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If I’d only known: Best advice from founders to founders

This year, we met many founders of impactful startups and businesses where purpose shined through brighter than ever. 

We have asked our founders what one piece of advice would they give themselves if they had to do it all over again. 

Their answers were quite different but equally valuable and inspiring. Some might have wanted to take the idea more seriously from the beginning; others give much-deserved credit to whom you partner with on this journey. 

Are you curious to discover the sacred recommendations from our seasoned founders?

Discover below the highlights of 6 exceptional founders interviewed in 2021:

1. Millie | Rachel Klausner | Workplace giving made fun

Millie facilitates workplace giving through an interactive platform. Its founder Rachel, has throughout the years received the same advice from other founders, and it has stayed in her head to this day:

 “Being a founder is the craziest roller coaster. The highs are so much higher, and the lows are so much lower than just doing your average job or being a regular professional.”

It is so that she regularly reminds herself when one of the low points calls her door instead of questioning if she should keep going or what it is she is doing. 

“I remember someone telling me that, and it has really helped me in some of those low moments and helps ground me in some of those high moments.”

Launching a new business idea is exhilarating, and there will be many high waves. Some days will be amazing, deals are closing, and it feels like you have it all sorted out. But having that mantra and visualizing the journey as a roller coaster with its ups and downs has kept her more humble and grounded. Rachel gained the perspective to see that the high was just one day in a week, a month, and a year. 

“Because sometimes founders, myself included, could have a great day, and you could be like… “Okay, let’s go hire those other few people!” “Let’s go do those things that we want to do!” Okay, well… slow down. It’s just one of those extra highs.” 

In the end, what has worked for Rachel and Millie is to keep herself more levelled during those super high and super low moments.

2. Polaris Digital | Marco Bombardi | Impact driven strategic business partner

Our next founder Marco helps other impact-driven founders grow as a strategic business partner. During our chat, he highlighted the importance of delegating with confidence and reserving the time to dedicate it entirely to grow the business. 

“Don’t underestimate the value of having this built-in filter of people who care about Impact, who care about people, about the planet… and how that’s going to have a practical impact on people being more proactive and knowing how to communicate and being kind to clients.”

For Marco, it is critical to skip transactional work and spend his valuable time on things that matter. For that, hiring impact-driven freelancers has been the best solution. 

3. OLIO | Saasha Celestial-One | The local app fighting food waste

Located in the UK is Saasha, Co-Founder of OLIO. This app connects neighbours with the purpose of sharing food instead of throwing it away. For Saasha, it was crucial to select mindfully who she teamed up with and how the work would unfold for both parties.

“My co-founder and I are incredibly close friends. We were very thoughtful about how we set up our partnership to make sure that we didn’t put our friendship at risk and set us both up for success.”

Saasha and her Co-Founder Tessa were not only organized and open about their intentions, but they also relied on the help of a book called: The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a StartupAfter reading it, they sat down and worked through all of the different areas it raised. 

“Co-founders need to work through and decide equity, etc. And whilst our relationship has gone from strength to strength, I’ve seen so many other founders committed to a co-founder. But, ultimately, they had to go separate ways. That can be really damaging for the company and the culture and morale.”

Saasha’s ultimate advice is to team up with a well-trusted Co-Founder. Someone to hold you accountable, go through the highs and the lows…

“But it’s as important as deciding potentially who you’re going to marry.”

4. Kuri | Baptiste Malaguti | The sustainable cooking app

Baptiste is the vegan founder of Kuri and has a special passion for food and the planet, thus his lively and aesthetically pleasing cooking app. Baptiste started Kuri with the mission to spread awareness about the importance of our food choices and how we can nurture ourselves and our environment through seasonal produce. His advice for other founders is:

“I think it’s really important to focus not only on the impact side of things but also on the core value that you’re proposing to your users. You can build a product that looks incredible on paper from a climate perspective and an impact perspective. But suppose it doesn’t bring practical value to your users. In that case, you’re going to spend a lot of money on marketing on something that people don’t actually want to use.”

5. We Act | Raymond Laracuenta | The collaborative chat app for activists

Raymond saw a niche and created a solution to improve collaboration and communication among change-makers. Raymond is the founder of Software, creators of WeAct, the collaborative app designed for anyone striving to create positive social change. Providing the tools for more effective ways of communicating and organizing. His advice for other Startup founders was to look global when hiring:

“Work for Impact has provided us with the ability to hire really top-flight skills anywhere in the world as we need it. Where you can manage those skills is really just a push-button…Now I’ve worked with people worldwide: graphic designers, developers, copy editors, bloggers….”

Raymond considers the “traditional” hiring process time-consuming and expensive. Where in most cases, the work and the capital don’t line up. Resulting in onboarding employees that are not needed permanently. For WeAct, what has served them is to rely on on-demand talent. 

“We just go there (Work for Impact), post a position, and get lots of interest and enthusiasm. And I think that’s really key for startups, especially founders who are bootstrapping, which is more and more the common path.”

According to Raymond, this “freelance approach” has been a great solution and advice, and it has served them when needed. They were also happy to reach out again when collaboration was successful or the workload increased. As a result, it has helped Raymond keep costs lower and collaborate with the best available talent.

“If you go into a freelance approach, you bring them in when you need it. If it’s just in time skills, you bring those skills in, work with them, and then you’re done. And if you need the people to come back, they’re happy to come back, pick up where they left off, or start something new.”

6. Botany Labs | Friedrich Eickhoff | The Air Purifier & Smart Planter

Friedrich is the CEO and Co-Founder of Koru, the air purifier and self-watering smart plant pot that will not only care for your plants while you are away but also the overall quality of the air in your home. 

At the beginning of their journey, Kuri plans to start production in early 2022. But what helped the Founders at Botany labs so far the most has been having mentors:

“We had one on the engineering side and the other on the marketing side. Then we had a third person, more on the psychological side. So somebody who understood psychology very well and knew how to help our collaborators and us be grounded again. There’s always something going on, stress levels going up, we’re all human at the end of the day.”

Friedrich highly recommends every person who wants to start a business find a go-to mentor. He highlights how it can be helpful for various topics, business or non-business related:

“I’ve recently started a leadership journey with DSIL. I’ve learned that the more human communication, interactions are actually happening, the more trust we gain and the better we can work together.”

And as with any “relationship”, sometimes taking off the business hat and taking on the very human hat is extremely important to get to know each other and actually work better together.

“In the end, we are all humans, and we need to drive change from the inside to the outside. “

This post was packed with great recommendations, so we have decided to summarise the key takeaways from our partner founders below.

Top advice from founders to founders:

  1. Stay grounded during high and low moments and try to gain perspective to avoid impulsive decisions over these periods.
  2. Build your team based on shared values so you can delegate with ease and dedicate your time to growing your business. 
  3. Start your business with a trusted co-founder and agree on a structure that sets you and your partner up for success. 
  4. Don’t get lost in the impact of your business. First and foremost, it should serve a real consumer need. 
  5. Embrace a flexible freelance work method where you can bring top talent in and terminate your collaboration when needed without any hassle.
  6. When working with different co-founders, partner with a mentor to keep everyone grounded and help the team navigate stressful times.

What advice would you give your younger self when starting out? Tag @workforimpact and share your advice on Facebook or Instagram.

We feel incredibly fortunate to have met so many inspiring and impactful organizations with whom we all share the common vision of working together towards a better tomorrow. Thank you for your continued support over this year.