First Steps: How to get your start-up to take off

  • 18 Aug 2017

By Jimmy Cregan, founder of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee

Looking back over our journey, we started as a backroom experiment in a café in Dorset. We’re now stocked in Tesco, Ocado and Wholefoods and sell one carton every seven seconds. It’s been a mad ride, so what advice would I give to other small businesses starting out? 


Here are 10 things I wish I’d known back in the day.


Are you willing to sacrifice your life for this new venture? Can you handle starting a business? Are you prepared to lose friends and push your loved ones’ patience to the limit? Because the truth is in the years to come, you’ll forget what sleep is. You won’t have time to eat, let alone hang out with mates. It will be relentless. Non-stop driving, emailing, chasing, gatecrashing buyers’ meetings and more. But your loved ones will stick by you. And you’ll stick with your dream. 


Be brave

When you start this journey, you will feel like a rabbit in the headlights but that means you will never have the time to look over your shoulder and think “what the hell are we doing?!” Although you will wonder that sometimes. None more so than when the banks won’t lend you any money. Their view on lending to you can often be categorised by starting with an N and ending with an O. So you have to make it work. And you will do. 

Keep your chin up

I’m not going to lie to you. There will be dark days. You will receive phone calls from suppliers saying that production is on hold until you pay them. You won’t have the funds and your debts are mounting up. Still – and this is important – you keep positive and keep going. KYCU, as we say here at Jimmy HQ.

Trust your gut

Instinct is stronger than any data on the planet and you know the crazy-good days are coming. But only trust people once they’ve earned it. Do not just give people the keys. You know your business better than anyone so don’t hand out slices of responsibility until you’re sure the person is trustworthy and totally on the level.


Stay focused

You’ll be distracted by a thousand and one things, but it’s down to you to decide whether something is good or bad for the business. The responsibility can seem like too much, but it’s big boy (or girl) pants time now. People are looking at you to be their leader and if you stick to your game plan everything will come good. The plan may change along the way but that’s OK; as long as you have a plan to start with people will join you on your madcap adventure.

Be prepared for knocks

People will tell you you can’t do something – a lot – and sometimes for good reason too. So be prepared to accept the knockbacks and work on how you can convince them you’re right. Embrace the challenge to keep producing, keep selling, keep being real and keep bouncing back. Every negative can be flipped into a positive.

Dare to be different

Dressing as a giant carton of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee was partially responsible for landing our contract with Tesco. It was a bold move but I’ve never regretted it. We're different because we’re a brand with a real person fronting it and we do stuff we want to do, not just because it’s a way to make a buck.


Nerves are good

They mean you’re out of your comfort zone – but never be embarrassed. If you’re honest about your weaknesses or knowledge gaps you’ll find your way to the true experts who can make a massive difference to your business.

Be yourself

It’s so important to be authentic. You must feel totally convinced and totally pumped that it’s going to work. If you think it’s going to fail for one minute, it’s going to lose, because that’s one minute you haven’t spent thinking it will succeed.

And finally... Keep evolving!

Because, at some point in the not-too-distant future, there will be a moment when you’ll realise that you’re doing something awesome. You've got to give it your all. And I mean your all. This is not a rehearsal so get your gear on and get busy. 

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