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A social entrepreneur’s guide to raising investment

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Each month on the Promoting Enterprise blog, an Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR), give us an insight into his/her entrepreneurial journey. June’s entrepreneur is Kenny Ewan (UK). Watch his TEDx talk here and discover how his social enterprise helps others:

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Do you want to make the world a better place? I do – and that’s why I helped set up a social enterprise called WeFarm. At WeFarm we empower farmers in the developing world (of which there are more than 500 million!) to both access and share vital agricultural information without needing any access to the Internet. We use SMS in a unique way that allows isolated communities to learn from each other peer-to-peer.

WeFarm farmer

After an incredible first year of growth and success, with more than 58,000 farmers using our service already, my first few months of the this year have been spent trying to secure the investment needed to take us to the next stage.

During any funding round you have the opportunity to meet a wide range of investors – from angels to large VC firms, with investors from lots of different countries. This is particularly true for social enterprises like WeFarm, and I set out to pitch our business to both social impact investors and more traditional VCs.

Creating a compelling story that appeals to both social investors and more traditional VCs can be challenging for social businesses, but we were determined to convince people that our social impact is truly embedded within a great business model, and we were confident we can convince both sides of the investment world.

It’s been fascinating to see the differences in styles and interests between them. When I started, I assumed that we would have more opportunities with the social impact investors (for fairly obvious reasons). However, it’s been great to find that the opposite has been true and we’ve had a lot more advanced conversations with the more traditional VCs.

I think this shows something really exciting is happening: businesses with a strong social mission can interest traditional investors if the business case is right. More and more people are looking for business with a social purpose to invest in, and recognise that the returns can be even higher than average businesses.

However, being honest, the process has also highlighted for me some challenges with social impact investment, especially for more innovative businesses looking at very large scale projects. A lot of the conversations I’ve had with social impact investors have been guided by their need to put things in social impact boxes – to look at measurement and impact chains rather than big ideas.

Having spent my entire career (until now) in the international development field, I wholeheartedly agree with the importance of impact measurement and evaluation. But should this be the starting point ahead of new ideas and innovation that can’t easily be measured and put in boxes at an early stage? Ideally, of course, you need both, and I hope that slowly these two investment universes are starting to come closer together.

My advice to social entrepreneurs would be to urge you to not limit yourself in your view of what your social business is. Reach out to all the investors you can, make sure you have a compelling business model, and think big. Even as a social business, traditional investors might be best for you.

About Kenny

Kenny-Ewan 2Kenny is CEO of WeFarm, a pioneering social enterprise, scaling a unique peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing platform for the 450 million small-scale farmers around the world with no access to the internet. After graduating from the University of Dundee, Kenny went to Peru in 2002 to work on sustainable development projects with indigenous communities. He loved the country so much that he decided to stay. In 2007, he became Peru’s Country Director for ProWorld Service Corps. This international development NGO specialises in projects for isolated, indigenous communities. He returned to the UK in 2009 to join the Cafedirect Producers Foundation (CPF) start-up team. He designed and managed all of CPF’s international projects across East Africa and Latin America.

“I want to wake up with energy, drive and curiosity for what life will bring next.”

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In his final column as May’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR), Nathan Farrugia of Ultimate Performance offers his advice for those considering following in his footsteps and stepping out on their own in business.

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Five frogs on a log. One decides to jump in. How many frogs left on the log…..? Five, because there’s a big difference between ‘deciding’ and ‘doing’.

So thinking leads to deciding, but you can’t stop there. You need to act with confidence and determination. How? Firstly, surround yourself with the right people at different times of the business cycle. Our mind plays tricks on us and the little voices of doubt and self criticism can kill our confidence, so we need to have both strategists and cheerleaders around us all the time. Taking calculated risks is important to get us into flow. The easy option won’t help us grow, or prepare us for the inevitable storm. Practice breaking small things before you play with the valuable things. Get experience in a contained space, but do get out of your comfort zone often and consistently. Don’t get amygdala hijack from being too stretched and afraid to act, or you’ll die from paralysis. Don’t overanalyse, yet do your homework well. Remain focussed on your journey, and don’t get sidetracked by your short term goals. Goals are good to take stock of progress. Slalom gracefully around them if they seem to take you off course.

The most important thing, and the biggest source of failure of businesses that solve global problems is this: they remained a dream. Once you have a vision, have designed a plan, and raised the resources to implement it, GO FOR IT! Even if it fails, the worst case scenario is that you’ve gained the opportunity to learn something new.

Pros and cons

Of course, there are pros and cons to starting your own business. The pros of being in control of your destiny are the main reasons to set up your own business. Even as a CEO of a large organisation that I helped create, there was always a sense that I was a cog in a big wheel.

