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Have you taken on too much? The challenges of starting a business on your own

Tue, 08 April 2014

Contributed by Tim Brownstone, CEO at KYMIRA Ltd.
I am 23, the company CEO, COO, CFO and C-everything else you can think of because I am the only full time employee at this point in time. The company has reached a point where the operational requirements are becoming overwhelming, and there is one big problem…

In order to afford a second full time employee – an office manager for example – to handle the day to day operations, admin etc, we need to increase turnover to account for their full time wage. However, we can’t increase turnover until I get freed up to focus on sales and marketing. A lot of businessmen and women have been telling me that I have to sell or give away a large chunk of equity and bring in at least £100,000 of investment to pay a consultant to run the business for me. After all, I am only 23 and coming to the end of my first year of running a company, so how could I have enough experience to do it myself, right?
Fortunately that was me a few months ago! 
I am still 23, still CEO and all of the other Cs, but unlike then, I have stopped listening to the aforementioned businessmen and women and have started listening to those that have been telling me the complete opposite. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not saying that equity investment is a bad idea, nor have I ruled that option out for my own company. However, what I am saying is that you don’t need to seek it just to pay someone a vast amount of money to do what you can do yourself. I came to this decision thanks to some wise words from some trusted advisors and also thanks to seeing friends falling into the same trap.
So the solution in my case was talking to my close friends, many of whom are more than happy to come and help package products in return for some pizza and a few drinks. Others have helped with admin, some of which I hope to employ full time as soon as we can, as they do such a great job. We have started to employ a few that are paid on a per project basis, but we don’t want to run before we can walk. Oh, and I had a flurry of internship applications, so that’s the summer sorted! I can’t overstate how grateful I am to those friends who have helped out along the way, a few that have gone out of their way to help have received gifts in kind from me, but I know that isn’t why they do it. 
Many of us are often afraid or too stubborn to ask for help, especially with something as precious as a fledgling business. You shouldn’t be though, friends and family know just how much time you are putting into making your company a success. They know how much it means to you and, in my experience, are more than happy to help. The other advice I would give is make the most of the various resources available to you, such as HMRC online, MAS (whose seminars and day events are fantastic), the Shell LiveWIRE blogs and the many other forums and advice sites that are out there.
If there was one thing I’d change if I could, it would be to adjust the way that the grant schemes work. All those I have come across are retrospectively funded, which is a great help, but it means that you have to have enough capital to foot the grant’s share up front, which often isn’t the case for young companies. I understand that it stops the system being abused, but there is potential for improvement there. 

About Tim Brownstone (CEO of KYMIRA Ltd.):

Tim graduated with a BSc (hons) from the University of Reading in July 2013. During his final year he founded KYMIRA Ltd. and launched their sportswear brand, KYMIRA Sport. They have developed a range of performance and recovery enhancing apparel that acts at a cellular level by harnessing the wearer’s surplus energy. 

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