I am a games maker. I am a founder. I am a mother. And I guess I am an ‘entrepreneur’. Why is it that this last one still feels funny to say?
Maybe because I never expected to be here. I didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur. When I was at school, I never even considered the idea. And I’m sure the careers adviser never suggested it.
Wrongly or rightly, the stereotypical view of an entrepreneur I’d absorbed from society was of the ruthlessly ambitious workaholic, sacrificing their family and personal life to focus on selling and negotiating around the clock, in order to dominate in the harsh dog-eat-dog world of business. This persona didn’t feel relevant or appealing to me at all. So how did I end up here?
Entrepreneurship happened to me
The idea of setting up a business to get my game, Randomise, out into the world came about more as a necessity than a lifelong dream. I was stuck in a job that was sucking the life out of me and I wanted to find a different way to put some good out into the world.
When I quit my job and founded Gamely Games, I was fully expecting to be thrown into the stressful, lonely, all-consuming struggle I’d imagined awaited all ‘entrepreneurs’. But my experience of setting up a business couldn’t have been more different.
What I discovered was a huge network of support and advice, and a community of new entrepreneurs creating businesses with purpose and balance. People doing business differently, starting with what is good and meaningful and growing their companies in a way that made their lives better every day.
Initiatives like the Happy Startup School, Entrepreneurial Spark and the Kings20 accelerator scheme at King’s College London (just named the UK’s most Outstanding Entrepreneurial University) have given me invaluable support and guidance, and these communities make starting and growing a business much less daunting and far more enjoyable.
I found that platforms like Kickstarter go a long way towards levelling the playing field for aspiring creators. And, crucially, I discovered outsourcing services that make running a business a really viable option for people who can’t, or don’t want to, work 80 hours a week.
For example, thanks to the Fulfilment by Amazon service (who pick and pack all of our Amazon orders) I was able to work an average of just half an hour a day after the birth of my first child and turn over more than £100k in the first six months of his life. I discovered that it was possible to run a thriving business that fits flexibly around your other priorities.
Who else is missing out?
I’m not saying that starting a business is easy by any stretch. I know that each entrepreneur will face their own set of unique challenges and will make their own compromises. I am also very aware of my own privilege and the many advantages I have benefited from, simply by being born into a white, middle class family in the UK.
But why was my perception of entrepreneurs so different to the new reality? Why did I have no idea that entrepreneurship could be an option for me? And who else is missing out on these opportunities because they don’t see people they identify with running businesses?
These are questions I don’t have the answers to. I know I’d love to play a part in changing the face of entrepreneurship and raising the profile of successful startup leaders who don’t fit classic stereotypes. But what this looks like in practice/action I’m still working out.
I have read that 70,000 people across Britain would like to start up their own businesses but haven’t done so. 28% feel that the process is too complex, and 36% don’t have enough confidence in themselves to go it alone. I want those people to know that it is possible, and that there are many different routes to success.
Asking the big questions
Tomorrow I’m going to raise my questions at Number 10 Downing Street.
Through Kings20 I’ve been invited, along with 10 other entrepreneurs (including the incredible Tobi Oredein of Black Ballad and Ismail Jeilani of Scoodle), to a round table discussion with Jimmy McLoughlin, the Prime Minister’s Special Adviser on business. We’ll be asking what the government could do to promote entrepreneurship to a wider audience.
This isn’t just good for society, it’s good for business and the economy. My little company Gamely Games now employs several people and has turned over half a million pounds. If we can show more people the flexibility and empowerment that entrepreneurship can offer, imagine what value that could bring - to their lives and to the economy.
I’ve no idea what will come from this meeting at No.10, but I want to be part of the conversation.