Getting your business off the ground, alongside working a full-time job, is a struggle that most new entrepreneurs must overcome. How is it possible to achieve this? Joy Adams, the founder of Weekend Startup Warriors, is a prime example of how it is possible to chase your dreams whilst earning a sustainable income. She shares her story and some tips on how to make use of the resources around you.
“Having a community around you that is focused on success, profits and learning from each other, is key.”
How did your childhood, environment, and your time at Harvard University, influence your passion for economic development?
I grew up in a safe and happy familial environment. During a weekend trip to San Francisco, I saw a family sitting on the sidewalk begging for money. I remember feeling shaken and afraid because it was only then, that I understood others did not have the same opportunities as I.
Harvard was another big shift. I thought I would do international development, but after a summer fellowship in Sudan, I realised that many of the people we were there to help, already had their own ideas and solutions. We only needed to support what was in place. This is what led me back to the USA, to then start Weekend Startup Warriors. What people truly need is the opportunity to do what they know they can already do.
You stated that you faced various dilemmas whilst researching business ideas. What were these challenges and how did you overcome them?
There is a saying that “people make plans and God laughs”. This is true for me. All my in-person events were cancelled for a long time, due to the pandemic. When things shut down, I was not mentally prepared for a two-year slog. A lot of the initial business research I did was irrelevant in the face of COVID-19.
Oftentimes, we spend too much time trying to make things work. I would rather use my energy to knock on doors that might open, rather than knock my head against the wall. Being flexible was the main way to overcome this challenge. As a company, we were just starting to grow, so it was easier to scale back and focus on the digital part. Letting go of the “in-person” dream was tough but necessary and I wish I had done it sooner. As a result, we are now purely digital.
Were you in full-time employment whilst you were building your business? How did you effectively manage your time, finances, and resources?
Yes, and I am still in full-time employment. At the end of the day, unless one is independently wealthy, it is crucial to have a source of income that can support your overall mission. The day job is what funds the dream. When it comes to managing my time, money, and resources, I am a huge fan of Google Calendar, and every woman needs a great accountant. Take time each month to review what you are doing and why you are doing it. What you can measure – time, energy, money – you can manage.
The aim of the Weekend Startup Warriors is to “bridge the gap” between the entrepreneur working a 9-to-5 job and the financially secure entrepreneur. What are the major setbacks of this divide and why is it important to narrow this gap?
A small business owner typically spends approximately £18,000 – £26,000 to start a business. There can be setbacks if the business owner leaves their job too soon or if they stay too long. Unless someone is independently wealthy, they need a plan for how to manage these changes, spend correctly and grow their business. We must narrow the gap between the “start-up haves and have nots” if we want to build businesses and create jobs.
You have mentioned that bringing groups of people together will help them learn, grow, and develop their business. Why is the prospect of community vital when building a business?
It is crucial to learn from others and get support. The pandemic was hard for a lot of people, but when you have people, you can rely on and share information with, the burdens are lighter, and you can refocus energy on your business. Having a community around you that is focused on success, profits and learning from each other, is key. It cannot just be for fun; you need to be able to learn and grow.
In one case, I was speaking with a group and shared that I had received a £3,000 local government training grant. Others wanted to find out how I did it and I was able to explain why everyone needs to receive their local government e-newsletter. People have diverse backgrounds and experiences. In this situation, my background and local government community experience was leveraged for my business community.
“Community, focus, and mindset are what will help you build and grow your business….” Having touched on the significance of community, how do you ensure that you are focused and have the right mindset for running your business?
I try not to beat myself up when things are not running perfectly. I am also a big believer (especially post-COVID) in being flexible. Many things in my life have not gone to plan. There is a famous quote attributed to Saint Teresa of Ávila, which says that “more tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones”. How many times do we get what we think we want or need only to find out that it is a poisoned chalice? Also, I love to read, and learning about other women who have overcome trauma to succeed, as it reminds me that I can do it too.
As someone who successfully founded a company, what advice would you give to those who are in full-time employment and are aspiring entrepreneurs, or are in the initial stages of business development?
- Carve out time. I have a journal and I can tell you what I am going to do each day.
- Stay consistent. If you fall off track, get back on track.
- Ensure that you research the legal rules around having two jobs and review your employment contract.