I still felt 100% responsible and I was more than just an employee, but creating something you know will be entirely yours sparks something special in your spirit. It’s also great to not have to ask for permission to put an idea into practice, or feel that you can’t change direction if you so decide one day. Yes, you have responsibilities if you have employees, but it’s different than being a manager.

Running your own business also has its perils. You lose objectivity because it is personal. You may find yourself heading for trouble and keep going because you’re emotionally attached to the goal, or to avoid embarrassment. You don’t want to be proven wrong and, therefore, don’t accept criticism easily. It takes a particular character to be entrepreneurial, but these character traits can also be your downfall. Hard-headed, passionate, ambitious and a risk taker come to mind.

nathan5Starting a business after having led an organisation has helped me stay focussed and not put emotions before logic. I’m more mature and have had a fair amount of mishaps that I’ve learnt great lessons from. Not only is it not too late to start your business at 40, but it’s actually helpful to have experience under your belt. I’ve had a few sideline businesses over the years so I had some startup practice. It’s also important to have good people around you to keep you grounded. It’s easy to become engrossed in the project and lose your relationships with loved ones, and distance yourself from friends and family. Taking stock, or being coached is very important to get a reality check every so often.

To me it’s the mindset that’s the major difference between running a business and working for someone else. You can be equally passionate and driven working for someone else’s business with less personal risk and stress. Running your own business is not for everyone. It shouldn’t be everyone’s ambition. I too need to employ great managers, accountants, experts and associates to make up for all my weaknesses! Thankfully enough people choose to be professionals too.

My hope for Ultimate Performance is to continue to grow my impact by reaching more businesses and business leaders. I want to keep having fun and do exciting things, whilst sharpening my skills. I want to spend time with the people I care about and share experiences with them whenever possible. I want to wake up in the morning with energy, drive and, most of all, curiosity for what life will bring next.

About Nathan

NF-Bust-BWNathan Farrugia is an entrepreneur. He attributes much of his success to a mindset that challenges the impossible and takes every obstacle as an opportunity to find new solutions to old problems. He has used this mindset to break world record endurance challenges, as well as to grow successful enterprises. He now spends most of his time coaching CEOs and business leaders on how to unlock their own performance potential as part of the UP Academy. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

“The battle between work and life is nonsense”

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In this week’s column from May’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR), Nathan Farrugia of Ultimate Performance explains how he achieves work-life balance, and tells us what it’s like to work with his wife.

Nathan team heros

It’s always an interesting dynamic to mix family and business. With your partner being one of your associates, it’s even more complex from an emotional perspective. We’re very different characters, with Deirdre being direct and extroverted while I’m an introvert and very pragmatic in my approach to problems. Mostly we do our own thing in our own way, and sometimes argue if our paths collide but, at the end of the day, we have the advantage of being able to settle it over a bottle of wine and a cuddle. Not many colleagues have that advantage, I guess…

The main stress on us both is managing our time with our kids. They’re so busy and their extracurricular activities are very energy consuming. They dance, do sport, and are always on sleep-overs or at parties, while we taxi them around to make sure they don’t miss out. Sometimes our quiet weekends suffer because we are so busy. By the end of Sunday, we’re all tired, and the next day it’s back to work.

But our kids are great. Watching them grow and develop has been an enlightening experience. I’ve learnt a great deal about leadership from being a father. I’ve also learnt a lot about managing emotions with three ladies in the house!

I wake up early and go for a run, swim or cycle if I’m racing triathlon. This is my time to think, to mentally plan my day and perhaps listen to a podcast or chapter in an interesting textbook. Doubling up the time to take care of my body and my mind is a great life-hack.

I usually have a quick breakfast and coffee then get to my desk at home to catch up on admin or emails. I do most of my social media marketing on the fly so, as soon as I can, I get out of the house and spend my day with clients, or at the foundations. I rarely get the time to stop during the day. I love the fact I have no set office, and change scenery many times a day. I love the diversity my work brings, from coaching and teaching to keynote speaking, politicking and strategising. My mind stays sharp with constant change. I also get to ride my Triumph Bonneville all day across town, which is great fun!

I usually work 10 hour days, with evening events happening a few times a week. Sometimes these are charity fundraisers, VIP events, a date with my wife or simply catching up with friends. In between, it’s at home with a good movie, a glass of wine and healthy home cooked food. I try and spend as much time with my kids over the weekend, and I help with homework and activity trips during weekday evenings. I make it a point to put them to bed and kiss them goodnight every night.

