By Parveen Begum, CEO of Solisco
As the CEO of a tech start-up making solar-powered carports to charge electric vehicles (EVs), it is strange that my early professional skills were learned as a manager
at Burberry. It was a comfortable job but I was eager for a new challenge, and about this time I was approached about working at EV company Tesla. They were looking to hire people outside the automotive or engineering industries who could find new solutions to problems.
I started out working as an EV specialist, after which I moved into marketing and sales. The majority of my time was spent showcasing Tesla’s latest innovations, with the aim of making people realise that EV was a game-changer for the automotive and travel industries – and for the environment.
My ‘eureka moment’ came when I realised that the world was obsessed with EVs but not their infrastructure. As the number of EVs continues to grow, parking facilities are failing to adapt, and there are not enough public charging carports.
Around this time I met Mark Maurice, a mechanical engineer, environmentalist and my future busines partner. After discussing the state of EVs in the UK, we realised there was an opportunity to provide a solution to vehicle charging that would have less impact on the environment, because they could be powered by the sun. After two years at Tesla I left to co-found Solisco, with Mark covering engineering and myself new business and administration.
My advice to anyone looking to start a business is: find a partner to share the workload.
This enables you to do twice as much work. It isn’t easy getting a business off the ground. You need to do marketing research, networking, research and development and sales pitches, as well as meeting with potential lenders or investors. This can be overwhelming, especially if you are new to business.
With Mark developing our products, I spent a lot of time researching the EV market, its pioneers and its key players. I also started attending conferences and connecting with people via LinkedIn to generate interest and meet potential clients and suppliers.
We took every opportunity to visit our contacts in person, because we discovered that face-to-face meetings generate stronger, more meaningful relationships. Networking is essential; if you are nervous about doing so, events such as those arranged by FSB are a great way to break the ice. Some women perceive networking to be a male-dominated affair but that has certainly not been my experience.
So far, we have had a great start, but it has not been all plain sailing. The EV market and its regulation is still in its infancy. I see this as blessing in disguise. It has given us time to develop our early personal relationships with partners and stakeholders, which were forged at trade shows and conferences.
My advice to anyone looking to start or grow a business is: do your market research, network as much as possible and take a chance on yourself. Finally, try and have fun. As philosopher Allan Watts said: “This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realise it is play.”
Parveen Begum is CEO of Solisco. Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of FSB.