Starting A Business: Can Anyone Do It?


Last week the NEF held the first of their speaker events for the 2013-14 programme.

Held at the rather awesome WAYRA headquarters in London, the title and opening question was “Can anyone start a business?”

For those that haven’t heard of WAYRA before, they’re what might commonly be called a business accelerator, albeit a very large and global one! Each year WAYRA take on a number of young business startups, already established companies with small teams and big dreams, or individual Entrepreneurs with great vision and promise. To those successful applicants who are accepted by WAYRA, the company offers financial support in the form of up to 50,000Euro in the first 6 months, technological and business management support, and a space in one of their fantastic workspaces. There are currently 14 WAYRA Academies dotted around the world globally and each is working with promising young businesses to nurture their growth and ultimately benefit the economy of the country in which they reside. (

The WAYRA workspace in London is somewhere I’d never been before and I was quickly impressed with the venue. It was great to see that each of the startups currently residing at WAYRA had their own workspace and sectioned-off area, often with their own unique signage and some form of eye-catching media to promote what they’re about!

The evening event was kindly introduced and kicked-off by Simon Devonshire, Director of new business ventures for WAYRA Europe. On our speaker panel for the night were Sahar Hashemi OBE, co-founder of both Coffee Republic ( and Skinny Candy, Brett Akker, co-founder and Chairman of LoveSpace (, Demetrios Zoppos, co-founder and COO of onefinestay (, and Giles Brook, founding partner of BEAR ( and also CEO of Vita Coco Europe (

The talk was very interesting and engaging. I love hearing from established Entrepreneurs who’ve been there, done it and in some cases have gone full circle and are now starting back at it again with yet another venture! Their insight and advice was great and I think we all enjoyed listening to the stories behind their businesses, from early day struggles, to finding out about how Sahar came upon the idea to found Coffee Republic and go into business with her brother. All really interesting people, and yet again I’m finding that those who’ve been and done it, the experienced Entrepreneurs; they are all more than happy and eager even, to share what they’ve learnt with young Entrepreneurs and put back into this very collaborative and self-nurturing community.

There were a lot of little snippets that struck a chord with me and which I noted down and took away with me. I’ve written some of them out below, along with who they can be attributed to. I think my favorite though was Sahar’s short discussion on making sure that you “Be your own first customer” and do something that you’re genuinely interested in and believe in.

(Giles) – Vital – the ability to listen, to customers. The quality of the mix and the calibre of your team will define your success.

(Demetrios) – Would love to have started down the startup path earlier. Do not fear failure.

(Brett) – Don’t sit back on your laurels or settle – continue to adapt and improve.

(Giles) – Take space – step out from time to time.