I met six inspiring people yesterday morning.
Actually there were more than six, but this half dozen – three women and three men – stood out and so these are the stories I will tell.
Of the three women, one was reviving her family’s legacy, one was changing children’s lives and one was an accidental entrepreneur.
Of the three men, one had helped create 30 jobs, one had turned a farm into a social enterprise and one had invented a game-changing piece of software.
Which story would you like to hear?
If you’re thinking ‘All of them!” then good – because I plan to tell each one over the next few weeks.
I met them all at the Business Gateway Edinburgh and Lothians Annual Conference at the City Chambers. I did my usual trick of asking the first question at the Q&A (why are people so shy?) and introducing myself as a journalist. Sure enough a number of people approached at the coffee break to tell me their story. It’s a very efficient way of working the room, I find.
Although I think all startup stories fascinating, there was one man in particular who piqued my interest.
He introduced himself and said “I think I’m at the point with my company where I really need to speak to the press.”
I smiled and said, “So tell me your story.”
When he got to the bit about who his chairman was and where his CTO lived I demanded, “When are you free for a coffee?”
I am so pleased he came over to chat – I wish more people would get in touch with their stories. I approached each of the speakers to say hello and ask for an interview and each was delighted.
You see, there is no template for a story.
If it’s the kind of news you’d pass on to friends in the pub, or say “hey wait til you hear this” on the phone to a family member, then it’s the kind of story the media will publish.
Facts, figures and financials are all great, but what I particularly love is the human story behind it all. One of these six referred to his idea as “the monster” showing that pursuing your business is not always straightforward.
Another advised: “Enjoy the ride!”
One woman admitted her biggest lesson was to take herself seriously as a business person.
I thought this was very interesting. Is the thought of starting a business so daunting that people almost refuse to recognise it – call themselves freelancers or part-timers or shy away from opportunities because “I’m not ready yet”?
Lynn Mann referred to herself as “a farmer’s wife, a former psychotherapist and a mother” – she never said “entrepreneur”. She admitted that taking her Supernature rapeseed oils to trade shows abroad had not occurred to her, until Scottish Development International took her on a “learning journey” where she didn’t need a stand but could still form relationships. She now exports to nine countries including Bermuda and Borneo.
More about Supernature [insert page=’supernature-oils-secures-hong-kong-listing’ display=’link’]
“I have to pinch myself, it feels like it all happened by accident – but of course it didn’t,” she said.
“My main strength is being stupid. I don’t mind asking questions and saying ‘I don’t know how to do this’.”
It might feel like you need a media machine to get the word out about your business – and it might feel like you need a whole financial machine to start it in the first place. But there are support organizations like Business Gateway and friendly journalists like me to help along the way.
Kim McAllister is a Journalist & Communications Consultant and director of Impact Online