When I went to an accountant to discuss a 5 year plan the biggest questions in my head were; What, Why and How ?
For all of those start ups whose background is not pounds and pence the thought can be overwhelming. You are in the thick of getting to grips with so many aspects of a new business be it defining and designing product, identifying suppliers, working and collaborating with new partners, not to mention ordering paper clips and envelopes. and then being expected to know what our projections for the next 5 years will be. Without historical figures, a manual or clairvoyants as guidance – a finger in the air it is .. how terrifying..
So, it was refreshing to hear Mumsnet co-founder Justine Roberts speak on Radio 4 this week about her highs and lows of setting up her business which has now become a household name and a go to website for mothers/ parents.
The picture we have of Mumsnet is an e commerce business buzzing with vibrant and enthusiastic teams without a consideration for how the brand actually arrived at its position in the market place.
The forecasts for Justine's projections made so many years ago were so off the scale that these have still not been met 18 years later.
Her interview was thought provoking in that not all entrepreneurs can work a balance sheet like their TV remote control ( I can’t do either ) and that not getting your projections spot on does not mean failure.
At a networking session for start ups she recounts that she was the only female and the only person over 30. Undeterred, the need for investment was met with a variety of responses none of which were particularly positive, or when they were, there was a negative thrown in “when it does fail I can offer you a job “
Happily, Mumsnet survived the dot com crash of 2000 when they had just launched and the news for e commerce was all doom and no boom.
The early days saw her being the forum for questions and also being the one to answer them until such time the questions were being answered by other mothers and over time a community was created.
Fifty One Apparel looks to these companies and how they have created a go-to site. We have often been asked to look at expanding our target market and diversifying but the point is missed. The reason for the brand is to supply women experiencing the menopause at any age, a market which has been largely overlooked. As this stage in our lives continues to receive, thank goodness, increased media coverage, allowing more open discussions, experience sharing and solutions to assist with the symptoms, it is important that we remain true to our rationale for Fifty One Apparel and our customer base . We are determined to remain focussed.
I drew so many parallels with the interview where the overriding drive for Mumsnet was to provide a service and support. While our businesses are every different the reasons for their existence are the same.
We want to help women who suffer with fluctuations in body temperature by offering garments that are well designed, flexible and technically sound. We are responding to the fact that there is a need out there and we want to support it to the best of our ability.