Last week, I leapt off the corporate ladder I have spent eight years climbing. Today I find myself sitting in my local cafe, whilst my old world continues without me. For the first time, I am writing solely as the Co-Founder of MacroAdventure. My girlfriend Jo will be joining me later this week.
On June 9th we will be taking a giant leap into the unknown, and embarking on a nine month expedition from Alaska to Argentina. We will be using our trip to explore something we're both passionate about: how business is being used as a force for good to tackle social and environmental problems across the Americas. In particular, we'll be meeting entrepreneurs who are using business to benefit local communities, improve education, solve environmental problems, and invest in sustainable energy. This will range from visiting local conservation projects in Alaska, to accelerator hubs throughout Central America, to renewable energy projects in South America.
Our mission? To share the stories of the amazing entrepreneurs we’ll meet to inspire others to take the leap to build businesses which make both a profit and a difference. But why, many of our family and friends have asked us, would we take the risk of leaving behind our comfortable lives in London to do this?
The truth is that we both feel passionately that there is a new metric against which we can measure growth and success that puts positive change above profit. It is clear that the tide is changing, but not fast enough. We intend to act as a catalyst to those already disrupting the status quo and accelerate change for the better. We will discover people living and working with these metrics at their core, and aim to shout their story from the rooftops so that others may follow.
When we first discussed our desire for a career change across the table in an Italian restaurant, our goal has been to create something good, whilst having fun along the way. Jo and I had both become frustrated by the corporate environments in which we worked. Quite simply, we craved more control over our own destiny, and were determined to live lives which felt more purposeful.
The truth is that we both feel passionately that there is a new metric against which we can measure growth and success that puts positive change above profit.
We both knew that we are ambitious, but wanted to use the skills we have and the effort we give from now on to create something that is bigger than ourselves. Now, as we countdown the last few days before we depart, tie up loose ends (from visas to vaccinations, the list of admin feels endless!), say goodbye to our friends and family and life as we have known it until now, we find ourselves reflecting on what we have learned so far.
Here are some of the most valuable lessons we've learnt so far:
- No-one really knows what they are doing when they start out. We certainly didn’t when we started, and are still finding our way through step by step. There are no rule books, no rights or wrongs, so don’t let the idea of embarking on an entrepreneurial project intimidate you to the extent that you never get to make the first step.
- Decide what is at the core of your idea and refine it, and then refine it again, until you can tell people in one sentence what you’re doing. This is a skill in itself and is easier said than done. We struggled to gain interest in our project early on because it took us a page and a half to explain what we wanted to do. It is a constant process of creation and iteration. Failure and making mistakes is an inevitable part of that process. The key is to fail fast, learn from your mistakes, and be able to pick yourself back up and keep going.
- It is only when you stop to look back when you can see how far you’ve come. When we started we had only the idea of a concept - now we have a huge list of projects to visit and supporters in the UK and throughout the Americas. We’ve always been keen to use our trip not only to raise the profiles of entrepreneurs across the Americas, but also those of trailblazing UK businesses. We’re particularly excited about our collaboration with London based start-up CleanSpace (which has been developed by Drayson Technologies), their Clean Space Tag, powered by Freevolt technology, is the world's first personal air pollution smart sensor, and is an incredibly exciting development in generating the real-time data necessary to heighten public awareness of the serious problems posed by air pollution. Keep an eye on our Twitter and Instagram as we test out levels of air pollution all across the Americas!
- Prepare to feel vulnerable. In our professional careers Jo and I were extremely comfortable meeting clients, debating, and giving presentations. This did not however prepare us for the nerves we have felt representing MacroAdventure. Our first big test was when we presented at Oxford Inspires, an Oxford University conference for entrepreneurs and business founders, earlier this year. There is something utterly terrifying about standing in front of a group of people and opening yourself up for judgement. If they don't like it, you only have yourself to fall back on. We have had to learn to feel comfortable baring the soul of our idea and building on the feedback we receive at every stage. We received some fantastic feedback that weekend and had our concept challenged, but came out better for it. There will be times when you feel vulnerable, but take strength from the knowledge that this probably means you’re on the right path.
- Build your network. We have met some amazing people along our journey so far who have helped us in ways we couldn't have imagined. Our first port of call was the Royal Geographical Society, who helped us begin to refine our idea and discuss the logistics of our adventure. There is no substitute for a good network and the best way to build it is to put yourself out there and start shouting about your idea. We’re excited to be running our crowdfunding campaign later this summer with London-based platform HelpingB - whose founder we met through a friend. The best idea in the world will go nowhere if no one knows about it. So believe in yourself, tell family, friends, colleagues, and everyone you meet, write emails, pick up the phone and go to conferences. We realised pretty quickly that people want to help and you will see how quickly your idea can grow as you reach further.
- Believe in the goodness of people. We have had some terrifying moments from presenting at conferences, to quitting our jobs. I was incredibly nervous when I handed in my notice, but my whole team turned out to be incredibly supportive and even helped promote MacroAdventure before I left. At every stage we have been nervous about people’s reactions. At every turn, we have been amazed by the goodness and support family, friends, neighbors, ex-colleagues, ex-clients, and complete strangers are prepared to offer. So tell everyone and ask them for their feedback.
- Perseverance is everything. There have been times when we have discussed walking away from this and wondered if it’s worth the effort. It has been the most incredible experience to watch our idea gather support and build momentum, but it is the tough times when you learn the most and make the highs worth the effort. If you you can keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will get there in the end.
- Choose a good Co-Founder. Naturally I am biased, but the only way Jo and I have consistently kept moving forwards is by being strong for each other. Everyone has moments of doubt, luckily Jo and I seem to time our moments perfectly so we can always pick each other up when we need it.
- Most importantly; get on with it. Time waits for no one, so be brave, take the leap, and go for it. Everything else you can learn along the way. I recently read an article that said building your own business is like jumping off a cliff and trying to build a plane before you hit the ground. That sums it up perfectly. It is exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure, but if you succeed you will have learned to fly!
When we began this journey it felt like we were standing exposed, looking up from the bottom of a mountain. Now as we pack up our lives and prepare for our departure on the June 9th, we still have a mountain to climb, but we are half way up, armed with new tools, enjoying the challenge, and see an army of helpers on the horizon.
The value of MacroAdventure is in the network of pioneering, purpose-driven people we meet, and the knowledge they share with us. So please share our story, so we can share theirs.
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