Eight Questions for the 'Final 8' - Chris Dodson
In each of the eight days running up to the 2011 Shell LiveWIRE
Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, we will be profiling one of the
eight finalists to give you some background on their entrepreneurial
journey so far. First up is Chris Dodson of Concept Cupboard.
To learn more about Concept Cupboard visit Chris' Alumni page.
Can you give us some background on how your business got started?
The business was started after a chance conversation with one of my
clients at O2 (now one of my co-founders/board directors), Simon
Devonshire. I'd had an idea for a business while I was on my way to a
stag do. I didn't want to forget it all so I wrote it all down and
started to develop the business plan. The following week I had a meeting
with Simon and as he was a serial entrepreneur I decided to run the
idea past him. He liked the sound of it and suggested I meet him and his
friends for dinner. The following evening I had dinner with Simon, Guy
and Julie (all co-founders and board directors of Concept Cupboard) and
after a good chat it appeared we were working on similar concepts. By
the end of the dinner (and a few bottles of wine) we decided to team up
and go into business together. Six weeks later I left my job in
advertising and we got started.
What has been the biggest barrier you have overcome to get this far?
We are now eight months old. Every month throws up new challenges,
but the recurring theme is always new business. Finding new customers is
probably the number one priority of every new business and the only way
we've kept growing is to ensure we look after our existing customers
and give them every reason to recommend us. We've also tried numerous
marketing activities and refined what has worked well to make sure we
are optimising any activity. We'll continue to work hard, pick up the
phone and keep pushing ourselves to find new customers.
How has Shell LiveWIRE helped you on your journey?
The whole Shell LiveWIRE experience has been incredible, from the
forums to the support and PR through to the £1,000 award. It has all
been hugely positive. The Shell LiveWIRE community is buzzing and we
feel privileged to have gotten this far in the process. Almost every
young entrepreneur I have met has applied to Shell LiveWIRE and it
really is the go-to place when you are starting out.
What has been the best bit of advice you’ve received on your entrepreneurial journey?
The best piece of advice I received was from Simon Devonshire at O2.
As a serial entrepreneur he knows how paralysing to-do lists can be for
start-ups. He told me to focus on the one thing I needed to do in any
given day, week and month. As long as I made sure I nailed that
important task then the rest can wait. It's a great way of seeing the
light at the end of the tunnel.
Which entrepreneurs do you look to for inspiration?
I have been inspired by lots of people. From the big names like Tony
Hsieh (Zappos), Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos (Amazon) through to people
I've met since I set up Concept Cupboard, Fraser Doherty (SuperJam) and
Reshma Sohoni (Seedcamp) to name but a few. Most entrepreneurs have a
great story to tell and you can learn something from every one.
What are you most looking forward to at Shell LiveWIRE LIVE! 2011?
There are two things I am looking forward to. Firstly it will be
great to hang out with the other finalists and find out more about their
businesses. It's a readymade entrepreneur network and you never know
how we might be able to help each other in the future. I'm also looking
forward to the interview process. Being interrogated isn't normally
something I'd look forward to, but I think it is important to deep dive
into your business and it will be a great experience that will stand me
in good stead if I go to VCs in the future.
What will it mean to you and the business if you win?
It will be huge if we were to win but we do understand that the
competition is fierce. If we were to win it would be another tick in the
box that we are on the right track and doing great things. As a young
start-up that affirmation is key to keep you going. The PR and buzz
surrounding the award would also elevate our profile in the business
community, which would be huge for our new business drive. Also the
money would be a game changer. A cash injection of £10,000 would mean we
could accelerate our growth plans significantly.
What do you think can be done to help entrepreneurs in the future?
Things are changing in the UK, but we've got a long way to go before
we match the US. Over there entrepreneurs are like rockstars. Here
people still think you are mad for not wanting a proper job. I think
starting a new business could be easier. Whether that is cutting through
red tape or new micro-loans/grants to get people started. After all,
42% of start-ups begin with less than £1,000. The small business
community also has a huge role to play and organisations like StartUp
Britain will become increasingly important.
For full details on each of the eight finalists for the 2011 Shell
LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, please visit the 'Final 8' page.
You can watch the 60 second elevator pitch video submitted by
Chris as part of the Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award process in the top
right-hand corner of your screen.