Do your homework before seeking investment
The importance of businesses chewing over funding proposals thoroughly before taking the plunge was highlighted by investment experts and entrepreneurs at a key breakfast event.
BusinessCloud joined forces with UCLan Ventures and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) Lancashire and South Lakeland for the event at the idyllic Brockholes in Preston.
A total of 49 businesses have so far registered for the free Investment Readiness Programme with UCLan Ventures, which prepares companies for what investors really want to hear.
Sue Barnard, senior relationship manager at British Business Bank, told the 120-strong audience about the importance of holding out for an investor that’s the right fit.
“Businesses need to look at their options and not just take the first offer,” she advised.
“Speak to people, look to see what others are doing and understand the finance. Look longer term and try and get the right finance.
“There’s a lot of finance out there at the moment - asset, bank, regional funds, funding platforms – the problem now is understanding which finance is right for your business."
Robert Sheffrin, Gillian Bardin, Steve Wall & Dave Furlong on the first panel at the event
Mark Woodward, founder of the Printed Cup Company, chose match-funding to start his business, matching his investor's stake by selling his house.
The entrepreneur was working as a paper cup salesman when redundancy inspired him to start his own bespoke business.
"When we started our factory we were receiving 50 per cent match funding, but you've still got to find the other half," says Woodward.
“We found investors who were willing to put money into the company. If we hadn't have found them I don't know how we would have done it.”
Woodward said the Investment Readiness Programme would have been invaluable if it had been in existence when he was going for funding. The investors and entrepreneurs agreed that a refined business pitch was essential after finding the right investor.
Panelist and veteran investor Robert Sheffrin, investment director at UCLan Ventures, suggested that companies should carefully assess their valuations.
“Sometimes companies ask for more money than they need but more often they've underestimated," warned Sheffrin.
“It's hard to get a second round when you've missed your target."
Peter Leather aims to ensure that businesses are avoiding mistakes like these by receiving feedback on their pitches. He does this as part of his role as director for the Investment Readiness Programme.
!What we tended to see was businesses sitting in front of investors, giving their pitch and then being told no but not the reasons why," he said.
“The purpose of the Investment Readiness Programme is that the investors we have can actually give that feedback."
In order for entrepreneurs to guard against hearing ‘no’, Alex Tkacovs, MD of PassHub, advised: "Your pitch never goes to plan. Preparation is key when presenting to investors."
Fellow entrepreneur Darrin Robinson agrees. The chief executive of Clitheroe-based bespoke bike company Beacon said that finding finance for your own business is a unique and exciting challenge.
"You’ve got to be a determined individual to make it work because you’re going to have to be working on every aspect of the business; finance, operations, sales, infrastructure," he said.
"It’s a very different challenge compared to developing and growing an existing business – and that's the attraction!"
Other speakers at the event included Gillian Bardin, president of ICAEW Lancashire and South Lakeland and MD Taylor Patterson; Steve Wall, manager, North West Business Angels; Dave Furlong, investment director, Maven Capital Partners UK; Martin Leeming, CEO, Trak Rap; and Darrin Robinson, CEO, Beaconfell.
The #BCGrowth hashtag attracted nearly 200,000 impressions on Twitter.