Julian in the centre and Matt on the right
To you, what does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
It’s a funny one… we don’t necessarily identify as ‘entrepreneurs’ ourselves. In the early days, the only difference between being an entrepreneur and unemployed is your mindset and imagination.
However, here’s a couple things that may (or may not) indicate that you’ve reached official ‘entrepreneur’ status:
And you’ve definitely gone beyond ‘VIP entrepreneur’ status when you’re lying on your yacht with no phone signal, and feel at ease knowing that people way smarter than you are working on making your vision a reality. Safe to say there’s a long way to go for us…
Here’s a few qualities you may need to get started:
Did you / do you have a mentor?
Yes. Whilst it’s true that every journey is different, it’s invaluable to have 1 or 2 trusted mentors who have walked the path before you. You’d be surprised at how much overlap there is. In my experience you want someone who’s a few years ahead of where you want to be. Too far ahead and you may miss out on the specifics. Not far enough, and well, that’s just the blind leading the blind. Having said that, having a close group of peers can be equally valuable for a whole host of different reasons. Don’t expect your mentors to solve your problems, but they should provide a solid sounding board to help you make the decisions that feel right to you.
What habits helped make you successful?
So we definitely don’t wake up at 5am, go to gym, drink smoothies, and read 30 books a month. One thing we do habitually as a team, as dull as it sounds, is to have weekly team meetings to both set our goals and evaluate how we are performing against them. This is different to our constant communication throughout the day, and there’s a really really good reason why this is so important for us.
The temptation with startups is to try and do too much. As a startup, chances are you do not have the resources to execute on everything you want to do. You need focus. You need to be specific about your value proposition, what you’re working towards, and what success looks like. Our meetings often bring back that clarity and focus. They get us all back on the same page, while also giving us the opportunity to be honest with ourselves if and when things aren’t working.
What is the best decision you have ever made and why?
I think the best decision in our journey so far was that ‘pivot’ I referred to earlier. With hindsight it was a clear, and great decision to make. However, at the time it was not an easy, or obvious one.
The only other decision that comes to mind was the decision to simply get started. So many people have cool ideas, and the truth is, ideas are worthless. Ideas do not solve problems, or change people’s lives. It’s the execution of the idea that counts. So if you’ve been sitting on a million-dollar idea, get started! If you’re passionate about what you do, you will not regret it.
In terms of how the pandemic affected Sellar, since we’re operating in the hospitality industry, we saw a ~98% drop in sales volume and our revenue went to 0 with only 6 months of runway left. Very scary. We toyed with the idea of supplementing our revenue by providing other services to our partners but in the end decided to double down and focus on the existing product and continue building the platform.
One of the best things we did was to adapt our business model to suit our partners during this difficult time. Lower barriers to entry meant we were able to quickly onboard lots of new partners which has enabled us to grow faster coming out of lockdown.
Fortunately with this tight deadline to break even, we were able to do what we needed to do before time ran out and the business has been growing quickly since the lockdown restrictions have eased off. I’m sure the team would agree that it’s been a testing period for us as founders.
Julian wrote an article here that nicely explains our pivot and why we changed from Waffle to Sellar.