Toby Cockayne

What does a typical work day look like for you?

I am co-founder of a sports app and can genuinely say working in such a fast-paced environment means every day is different. However, typical tasks include answering emails, calling and chasing people (to do what they say they would!) and attending meetings. I find a pleasing aspect of being an entrepreneur is that most days I have the flexibility to slot in meeting friends and other hobbies. It helps that I quite like working late though!

What are the main skills have you developed since working in a start-up?

Working in a company which is just finding its feet and an identity, means co-founders and early employees have to do a wide range of tasks. Although I studied law and began a career down this route, I feel I have a much wider skill set than I would have had as a trainee lawyer. For example, I have to maintain a strong grip on company finances and developed relevant skills for that. I have to strategically think about how I can grow my business in the short, medium and long term which entails research into marketing, the general app market and developing ways to approach a range of people to get 10 minutes of their time. I have been lucky enough to have meetings with directors of huge corporations and believe that learning from these experienced entrepreneurs has been invaluable for my career.

What are the challenges of working in an entrepreneurial environment?

I see two main challenges. Firstly, convincing people to give you the funds required to turn your concept into a real business. Fund raising is difficult and very time consuming, but clearly essential.

Though for me, the main and most important challenge is actually growing your business. This involves listening to vital customer feedback, creating clever marketing plans and ultimately creating a product that consumers or businesses are willing to spend money on. You and your team do not have the financial safety that working for a big company generates so staying extremely driven to negotiate any problems and survive is essential.

How does your current role reflect your overall career plan?

Now that I have set up my own business I cannot imagine going to work for someone else. Having the authority to implement changes that I want to happen and make real decisions is something that I cannot see myself giving up easily. I have quickly developed a broad range of skills and find an unrivalled satisfaction from working on something that I am a key part of.

Do you have any top tips for any students considering entrepreneurship as a viable career path?

I was quite lucky in having a pretty firm idea of what my first real business would do. However, if you don’t have that eureka moment, I’d encourage students to email entrepreneurs or companies that they’re interested in. See if you can get involved in any way, run an idea past them or ask for a coffee. Most entrepreneurs are altruistic and can be liberal with their time. I find buying them a cappuccino always helps too!

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