Crafting the words to tell the story of your business

Week seven of the AIB Startup Academy brought experts in words and numbers to the academy in the penultimate week of this year's event

Jennifer O'Connell: "You need to make every word count and you need to make every word say something different"

Jennifer O'Connell: "You need to make every word count and you need to make every word say something different"

 

Before you write a word about your business you should know why you are writing, what you are writing and who you are writing to. This was the message at the heart of Jennifer O’Connell from Irish Times Training and Irish Times columnist’s, training session “Writing for Clarity and Digital” with the 14 finalists on week seven of the AIB Irish Times Start-up Academy.

“You need to know what story you want to tell about your business and really think about who the audience is and put them at the heart of every piece of content that you produce. I hope that (after today) the start-ups realise that in order to communicate and in order to write, that they start with a strategy and start thinking “What is it I want to say? Who am I saying it to, and what is the most effective channel to say it to them?” They are hard questions to answer but once they have thought about it they can think about building out their toolkit of writing,” said O’Connell.

“You need to make every word count and you need to make every word say something different. It’s always much more powerful to be simple and clear and say exactly what you mean. You always start with the story and ask yourself what story you are telling about your business, who you are telling it to and what channels you are going to be on,” said O’Connell.

Ailbhe Keane from Izzy Wheels said she found O’Connell’s session very beneficial. “For all of us, writing blogs is something that we really need to take into account because it’s so good for sharing across different platforms. I found Jennifer’s workshop really good because she spoke to us about sharing content that’s relevant and interesting. She really made us focus and we had to cut down our elevator pitch to three sentences which is hard but she made it easier to cut down to the point, which was a really helpful thing to do,” said Keane.

O’Connell said that by their very nature start-ups already have a story because they have chosen to start a business they are passionate about, and the storytelling can be more than just words. “The story is already there, they just need to find a way to tell it. It doesn’t always have to be in a written form, they can tell it in video, using imagery, they can tell it on Instagram, and that’s the beauty of the digital world,” said O’Connell.

The morning session was all about finance and funding and AIB held a workshop where the finalists heard from Andrew McGreal, manager, AIB technology sector team, Anne Bannon, AIB head of technology and Life Sciences, John O’Dwyer, AIB head of digital Investments and Innovation, Rory Finnegan, CEO, Beyond Accounting, Helen McBreen, investment director, Atlantic Bridge and Jennifer McMahon, associate with Seroba Life Sciences.

The aim of the workshop was to provide practical advice to start-ups around funding their business, ranging from the tools and structures needed to get up and running, through to the sources of funding in the Irish market and the perspectives of different capital providers.

McGreal said that funding plays a very important role in enabling start-ups to grow. “However, before they even consider fundraising, start-ups should make sure they have identified a viable opportunity and have a plan in place to execute it. Once they have this, the path to funding should become much clearer,” said McGreal.

People can think banks are a closed shop in terms of funding for start-ups, but McGreal said there are options out there that start-ups can avail of.

“Different types of funding are appropriate for different start-ups depending on their stage of development and type of business they operate. AIB has a range of funding options available for start-up companies including traditional lending products and through our equity partners we are the largest bank provider of seed and venture capital in Ireland. AIB has committed €140m (supporting both start-up and SMEs) in 11 active seed and venture funds since 2007,” said McGreal.

“The main message today that came from both the bank and the venture capitalists was the importance of building a relationship early on with potential funders before seeking capital. This will increase the likelihood of securing finance but it will also ensure start-ups begin building a partnership with the capital provider built on mutual trust and understanding,” said McGreal.

Getting funding, managing your own books and making time to keep on top of it all can be one of the most stressful parts of running a business. Ken McHugh of Fresh From said he found the workshop beneficial.

“As well as talking to us about raising funding for our business we also talked about accounts and how to manage them. We are all small businesses and our time is limited. Interestingly, they were talking about an accounts package that everybody seems to be moving towards called Zero and in the last few weeks I have actually just started to use it myself. I’m finding it really good, it’s cloud based and what’s great is that it links up with your AIB bank account as well. You can access it anywhere so you could be finishing a meeting and have an hour to kill and you can start working on your accounts,” said McHugh.

Next week the finalists will have one-on-one sessions with Lisa Hughes from Irish Times Training to perfect their pitches in advance of the final on April 20th in The Lighthouse Cinema, Smithfield, Dublin.

The 14 finalists are:

Frankman Grooming, Tipperary Boutique Distillery Limited, Bakers & Cakers, Izzy Wheels, Origin Bars, Atturos, Ostoform, The Little Pharma Ltd, Kiki Moon, Oathello Network Limited, FEED, Hydrasure, Fresh from and Dynomed.

This is the third year of the Start-up Academy which is a joint venture between AIB and The Irish Times to help start-up companies develop as the finalists follow an eight-week programme where they have the unique opportunity to network and learn from entrepreneurs, industry experts and each other in a mentoring and training programme.

The start-up companies taking part in the eight week accelerator programme will pitch at a finale event to try and win a prize worth €200,000 for their business.

To find out more visit www.aibstartupacademy.com

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