Case Studies and bedtime stories

The EMBABE Diaries

How to go from EMBABE to entrepreneur (via motherhood)

on January 6, 2015

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you had some rest over the holidays (oh, who am I kidding – hope you’re all recovering from the kids’ Christmas break! The silence…it’s so nice, isn’t it? Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone if you don’t…)

And now that we’re back at work, I figured you could use some good vibes to help get 2015 off to a great start. And what better way than with an inspirational story and some great entrepreneurial wisdom from our first EMBABE of 2014, Shefali Modi? Since we last spoke, she has been very busy setting up and running EnycloKidia, and she graciously agreed to share with us some of the lessons she’s learned along the way.

How did you first come up with the idea of EncycloKidia?

After the MBA from London Business School, I had been keen to start my own business. Being pregnant then, I was rapidly exposed to a parallel universe – the one only parents and parents-to-be know exists. Stepping into this world for the first allowed me to look at it with the fresh eyes of an outsider and I saw so many opportunities for new ventures. Gaps in the market that could be addressed, improvements to an existing process, etc. After discussing several ideas with friends and family, EnycloKidia was the one that felt right. An information website that not only told parents about services for their children but allowed them to see what other parents thought about these services. I have had first-hand experience on how difficult it is to find the right daycare, swim school, and baby sitter for my daughter. There was really no quick and reliable way to get the details of the services each provider offered or to get feedback on people you employed for your child’s welfare. This is the problem EncycloKidia solves. 

What was the most difficult aspect of starting your own business?

London Business School taught me that I thrive when working with a team and that the right team can transform a good idea into a brilliant solution. Without doubt the most difficult part has been to bring the right people on board. These had to be people who were as excited about the business solution as I am, were willing to take the risk to make this work, and had the right skills sets to become valuable contributors to the business. It is hard to find people who tick all three boxes. I was and am very conscious of how expensive the wrong person can be, both in terms of money and time (again a London Business School lesson), so have spent a lot of time, ensuring I avoid type II errors. For example, I had a fantastic co-founder when I started. She was the tech lead, a mum herself, and just an amazing person to work with. Unfortunately, we had to part ways and replacing her was both emotionally and practically hard. It took me two and half months to find a new tech lead, but I am 100% confident that my new CTO is in this for the long run, has the same commitment as me and will be fantastic for EncycloKidia.

Do you feel that the MBA helped you? How?

Without doubt! As a founder, I wear many different hats – HR, Marketing, Sales, Accounting, Finance, Blogger, Data Analyst, Grunt Work… Because of the MBA I have a head start on almost every element of the business that I take on. I should add though that having an MBA from London Business School specifically has made an even greater difference. I don’t know much about other MBA communities, but the community of students and alumni at LBS are amazing beyond words. At any juncture when I’ve needed advice I’ve had between 10-15 experts volunteer their time. Some of these “volunteer advisors” have also expressed interest in investing in the business – music to the ears of an entrepreneur. There is significant pride within the community and a deep rooted desire to make one of their own succeed. I don’t think I could’ve gotten this far without the LBS MBA or its community. 

Where did you get your energy from / what support systems did you put in place?

Social Media Statistics, LBS Community/Taunton Café, Family.

EncycloKidia depends on heavy interaction from the parent community. The pilot website has limited features for interaction from parents, but we’ve been lucky to have pretty decent traction. With just a little over 1,000 listings and 20 blog posts, we’ve had almost 48,000 page views, 8,000+ unique visitors, and 275 facebook and 400+ twitter followers within the first 100 days. The first thing I do every morning is update these numbers. They tell me if I am on track but also rev me up for the day’s work.

The two things they don’t tell you in Entrepreneurship class is how lonely the road can get and how much of a roller coaster ride it is. Until you build a team you (and your co-founders) are fighting every battle on your own. When I felt lonely, especially after my co-founder left, just sitting in London Business School’s Alumni centre speaking to other entrepreneurs would inject me with fresh energy. The same happens after I speak with volunteer advisors (see earlier question) from the London Business School community.

But in really dark moments it is family that really helps you pull through. I was very upset the day I parted ways with my co-founder. My husband spent a ridiculous £30 to purchase a single episode of Downton Abbey (the Christmas Special), to just cheer me up! My father is as enthusiastic about EncycloKidia as I am. Every few days he asks me for updated stats on web traffic. He was also my first angel investor. My super-busy brother, who also runs his own business, offered 10-hours/week of his time in any capacity to help me. My mother, a finance director herself, sensing I have too much to do, recently visited me for three weeks, taking full responsibility for my daughter during her stay. Having so many people standing on the side-lines, cheering you on, makes a big difference.

Three pieces of advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs

  1. Most business fail because they run out of money. Keep it lean and plan revenue/capital injections from day one.
  2. Plan your personal finances – this is an extension of the above. Most entrepreneurs outside of Silicon Valley do not draw hefty salaries. Many don’t take any salary for at least a year. If you are worried about putting bread on the table, you will have less bandwidth for the business.
  3. Network as much as you can. Pick up the phone, write emails, talk to people. It’s the only path to good ideas, people, resources, energy, and market traction.

Check out EncycloKidia: www.encyclokidia.com ¦ on facebook ¦ on twitter ¦ on pinterest

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