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Up, up and away

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Entrepreneur Paula Quazi, Co-founder of smol, offers her top tips on all things growth related.

smol is revolutionising the cleaning industry with eco-friendly products delivered in innovative ways, and it has experienced lightening quick growth since it began in 2018.

  1. Ensure that your offering is solid

    Whether what you’re delivering is a service or a product, it has to be absolutely right. If it’s not, it won’t work. It’s as simple as that. My experience has taught me that brands that have the right intention but that don’t get the product right fail. This is why, at smol, we spent so long working on our product.

  2. Be prepared to get your hands dirty

    We had a plan in place and we had a vision of what we thought the first year would look like, but things went crazy – absolutely crazy! And it was just Nick and I – who I had founded the business with – at this stage. We were doing everything. We were looking after customer comments, advertising and packaging. We were handling the post. It was a surreal but amazing experience, and we just about kept the wheels on.

  3. Choose a supportive investor

    Within six months, we could see that we needed more money. Our seed fund thought we had enough for 18 months, but because of the speed at which things had gone, we needed more investment. We went out to market, but because we had such incredible data, we were able to get what we needed very quickly. It was a lot like Dragon’s Den actually – we were doing the same presentation to lots of different investment funds. You get asked a lot of questions and have to be on your toes to answer them.

    We received a lot of offers and decided to go with one investor because we wanted to keep our board small. It was really important to us to have an investor who we felt we connected with and who had the right level of experience that would really complement and support us. So that was our Series A. Then last year, we got our Series B funding, which was to enable us to expand into international markets.

  4. Divide and conquer

    Something that I think makes a big difference is the fact that I’m a co-founder. I have Nick, my business partner, and together we share all of the work involved in running a business. But I think that if you’re on your own, there’s much more pressure on you individually. Either way, it’s about bringing people on board to help you get the work done and making sure you stay ahead of recruitment so you have the right team in place when you need it.

  5. Be aware that recruiting is constant

    It sounds so obvious but as you grow, you need more and more people. In the first 12 weeks that we spent overseas, we were running around trying to build up volume, but we were also picking up people to help us and support us. It’s a cyclical process – the more people you enroll; the more room you have. Then you get more done, but more needs doing, so you have to hire even more.

  6. Have an adaptive mindset

    As a founder, you need to elevate yourself outside of the day-to-day and get on with the strategy. Making decisions, leadership, funding, managing investors, all of those sorts of things take up huge amounts of time.

    This means that you have to evolve who you are looking to and for in terms of support. In the early days, you need people who are broad and flexible; who have energy and are willing to learn. But when you get to the next phase – and this happens very quickly – you have to go deep. You’ll need people who have real expert understanding in the specialisms that you need. Sometimes there’s a temptation to keep the people who have been doing the broad work and get them to do the deep work, but they might not be ready for that.

  7. Be clear as crystal

    When you’re a founder, what’s tough is being direct about the expectations you have and making sure that others will be accountable. You’ve got to trust the partnership that you have with your team and empower them to deliver in the way that you expect. The key is being clear about what you’re looking for – otherwise people just aren’t aware of what it is that you want.

  8. Let it go

    At one point, Nick and I were having debates about whether the labels were going on straight enough. But back then, we were selling 100 packs a day, and now we’re selling 20,000 packs a day. If you continue to focus on these details yourself, you'll drive yourself insane. Yes, these details still matter but you need to hand things like this off to people who care about them as much as you do.

    Please get in touch to find out how we can support you through the growth phase of your business.

The right support

Michelle Cordeiro Grant. the Founder and CEO of Lively, a lingerie brand so successful that she sold it for $105million.

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