Jacob Wedderburn-Day is 25 years old and Anthony Collias is 24, they both studied at Oxford University before setting up Stasher in 2015 – an entrepreneurial start-up offering a welcome storage solution for tourists and day-trippers across the UK and Europe – the business has been described as the Airbnb for luggage. After receiving significant investment in 2016 from James Gibson, the CEO of Big Yellow Storage, they both quit their full time jobs to concentrate all their efforts on Stasher.
The concept is simple really, the Stasher website enables people to store luggage in shops, hotels and other small businesses that have extra space, it is win-win because the shops get paid for storage and it adds footfall, plus for the customers it is just £6 per 24 hours of storage, so half the price of other storage solutions. Imagine the world’s largest urban storage network — a network of shops, hotels and other businesses, all with storage rooms where they safely look after people’s belongings – that is Stasher!
Since Stasher began, it has stored over 100,000 bags, gone from being present in 30 locations in January 2017, to over 600 across more than 80 cities to date and employs a full time team of 15 – by 2019 Stasher will be present in over 100 cities. Current partners include Expedia, Hotels.com, Premier Inn, Accor Hotels and Megabus.
Below, Jacob gives his tips every entrepreneur should consider before quitting the day job to focus on a start-up.
Two years ago, I was still a student, with a humble startup prototype. Now I find myself advising other startups semi-regularly. One thing that sticks out to me is how much people fixate over my decision to quit the Bank of England Graduate Scheme to run Stasher full time. How did I know it was the right move? Wasn’t it a crazy risk? What made me confident enough to pull the trigger?
To me, it was a no-brainer. But reflecting on it, there were a number of factors in place that made it such an easy decision. And I think these are the kind of factors everyone should consider before they quit their day-jobs to pursue entrepreneurship full time. The following seven factors impacted on my decision and are worth taking into account for any wannabe entrepreneurs.
- We had investment.Above everything else, knowing that we had the financial security of a one year runway to give this our best shot was what gave me total confidence. We could survive the year with no concerns about our own personal finances. There was no downside. The worst case scenario — we failed miserably — would still have made for an excellent year of life experience, and I could go and get a job, probably more confident for the journey I’d been on. Best case scenario — it was a huge success — then our entrepreneurial dream was coming true. Thankfully, it’s been a success. But this would be my advice to any entrepreneur. Seek investment before you go full time, we also had a working prototype that proved there was a gap in the market. If you think the need to get investment will motivate you when you’re full time, you are grossly underestimating how distracting the pursuit of investment is from actually running a business.
- We had smart investment. I can’t overstate this point, and it was a big factor that Anthony and I both felt strongly on. Our families and friends actually wanted to invest around the time of our seed round — and if we’d wanted to we could have turned to a number of people in our personal networks to rally funds. The key for us was targeting an industry leader (in our case the CEO of the UK’s largest storage company), to get the external validation of our business that to us was more important than just getting money from any source. Moreover, an industry leader was well placed to advise us on growing our own storage business.
- We had no other major life commitments.I’m only 24, so I can’t really comment on what it must be like to run a business alongside other major commitments. Starting a business being this young has been an awesome experience and people love to hear how we did it. I don’t have a family to provide for, a mortgage to worry about, or any other big commitments to tie me down. This means I’ve been free to pour my heart, soul and time into making Stasher a success. And being an entrepreneur is the proverbial 24/7 job — you never switch off from it, you’re always thinking about, and that’s a great thing, but it’s exhausting, and you need the schedule to be able to commit to it truly full time.
- The opportunity was there. It’s a trivial point, but it’s why getting smart investment was so important. Far too many would-be entrepreneurs start businesses that don’t solve real problems. They seize imaginary opportunities. Even with the three points above satisfied, having a convincing business plan was critical. Belief in the opportunity we had — conviction that we were onto a winning idea — was key to the decision. You have to believe in your own idea, really, but having proof that other people do too, and market research to back it up, is a crucial step.
- Cofounder support. Being an entrepreneur could be a lonely experience, but it never has been for me. I’ve always had the support, ideas and ADHD-energy of Anthony to keep me motivated. Quitting to go it alone would have made for a harder decision.
- We already had traction.I’d feel nervous running any business that didn’t have traction and make revenue. We’ve made revenue almost since day one — and there’s no greater validation than traction from real customers. Plus it means success will naturally extend your runway.
- Good motives.This is a totally subjective point, but I’ve met enough entrepreneurs in my time that I think it’s worth making. First and foremost, you need an entrepreneurial mindset, and you have to be in it for the journey. Entrepreneurship is not a ticket to quick success. Starting from nothing comes with no guarantees, and a lot of sweat and elbow grease is what it takes to make something of it. If you’re starting a business to be a success, or for the sake of it because running startups is cool, or because you want an inflated C-suite title, then your motives are misguided. You have to want the journey more than you want the destination. And you have to want to embrace the ups and downs, the triumphs and mistakes, the wisdom and the cliches, because failure is always a looming possibility in any business, and its far more emotional when it’s your own business on the line.
So those are the seven factors I think every wannabe entrepreneur should consider before they quit their jobs to go run a business. You don’t need them all, although as I say, it is the combination of all seven of these reasons that made my own decision to quit so easy.
For more information, visit www.stasher.com