a new entrepreneur cannot continue to turn down offers of work, NSF agrees to plan the end of financial year drinks party for a payments company. NSF learns lesson - have an MVP ready to test in addition to just having an idea.

JUNE: NSF goes on holiday back to the USA (her native land) in anticipation that it will be the last holiday she has in awhile.

JULY:  NSF attends Launch48, another startup weekend event. Before the weekend commences she pitches the idea to the event organiser who agrees to let the new startup arrange the weekends’ meals for the event attendees. At Launch48, NSF meets an incredible group of people- both team members and mentors- who spend the weekend brainstorming about how to propel her business forward. Future co-founder also attends the event as a team member. 

AUGUST: NSF realizes limitations as a single founder and takes on a co-founder who is a financial strategist.

SEPTEMBER: NSF, armed with a co-founder, begins obtaining new clients. The MVP- knowing vendors that make great food and linking that food to customers who will pay for the service- is validated. A competitor emerges, throwing the co-founders into promotional overdrive. The competitor threat only lasts a few weeks, but the resulting sales drive leads to increased visibility within the start-up scene and more requests for catering. NSF and co-founder pat selves on back.

OCTOBER: NSF and co-founder pitch at Awesome Sauce event for Think Act Change. Although they are supremely awesome, they do not win. A few days later they receive an email from one of the attendees they met at the evening, asking if the business would like to cater for an event. This event turns out to be the introductory session for Muru-D, a digital accelerator backed by Telstra. NSF and co-founder are intrigued by the concept, and decide to attend this event as well as cater for it.

NOVEMBER: Co-founders become swamped with catering requests. With increased work load comes more operations management, which is a manual- and incredibly time-consuming- process. Co-founders begin to shop around for better technology tools with which to integrate their existing systems. They decide it’s not just enough to link events with great food from local food businesses. Their new MVP is to bring customers the ultimate catering experience. Amazing sliders, crudités and dips are arranged for the pitch night for Muru-D, where the winning pitch on the night will be shortlisted for acceptance into the program for February 2014. NSF pitches and of the three shortlisted pitches that are named that night, You Chews is one of them! More back-patting ensues.

DECEMBER: NSF meets with the Muru-D team who advise her to find a technical co-founder in order to facilitate the acceleration of scaling the businesses’ operations. NSF, after having worked 30+ hours each week for the past six months manually managing accounts in addition to working her full-time day job, heartily assents. NSF writes punchy and clever Silicon Beach ad to kick off the search for an expert tech generalist.

YEAR IN REVIEW:

Looking back upon the whirlwind that was 2013, NSF reflects upon her life as a New Startup Founder.

The major key learning she has taken away from her year as an NSF: you really can do anything if you’re brave enough to try. You don’t have to know about Lean, about tech, or even about business. All this you can learn about while charting the course. When starting out, you need to know two things: that your idea will make money, and that you will learn by having a go and seeing what happens. How else can a dietitian go from clinician to canapés?

Above all, she is overwhelmed by the guidance and support she has received from members of the Sydney startup community- it is amazing how many people want to help you on the journey and watch you succeed. She is truly grateful to have met such kind, intelligent people.

A new year means new challenges, insights, and learnings, with loads of hard work. After the incredible journey of this past year: long hours, weekends spent brainstorming rather than beaching, the failures that lead to insights, the exhilaration of hard-won successes- she wouldn’t have it any other way. NSF is determined to continue to make a difference in the lives of small business owners by bringing them more business, while feeding others lovingly prepared, beautifully presented food in the process.

Bring on 2014!