Navigating the early stages of your business

Many people dream of owning their own business, but few understand how difficult it is to build something from the ground up. We hear of success stories – the overnight sensations who create such an amazing product that they can’t keep up with demand. In reality, that’s the case for less than 1 per cent of companies.

I launched Fodbods in October 2019 after identifying a gap in the market for convenient and healthy FODMAP friendly food options. Ten months in we have nearly 2000 loyal customers, our bars are stocked in over 100 stockists and we’re finalists in the Healthy Food Guide Awards for best Allergy Friendly Snack.

The journey so far has been fun, exciting and rewarding. There have been countless challenges and mistakes along the way and I know there will be many more in the future. Being your own boss certainly has its benefits. However, you should be prepared for hard work and relentless dedication. Here are a few pieces of advice, if you’re contemplating taking the leap.

Do the groundwork

No matter how much conviction you have in your idea, there is no way of knowing whether it will succeed. I worked on Fodbods as a side hustle for over a year – researching, testing, designing and building – all while working long hours as Director of Operations for a global tech company. There was a LOT of trial and error, particularly with product development. I probably made over 200 samples, which I tested on family, friends and co-workers.

Play to your strengths

Everyone has a different set of skills and there’s no blueprint for what a successful entrepreneur looks like. My career spans law, finance, venture capital and I have a lot of experience working in and mentoring startups. My diverse background definitely gave me an advantage for starting Fodbods, however there were still gaps in my capabilities. I worked hard to learn new skills and for things I couldn’t do myself, I sought out expert freelancers and consultants.

Build a support network

With any new company, you’re going to face many unfamiliar challenges and your best strategy is knowledge. A lot of information is accessible on the internet, however there are nuances to each industry that require more probing. I try to identify people with detailed knowledge of the specific challenge I’m facing and ask them targeted questions. Having a strong support network of people to call on has been invaluable on my journey with Fodbods – from celebrating the highs to pushing through the lows.

Be flexible but keep moving forward

Building your own company is hard at the best of times, let alone during coronavirus times. I’m driven by results, many of which have been rendered impossible by current circumstances. I’ve had to put plans on hold – trade shows, international expansion, product development. Instead I have used this time to think carefully about where I want to take the brand and establish the foundations required to scale the business.

Celebrate the small wins

You should never start a company because you want to get rich. You’re unlikely to make much (if any) money in the first couple of years so you need to find reward in other aspects of the journey. With Fodbods, my reward comes from customers telling me they love the product or that Fodbods has made a positive impact on their lives. I find reward in learning, picking up new skills and solving complex problems. I have also been fortunate to work with amazing people and it’s humbling when they get as excited about Fodbods as I am.

Vanessa Hutchinson, Founder and CEO, Fodbods

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