Achieving work-life balance

I developed a thought process that I call The FIRE Model, which I use in my coaching as well as to keep stock of my own life. The model helps me cope with the multitude of pressures on our lives, and shows us that the battle between ‘Work’ and ‘Life’ is nonsense. We have one life and we need to maximise it in every area.

nathan scheme

Using the model, I’m careful to create opportunities to fill each area of my life in a balanced way. Like a Balance Scorecard, I want to make sure that every aspect of my life is given due attention. I seek out things that scare me and excite me at the same time. I like to be out of my comfort zone. This leads to more flow, which helps me focus at work and get things done with less pressure.

Because of time constraints, our need to continuously learn and develop often falls by the wayside. I practice mindfulness, learn new things all the time and always accept an opportunity to try and hone my skills, whether it’s public speaking or my coaching skills. We must continue to sharpen the knife of excellence if we want to be fulfilled, and be useful to others.

Ultimately, we need to find meaning in what we do and this is best described by the various layers of F.I.R.E. we can create. The more we can find Flow, make an Impact, act Responsibly and continuously seek to be better tomorrow than we are today, i.e. Excel, the more meaningful our lives will be.

About Nathan

NF-Bust-BWNathan Farrugia is an entrepreneur. He attributes much of his success to a mindset that challenges the impossible and takes every obstacle as an opportunity to find new solutions to old problems. He has used this mindset to break world record endurance challenges, as well as to grow successful enterprises. He now spends most of his time coaching CEOs and business leaders on how to unlock their own performance potential as part of the UP Academy. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

“Everything I do has purpose”

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In this week’s column from this month’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR), Nathan Farrugia of Ultimate Performance explains what drives him, and how he relishes the opportunity to train others to make an impact

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All that I do has to have a purpose. It has to add value to the business, society and make a difference to people in general. The minute I find that my impact is not useful, then I stop. Whilst I have business goals, personal goals, family and charity objectives, they all have to fit into my ‘meaning of life.’

Whilst I try and balance my energy across all my responsibilities, at the moment, my business plans are taking precedence because the Academy is still a startup. I have a number of associates but just one employee, so we are agile and lean. Each associate was chosen because of their mindset and independence as well as their skill. They have their own business success but contribute to UP (my business) in ways that add value to our clients. Daphne, my business admin is the coordinator of all our efforts, as well as the events organiser. She makes sure that we deliver on our promises to our clients. All the associates are accountable for their own deliverables, so I don’t have to do any management; I just lead the way.

With the Foundation, there’s a management structure which I lead, but I trust fully to deliver operationally. I spend very little time on the day-to-day work involved in running a business and focus my time on vision and strategy. In this way I can ensure that the objectives of the organisation are met by empowering management through leadership.

We have an international market opening up that will take more of my time, but it’s exciting, so worth the sacrifice of time and effort. I’m also a keynote speaker at a couple of international corporate events and this always leads to new opportunities to explore. People around the world seem keen to learn how we unlock leadership and performance potential at the UP Executive Academy and we love to share our ideas. Running the Academy for Chief Executives franchise has also opened up new possibilities as this too can be globalised.

Ultimately my goal is to train more UP coaches and equip them with a toolkit that allows them to unlock the potential of more people, widening our positive impact and helping organisations to grow or increase their own performance, be it financial or social.

Facing challenges

Staying focussed on the journey is the toughest challenge. Many times opportunities take you sideways and off-track because they may be lucrative in the short term, or make sense at the time. But you need to stay focussed on the long view and sit back at the rudder of your ship, not constantly be up in the crow’s nest looking for opportunity.

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Another difficulty is finding talent that has both the skills and the mental fortitude. We have excellent university graduates that have very little experience or problem-solving skills. Knowledge is lost in business if not applied effectively. It’s my job to create the opportunities for talent to be useful, but it’s not always easy to fit in the dedicated time. I see this time as an investment in a future asset – the mind of the employee or associate, helping them grow in parallel with the business. With so many things on my plate I must learn to trust my associates and employees so they can learn from experience. I can’t afford to micromanage. I don’t want to either.

Other challenges relate to the failures of others that impact my life. Lack of respect, poor planning, bad management and lack of vision by collaborators, suppliers or even customers can drive you crazy. I’m a firm believer in resilience and positive action. If clients don’t keep time, I shorten their session. If partners or suppliers fail to deliver, I move on without them. Whilst it may seem easier said than done, I run my life based on mutual respect. Problems are often created in our head by emotions that are out of control. Staying practical and realistic makes my life easier to manage.

I’m a firm believer in altruism. I give the benefit of the doubt and the chance to redeem. I also point the finger at myself first as I can often be part of the problem. By being open and having regular sensible conversations with the people I deal with, we build mutual trust and, mostly, things get done without hassle. If that trust is dented despite the second chances, then I decide to end the relationship, but this is rare.

