My close friend Gem and I were in the pub on Saturday night contemplating and reflecting upon the past year, slightly shocked, perhaps impressed, with the amount of change that we had both been subjected to, which we concluded had to bode well for the year ahead.*
This time last year I was putting the finishing touches to my PhD thesis, my younger sister Katharine had moved into her new place (with no baby on the horizon, at least to us), Gem was about to head off for a six month trip abroad, and us girls were looking forward to seeing Lady Gaga at Twickenham (who was hugely disappointing fyi). I was also contemplating the next, post-PhD, move…
Looking back, I guess I envisaged that once finished I would stay in policy research in some vein, perhaps in the civil service, a think tank, NGO or possibly remaining in academia. Setting up my own business, a coffeehouse, remained firmly in the romantic dream camp.
What a difference a year makes.
Last week I submitted a funding application for the start-up capital required to launch A Baked Thesis: cake with a cause.** With this submission came a few unexpected emotional responses…***
Once submitted, my brain ticked over onto the next step, what if I ACTUALLY get this money?
And with this line of thinking came a wave of fear and excitement (ok admittedly, initially this was more fear) about how I was going to operationalise the coffeehouse: plumbers, electricians, paint colours, furnishings, etc. etc. etc. I mean I clearly knew that these were all things to consider, and on some subconscious level I had been (or perhaps less subconsciously with Kevin McCloud’s Colour Now book on my bookshelf), but until the first application was submitted I hadn’t really let these thoughts take hold. It was (and still is to an extent) all about securing the start-up capital.
Akin to the PhD experience, setting up a business can be quite a lonely experience and I have found having a positive group of people around me so important to remain grounded (equally, get rid of the mood hoovers, negativity is not cool). Whether it be meeting with a fellow Chamber member to discuss funding applications, chatting with other start-up entrepreneurs, or ranting about business rates over a beer to a friend of fifteen years (who let’s face it, may have better things to be listening to on a Saturday night), the network of support and expertise I have has been, and will continue to be, invaluable.
A week after submitting the first application, I have restored my fear-excitement ratio to something more manageable. All the operational aspects are entirely do-able and with one financial application completed, I am in a great position to explore other funding avenues. With this submission has come a newfound wave of confidence and pride in what I am trying to achieve.
With my hand on my heart, I can honestly say that twelve months ago I would never have bet on my sitting here having submitted a financial application to set up a social enterprise and open a coffeehouse in Worthing. Equally though, the past year has seen many other things I never saw coming…
*We may have also slightly been contemplating that this time next year we will both be approaching 30, though luckily for me, five months earlier for Gem than me.
**In the region of £26k should anyone have some spare cash lying around?
***I would also like to highlight that just a few hours after submitting this application my sister started going into labour and Gem got the keys to her new house. Both parties were freaking out accordingly so not only was I having to deal with my emotional rollercoaster.