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How to start-up well

How do you start-up, well? Juliet Turnbull, Founder and CEO of 2to3days.com shares her top tips for starting your own venture.

Here at 2to3days we’re always looking for the sunshine peeking out from behind the clouds. In the middle of a pandemic, it’s a little tricker to find it, but you know it’s there. One positive side effect of COVID-19 that we’ve noticed has been a veritable explosion in start-ups. New businesses are launching left, right and centre with Companies House reporting daily incorporation figures of 3,500 per day since June. 

It could be that people are losing their jobs and venturing out on their own; it could be that homeschooling parents have decided to leave their office-based roles to pursue a home-based, flexible set up. Many have had a complete rethink about their personal values and goals and have realised it is time to explore their entrepreneurial sides. Here, Juliet shares her motivations, goals and strategies for success.

 

Q. What was your tipping point? What made you pivot from paid employment to running your own business?

I worked in the male-dominated corporate world of chartered surveying for the first 14 years of my life and I remember one day, sitting in my swanky office at the back of Selfridges and thinking, “There must be more to life than this.” Then I had cancer and during my recovery I was forced to work from home, back when no-one did. I realised it was not only possible, but also very effective. 

The first business I set up was a property firm which I ran from my bedroom in Earlsfield. It was successful, but boring. I retrained to become a coach because I needed purpose in my life. This is when the germ of the idea behind 2to3days was planted. Entrepreneurial businesses were telling me about part-time roles they knew would be perfect for mothers.

But behind the scenes, I was working all hours and being a full-time mum and it was simply too much to handle. I wanted to truly have both - to be an independent businesswoman and take my children to school and put them to bed every night. I believe in having a foot in both camps but it can feel impossible to achieve.

When women say they want to have it all, they mean they want to work for two to three days a week, because that is manageable alongside being a mother. I realised the recruitment industry wasn’t solving this problem and that there had to be a better way. I wanted to create a business which took a grassroots approach of taking these talented, highly capable women to the businesses.

Q. Did you have a clear vision of what you wanted to achieve? 

Yes. I wanted to build the leading marketplace in the UK that could make a positive impact in closing the void between home life and work, helping to change our society and economy for the better.

I had a very big ambition even though I had no experience with recruitment, marketing or software. I can talk from an authentic place of frustration. I wanted to capture the energy of the women. I can corral the women, I know we are the solution collectively to the problem. 

Q. What have you learned about building a business?

Nothing prepared me for how hard it is to build a business and how much you zig-zag and hit dead ends. It takes sheer tenacity and drive. My favourite mug, which no-one else in the house touches, reads, ‘never never never give up’ and I drink from that inspiration every day.

I came with a passion and a purpose and because of that I can now, with credibility and confidence, speak with conviction because I’ve learnt it. I released something that has an energy of its own. Being an online presence means you are on and visible 24/7 but you have to keep stoking that fire or you’ll lose it pretty quickly.

Q. Were your goals financial or emotional? Or both?

I want to make money but I have always been led by purpose first, then profit. I’ll never sell the women short. I’ve turned money away because I won’t damage the brand, our philosophy or ethos.

Q. Who do you lean on for support?

My husband has always been my rock. However hard things have been, he’s always turned around and said tomorrow is another day. He has believed in me all along. He has never begrudged the time I spend on the business.

I have a loyal band of key friends who are all entrepreneurial, driven, ambitious people who have always been an open and willing ear. I have key shareholders who I lean on for guidance and my wonderful business coach. It’s been fascinating to realise that the women in our community actively want to help us, too. We’re harnessing the energy and experience of our ‘sisterhood’ to guide us. 

I have built up my own flexible, remote team of experts and can now step back from the operational side and move forward strategically, because I have the headspace and clarity to do that. 

Q. What’s the mantra that keeps you going?

I have two. 

“Be the change you want to see in the world” from Mahatma Gandhi. 

“Be, Do, Have”. If you start with BE who you want to be, you will DO what you need, to HAVE what you want. Most people focus on what they want to have and go at it backwards. It doesn’t work.  

Q.What’s your top piece of advice for anyone who is about to go it alone?

Surround yourself with people who are cleverer than you and have skills and expertise that you don’t. You have to let go and trust them to get on. You’re not expected to be all things to everybody. I can lead the business and let my team get on with doing the do. Find people who are aligned with your company values and consider them in the spirit of 1+1=3. I have an entirely flexible team because it works for all of us. I benefit from their talent but don’t have the burden of paying full-time salaries, which, for a small business, is critical.

Talk to as many people as you can about your idea, don’t worry that someone will steal it. It takes an army to build a business and so much time, money, tenacity and determination. It doesn’t happen overnight so it’s highly unlikely anyone will run off with your great idea. You need as much feedback as possible.

Q. How do you keep your motivation up?

I believe so passionately in what I’m doing. When I wonder if it’s all worth it, I go back to the vision and I get such clarity on what I’m trying to achieve. 

I have a cuddly toy tortoise on my desk to remind myself to slow down. I’m a natural hare. I want to race. I’m great at organising and making things happen. But what I have learnt is that it takes a long time. It takes 10 years to be an overnight success and it has taken me five years to learn that.

I exercise and take time away from work to be grounded with my family and close friends. I’ve felt very removed from my personal life when I’m solely focused on work. That’s made me feel isolated and I’ve learnt the hard way that I need to stay centred.

Q. How do you balance home/work life when work is done entirely from home? How do you set boundaries?

I look at the time I have over a seven-day period rather than five. I have the business, my family, friends and home to care for, so although I try to do as much as possible during the working week I don’t restrict myself to that. I have a rough schedule of tasks on each day of the week and find my best thinking time is in the quiet early hours of weekend mornings while my family sleep in. It’s one of the benefits of having teenagers in the house!