There’s no denying the allure of becoming an entrepreneur. Being your own boss, making money on your own terms, and ultimately having complete control over your life and business – those are just a few of the perks. But for some business-savvy minds out there, the prospect of starting your own business is actually rather terrifying, with risks on both personal and monetary levels. We wanted to get the whole story about what it’s really like to start your own business, from the perspective of someone who now helps others to find and fund their passion.
Enter Henry Jinman, Co-founder and CEO of Crowdfund Campus. Setting his business up just after university, Henry resisted the beckoning call of a London City job in favour of creating his own company. Crowdfund Campus was born out of circumstance, and Henry says it’s his time at Warwick University that sparked the initial idea: “At university there were plenty of people around us that had good ideas, and a community that wanted to support those ideas. So why not create a platform where we could bring the two together along with some sort of financial backing?” Henry soon came across crowdfunding as a method and decided it was a good fit.
Starting from the ground up
Anyone who has started a business will know that the initial phases are some of the most difficult times you may ever face. “I certainly think that early days being an entrepreneur is a quite isolating and lonely experience”, said Henry of his plight. The knock-backs, rejection, and struggle to gain backing are all tough challenges to overcome, but after directly approaching his university, Henry soon had support. It was this tenacity and opportunistic approach that earned him results. Crowdfund Campus became the first business in the University of Warwick’s incubator scheme, which supplied them with investment and their first customer simultaneously.
Expanding your team and your business
After a year of mixed success, using Warwick’s investment to initially build the platform, Henry looked toward someone with whom he could share his business and his passion for enterprise. “Getting a co-founder is one of the best things that I ever did and working with Alex is great, I would certainly recommend it to anyone.” Alex was in the same graduating year from Warwick as Henry, and had been freelancing with little feeling of real purpose. Looking for a role with more responsibility, where he was able to dictate developments, made him the perfect fit for Crowdfund Campus, who were in desperate need of some technical help, “I had our first customer ready to start building a bigger business. It was just really great that we met and made a partnership. He rebuilt everything and made it as fantastic as it is today. Everyone loves the products he builds. Easy to use, understandable and intuitive — exactly what we want”
Since then, Crowdfund Campus has gone from strength to strength, working with nine universities last year, adding a further 11 to the list this year, and looking to foreign markets in January. What’s more, the pair have gone on to create another platform “Sandpit”, which is a crowdfunding simulator based on feedback from Henley Business School. As far as Henry knows there is nothing out there quite like it – “there are similar things in the marketplace or other products that try and meet that solution, but it is a unique way of getting enterprise skills into the curriculum through a digital platform.”
So, is starting your business everything it’s cracked up to be?
“The image of an entrepreneur is a glamorised one, but for me it’s definitely not bad”, according to Henry. Opting out of setting up in expensive London has been key, in his eyes. “I earn a significant amount less than my friends in London, but still have enough disposable income, and of course rent is cheaper here as well. I think it’s important if you’re an entrepreneur to choose somewhere you think you can fail and try again, and still live comfortably”. In terms of work-life balance, Henry admits that, of course, you can never fully switch off: “if something needs dealing with, no matter when it is, you have to sort it out.” However, on the whole he gets to enjoy his weekends and doesn’t subject himself to endless working hours. Having your own business means you are, for the most part at least, in control of your own diary – something which Henry uses to his advantage, “At the end of the day, I don’t have as many holidays, but I can generally choose when they are more freely.”
Henry’s one piece of advice for any aspiring entrepreneurs? “Tell more people about what you’re doing, and ask your potential customers about their problems. Don’t pitch them a solution straight away, spend a lot longer talking about the issues they face and really dissecting them. Because if you get to the heart of that, that’s when you’ll be able to build the right solution.” Despite his retrospective view of what he could have done differently, he is living proof that starting your own business should not be feared, but also not glamorised: it can be one of the toughest, but most rewarding ways to live your life.
For more insight on owning your own business from entrepreneurs who’ve taken the leap themselves, check out our blog. To find out more about what Crowdfund Campus do and how to get involved, visit their website.