Entrepreneurship is a path that requires passion, dedication, and a willingness to take risks. For some, it is a lifelong dream, while for others, it is a spark that ignites at a particular moment.
In this blog, we will explore the journey of Erin Reid, the founder of LU Innovations an entrepreneur who found her spark on a hike through the Scottish highlands. We'll learn what inspired her to create a new product and build a business from scratch. We'll also delve into the challenges she faced and the resources and tools that helped her along the way.
Whether you're an aspiring entrepreneur or someone who's just curious about the journey, this blog is sure to provide valuable insights and inspiration.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur and start your business?
Becoming an entrepreneur was never on my mind as a career path until my final year at university. However, there are a few things from my childhood that stand out to me now, as I reflect, as possible foundations for this path.
As a kid, I was always good with money. I used to be the best in the family at saving money, and I remember I used to charge my brother an interest fee if he ever borrowed from me. My first business. What are siblings for! Thanks, Connall.
My Gran's mottos drilled into me, "just do it now" (her words, not Nike's) and "what's stopping you." Reflecting, I was always a go-getter, always looking for the next adventure or challenge. These two fuelled the fire of entrepreneurship. What I didn't have was a spark.
My spark came from hiking, walking Scotland's most famous multi-day hike, the West Highland Way. And while I was lucky enough to receive amazing weather, enabling me to capture the true unfiltered beauty of Scotland, my walk was dampened by the fact I was on my period.
I opted for the pad, which enabled me to maximize my time wearing the product without the risk of TSS (unlike the tampon). However, it was less than ideal. The exercise and heat meant that I sweated a lot more, and the pad became more uncomfortable and often became displaced, not to mention the hassle of disposing of such products and the amount of waste I had to carry. After ending the trip, I searched and searched for better solutions in which I found very little.
I looked on forums like Reddit and found more people questioning the same things as myself. I researched what the Armed Forces and expeditioners do, but I found more questions than answers. It lit a flame within me, of confusion; how can there not be a solution, of frustration; why is there not a possibility, and determination; I will fix it, and with my Gran's words in my head "what's stopping you," "just do it now." I started researching, networking, and building. And that is the beginning of LU Innovations.
Find out what is driving you, ask yourself why you want to start a business and write it down. If your answer is quick money or fame, you need to think again because there are easier ways. Starting a business, especially an innovative one, is the single most difficult thing I have done in my life so far. LU Innovations is my baby, and I have had to sacrifice a lot of social outings and financial freedoms to do so. But the reward of a job I am proud of, the feeling I am making a difference, and the hope of future financial stability is worth it.
So by writing down the why and placing it somewhere visible, you can read it when days get tough and remind yourself of the bigger picture and your true mission.
The second thing that is essential is creating a strong network. Having a strong network to help guide you and experts that know what you don't make the learning journey a lot easier. Also included in my definition of the network, I include friends and family. The people around you that want you to succeed because they love you. The people you can pick up the phone too and talk it out (or cry it out) with. Always in life, regardless of if you are an entrepreneur, you should surround yourself with people that want the best for you and, in turn, drive yourself to become the best version of yourself that you can be.
What would you say to someone thinking of becoming an entrepreneur?
Do it, you have more to gain than you have to lose. Set yourself goals and be open to yourself about your mindset. Regardless of success or not, it is one fantastic learning experience.
What support, resources or tools have helped you on your journey?
There are so many resources and helping hands out there. The main difficulty is finding them and filtering them to ones that will really benefit you.
First off, I would recommend talking to friends and family about your idea. This will help you to understand your idea better and help you to assess if it is a good idea or not. Then the next step is to contact your university hub (in my case, Edinburgh Napier's Bright Red Triangle) and/or Business Gateway, which will help you to flesh out the idea and help you on the track to establishing a business. Business Gateway is a government-run resource that has tons of articles and helpful pages to help you succeed.
There are also so many resources out there to support different types of ideas. If your idea is charity-oriented, check out First Port. If you're an innovative Med Tec company, check out CPI. If you're a solo ambition (sole trader), check out Prince's Trust. And then there's Enterprise Nation, the Every Women hub, and the list goes on.
One thing that I recommend to any business designing a new product is to enter competitions. It's a really valuable way to get honest feedback and constructive criticism, networking opportunities, and if you're a winner or finalist, great publicity. A lot of competitions also have workshops and webinars connected that can be a great help to your business. The first competition I entered was the Converge Challenge, a Scottish academic entrepreneurship competition, which came with great, and slightly overwhelming, business training courses. It is also good to mention that I never won the first time, but I entered again and won the Create Change award. So if possible and recommended, it is worthwhile to enter a competition multiple times, as long as you think winning will still be beneficial and you act on the feedback delivered the first time.
It can be difficult to know where to start and can be a bit strange to ask for help, but there are people out there. Keep Googling and keep talking.
I do not think there is only one challenge. It seems that they are all interlinked. Business, especially when you are starting out and particularly when you are doing so alone, is a juggling act. You have 10 balls/things in the air at any one time: finance, marketing, engagement, development, team building... So while the challenges themselves can be overcome, the mentality of what am I going to drop next, the never-ending cycle, is arguably the most difficult challenge. But again, having the right mindset to change your perspective to look at how many balls you just caught in a row and having the right network around me to pick up the dropped balls and maybe even take one away completely really helps.
Describe being an entrepreneur with one word?