"Back in 2005, when I was graduating from the University of Birmingham, I had this vision about how I could help students save money, and how I could help businesses engage with students. Someone had given me a book with a really powerful message: imagine if you couldn’t fail. Who would you be? Where would you go? What would you do?"
That’s what made James Eder, founder of Causr (which we’ll talk more about in a minute), create his first business: StudentBeans. It’s what made him literally go door-to-door in Birmingham and tell every student he could find about StudentBeans.
"I spoke to 15,000 people - that's why we signed up 15,000 people. I mean, I probably spoke to 30,000 people. I was willing to do what others wouldn't."
What you’ll learn from reading this article:
- What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
- Why the term work-life balance needs to be removed from our vernacular.
- How to get through the inevitable low moments of being an entrepreneur.
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The lesson here? Adopt a mindset of not being able to fail. Keep thinking about that phrase: imagine if I couldn’t fail. That will make it much easier for you to do the things others aren’t willing to - and therefore start a successful business.
James has now moved on from StudentBeans and founded Causr, an app which is revolutionising the way we connect with each other. Here’s why:
"Two years ago, I sat next to a guy who had a CV on the train, and I asked him if he was looking for a job... he ended up coming to work for StudentBeans. What stops people from doing stuff like that is fear, permission, confidence. The idea of Causr is that we can give people the permission and confidence to engage."
I know what you’re thinking: how could he speak to someone on the Underground? We British don’t do that! We sit there and ignore everybody, thank you very much.
Well, if James hadn’t done that, that guy wouldn’t have gone to work at StudentBeans, and James wouldn’t have had the idea that’s led to Causr.
"These missed connections happen around people all the time because most people would never have that conversation. Causr comes into its own because it gives people context and permission."
The lesson here? Download Causr. But also it’s about remembering that these missed connections are happening literally every day, and that you could do something about that. Even on the Underground. It might change your whole life.
The term 'work-life balance' still gets thrown around quite a bit. Here’s what James thinks about it:
"I want to remove this term of work-life balance, because for me it’s about life and whether you’re enjoying it or not."
Lots of people won't understand why you’re starting a business, or why you’re spending so much time on it, or why you’re not going out every weekend with your mates like "everybody else". But, like James says, there’s really only one question that matters: are you enjoying life? If you’re working "crazy" hours, and you’re totally and completely enjoying it, why change?
The lesson here? What matters is enjoying life. As James says, starting a business is hard, but "it shouldn’t feel like hard work. When I wake up in the morning, I can’t sleep again, because I'm so excited to get to work."
Of course, there are also low moments. Easy to write about, easy to reminisce about... not so easy to go through. Why do you think so many people give up?
"One of the worst scenarios was in Sheffield. It was raining, and I was going door-to-door selling, and I went into a restaurant - someone came and literally screamed at me. I was completely taken aback. I'm 22, and the youth get a bad rap for being lazy and all sorts of other things, and here I am not sitting in the dole, not wasting my time, trying to build something and that's the response I get. I left that restaurant feeling properly trodden on. I was in tears. And I thought, why am I doing this?"
We like to talk about how vital failure is to success, and how failure is really just part of success, and all those other clichés… but when you’re in it? When it’s happening to you? It’s not too fun.
"So yeah, I was in tears, so I called my friend and they reminded me that we'd just launched. We already had thousands of users because of door-to-door sales, they reminded me to remember what we’d already done. They reminded me that you’ve just got to keep going."
The first lesson here? As always: keep going. Remember what we talked about at the beginning? Imagine if you couldn’t fail. What would you do? Wouldn’t you keep knocking on doors, with the same enthusiasm, the same belief?
The second lesson here? You’re going to need support. Whether it’s your friends or family or whoever. You don’t have to do it alone. There’s a reason nobody ever has.
What else you can hear on the podcast:
- How Causr brokered a £500,000 deal
- Ross Williams, founder of Venntro, which provides white-label service for all those online dating site you use
- Samantha Clarke, Happiness and Change Consultant, gives her top tips for approaching challenges
This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.