To keep up with Nathan, and find out what’s next for him on his entrepreneurial journey, don’t miss the third instalment of his blog here next Wednesday.

About Nathan

NF-Bust-BWNathan Farrugia is an entrepreneur. He attributes much of his success to a mindset that challenges the impossible and takes every obstacle as an opportunity to find new solutions to old problems. He has used this mindset to break world record endurance challenges, as well as to grow successful enterprises. He now spends most of his time coaching CEOs and business leaders on how to unlock their own performance potential as part of the UP Academy. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

Hi, I’m Nathan, and I’m a serial entrepreneur

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Each month on the Promoting Enterprise blog, an Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) will give us an insight into their entrepreneurial journey. This month’s entrepreneur is Nathan Farrugia from Malta. His company, Ultimate Performance, works with CEOs, leaders and business owners who are seeking to take their performance to a higher level in business and in life. Watch his TEDx talk here.

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© Samuel Rondot

At the end of 2014, I quit my CEO role at Inspire, Malta’s leading non-profit education and health provider, and set up my coaching business in January 2015. Since then, it’s been an interesting journey of metamorphosis for me personally, building up something from scratch while delivering services to my clients through my coaching services and the Ultimate Performance, UP Executive Academy.  

I spend about half of my time working one-to-one with Chief Executives and Managing Directors who want to challenge their personal and business limits and reach new heights. Often, this revolves around growing or scaling their business, developing strong leadership or a positive and empowering culture. Sometimes, it’s helping them find the internal strength to carry out an exit plan. Everyone is different, but we are all the same. We are wired to be cautious, cynical and suspicious of our own ability. This holds us back and keeps us from achieving great things. My job is to help unlock this potential by asking the right questions and helping to uncover the answers from within.

I’ve been through this growth process myself, as it took a lot of courage to quit a well-paying job with great work-life balance to venture out solo. I grew that courage with learnt techniques, which I now share with my clients. Learning how to build confidence, take risks and prepare for adversity has made me very resilient. I’ve taken on a number of extreme physical and mental challenges for charitable causes, running, swimming and cycling some of the world’s toughest races to help raise funds for charity. These challenges have also helped me develop my character and ability to feel comfortable in extreme discomfort.

For me, the journey is more important than the goal. My journey is one of self discovery and personal growth, as much as it’s about growing a business from a financial perspective.

My mind is currently focussed on developing a scalable model for my coaching business and taking it international. The challenge is always staying true to what you believe in, and being persistent to stay on the right path. Often, opportunities can take you in the wrong direction if all you are chasing is a goal. For me, the journey is more important than the goal. My journey is one of self discovery and personal growth, as much as it’s about growing a business from a financial perspective.

Chairing and running the Academy for Chief Executives franchise in Malta is helping our country’s leaders to develop themselves through peer-to-peer learning and sharing best practice. This is a great space for leadership inspiration and we want to increase our membership.

I also want to spend time in the various foundations I run, including Empower Coop and the Lino Spiteri Foundation, which are creating jobs for disabled persons. Our model is making a difference and we want to spread the word to encourage other countries to follow suit. The recent TEDx talk in The Hague generated some interest, alongside our I AM ABLE media campaign.

In addition to all this, I’m also chairman of the the Paralympic Movement in Malta and we’re gearing up for the Rio 2016 Olympics this summer. We’re a small team but it’s a great feeling to carry our national flag. I chair the Malta Voluntary Sector, which supports the 1000+ NGOs in Malta, and we’re very busy providing training programmes, funding and mentoring to the extremely active sector. Malta has a rich volunteering scene and we’re responsible for its upkeep.

Finally, we’ve just organised Xterra Malta, an annual international triathlon race, which I co-founded, that sees 200 people from 20 countries race in our beautiful Majjistral Nature Reserve. It’s a mecca for mountain bikers and sports enthusiasts and I’m very proud of our national heritage.

So I’m pretty busy at the moment, but I manage to balance this well with my wife and two young daughters, and I also make time for my own personal learning, my sport and my social life.

To keep up with Nathan, and find out what’s next for him on his entrepreneurial journey, don’t miss the second instalment of his blog here next Wednesday.

About NathanDee-I

Nathan Farrugia is an entrepreneur. He attributes much of his success to a mindset that challenges the impossible and takes every obstacle as an opportunity to find new solutions to old problems. He has used this mindset to break world record endurance challenges, as well as to grow successful enterprises. He now spends most of his time coaching CEOs and business leaders on how to unlock their own performance potential as part of the UP Academy. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

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