The Like Minds Ideas Festival was created by Eyetoeye Founder, Drew Ellis. The event has travelled to many an exotic location, from New York to Helsinki. This year it will return again to Exeter, taking place over two days from the 27th-28th September.
Amongst the impressive repertoire of guest speakers and various events taking place is “PitchFest”, an opportunity for 12 (an increase from six last year) new startups to bid for investment in front of a live audience, including angel investors from the UKBAA. Powered by Europes largest crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, PitchFest runs over both days and gives budding entrepreneurs a chance to secure funding that could kick-start their business. Supported by SETsquared based at the Innovation Centre at Exeter University, this year’s Pitch Fest will be especially exciting with £1m in the room to bid for.
One of the finalists from last year’s PitchFest is Simon Scott-Nelson, from sports and lifestyle startup, Wellity. We decided to interview him to find out how he found the whole experience…
Can you tell us a bit about your company?
Wellity Active is a fitness clothing and lifestyle brand that was started by my three children, Phoebe, Joe and Molly. They thought that children needed to be more educated on their health and fitness and communicated to on a level that they understood.
I had another business at the time which I sold to do this – when you’ve got children and you hear about childhood obesity and fitness and then they ask you if you can do something, you feel compelled to act. If we say “no” to children wanting to help themselves, we might as well pack up and go home.
Since launching the initial website in August last year, the momentum has started to build. They’ve now become ambassadors for various initiatives, including Sugar Smart, Great British Sports Show, SW Youth Games, the Cranbrook Healthy New Town Initiative and Young Enterprise. We’ve also expanded to include adult’s sportswear.
You attended the Ideas Festival last year in Exeter, how did you find it?
The festival was terrific. It brings in talent from inside and outside of the area, then everyone can learn and see that there’s a bigger picture. The benefits of the festival really do continue after the event. I’ve spoken at length with people that I met last year and they’ve provided me with so much wisdom that I’ve carried through to Wellity and it’s helped shape the business it is today.
What stage were you at with Wellity when you attended the event last year?
The previous website had just launched, it was really a story-telling website about what they were trying to do. It was great, but it was a child-friendly website and everything that we wanted to do was to not patronise children and show them that they were role models for themselves.
What did you learn from attending the festival last year
I’ve learnt that talking in front of a lot of people whilst being filmed is very nerve-wracking, particularly when you haven’t really got too much of a product to present with! Mine was developing in my head and I was talking about what we wanted to achieve as a family. It was great fun.Hearing people talk about their brands was really insightful and it was great to see how people in those massive companies were so down to earth. It was also inspiring to see local brands reach a national platform.
How did you prepare your pitch, with Wellity being in the very early stages?
I’d been to a few events before which were a case of just throwing your brand idea out there, and those events were great because you get a critique back with the feedback you can work with. But the preparation for this really was just going in, baring my soul on stage and seeing what people thought.
So you felt that you had made an impression, despite not securing the funding?
If I could say one thing about Like Minds it’s that it’s an event that keeps giving even after the festival has finished. Lots of people have approached me since to say “I saw you at Like Minds”, which is why we’d like to do it again this year. It presents such a good opportunity to gain exposure and make amazing connections.
How would you develop Wellity further if you were to secure the funding at this year’s PitchFest?
We’ve just launched our adult ranges, and our new website has just gone live too. We’ve also been contacted by a national chain of shops, so we are looking at working with them to grow the brand further.
What advice would you give to other startups?
You’ve got to follow your heart! I didn’t know anything about fashion or e-commerce, but it was the passion and drive that got us through it. If you’ve got that love for what you’re doing, you see everything in between as a hurdle, rather than a wall. The learning curve has been so frightening but completely enjoyable.
Would you have any tips for people who are looking at pitching at something like this and haven’t done it before?
My first tip is “do it”, and don’t let “no” become an option. The audience wants you to do well and they admire you for being up there. If you’re honest and sincere that will reflect in your pitch. I would also say prepare well and think of some questions that they are going to ask you afterwards.
What are you most excited about for this year’s festival?
I’m excited to catch-up with people from last year as they’ve got a good returning audience, and I’m looking forward to seeing a couple of the speakers. If I do get through to PitchFest, I’m excited to go in with a far clearer idea of the business.
What are you taking forward from last year?
Last year I was telling the story and I almost just wanted people to like it, to reassure me that I was doing the right thing. It was a young presentation in terms of our time-scale. This year I know exactly what Wellity is, and we want to join forces with funders. This year is going to be a far more direct pitch for funding.