Our start-up journey
Sarah O’Connor and Isolde Johnson on setting up The Cool Bean Company
The Cool Beans team: “We have leveraged contacts, cold called, googled and stalked people on LinkedIn.”
Starting a company is a big leap. No scratch that, a massive leap, no wait, scratch that again, a life altering, things will never be the same again kind of leap. Actually probably similar to that cliché of having a baby, there is never really a right time, you have to just pick a time with a certain set of favourable circumstances and go for it.
In the past 18 months we went for it and started our own company – The Cool Bean Company. We are a gourmet food company and our main product, Cool Beans, is essentially very very fancy baked beans in three delicious flavours, smoky, chili and original tomato.
We started the company for people who need nutritious, tasty and convenient food but don’t have the time, resources or know how to cook from scratch. High in protein and low in fat, sugar and salt, Cool Beans is a no fuss superhero food.
We had the idea and the passion but we didn’t really have a bean about setting up a company and how to get started (we do love a good bean pun!) so we did what every start up should do – ask for help.
Maybe its because of our background in industry but starting out in the world of business there was always someone to ask when we ran into difficulty from simple things like knowing who to talk to when the printer breaks down to filing an expense claim there is always someone willing to help.
We brought that same mentality to our company. In start up world there is nearly always someone to ask – you just have to be brave (cheeky) enough to ask them. Sometimes it can be difficult to identify the right person to talk to and if you do know who you’re looking for it can be a challenge to get to them. We have leveraged contacts, cold called, googled and stalked people on LinkedIn but at the end of the day people want to help build something new and exciting so you need to be able to sell your idea and your story.
There are a number of characteristics we’ve identified in ourselves which have contributed to our (moderate) success so far and are are vital to our success going forward. First and foremost we have unflinching, genuine belief in our product. We know what we want to achieve and when we want to achieve it and we are not afraid to put ourselves out of our comfort zone in the process.
We also have a real belief in each other as co-founders (this is a topic for another day - how not to kill someone you love in the heat of a challenge or hurdle), we play to each others strengths and cover for each others weaknesses. We know what we know but more importantly we know what we don’t know (lots of stuff) and it’s important to surround yourself with people who are better than you and who can fill these skills gaps.
We are both eternally optimistic, some may see this as naivety but we have chosen to be this way. Things are always going to go wrong – that’s just a fact of life – but it’s your attitude during a problem or crisis that counts.
Network, network, network
Finally, we have intentionally and consistently exposed ourselves to many networking groups and meetings. The amazing thing about having a start up is that people start to treat you differently; they start offering advice instead of random chitchat and invite you to join events, meetings and networking groups. It’s like you’ve joined a club that you never knew even existed. Accept all the help you can get for free as it will be invaluable going forward.
We’re still getting used to this feeling of on the edge. It’s exciting and totally nerve-racking. Apparently this is the life of an entrepreneur.
Over the next few months we will be sharing our experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly, with the hope that it will help some of you who are in a similar position to us and maybe even inspire others who are thinking of taking the leap of faith into the unknown.