Phoebe, Founder of BURO155, writes about her experience as an entrepreneur, reasons why she studied business and tips and tools for business success!
What I do
I’m the founder of BURO155, which helps women achieve their business goals through strategic online content. I always thought I wanted to be a journalist growing up, so I started early, writing for publications like the Moment Magazine and the Huffington Post from the age of 14. There was no brief – as one of the Huffington Post’s resident teen writers, I could cover literally anything I felt like writing about, which meant my articles ranged from Justin Bieber to gun control in America.
When I was 18, I wrote an article for the Guardian about my decision to go to Amsterdam for university. Somehow, the article went viral, and I got such a thrill from witnessing the power of digital first-hand. During my undergraduate degree in Global Culture, I discovered side-hustle culture, and tried (and failed) at a number of different projects. Despite doing everything from organising a 5 day political conference for young people to starting a (slightly ill-fated) translation business at 19, I somehow still managed to fit in the daily drinking and netflixing required of your university years.
Afterwards, I jumped head first into the startup world. I took part in Startup Weekend, where you start a mini business in under 60 hours, and interned at Google for Entrepreneurs’ Amsterdam tech hub. It’s amazing how inspiring it is to be surrounded by entrepreneurs all day every day – I’d get home and daydream about all the businesses I was going to start (and naturally, how rich I’d get from selling said businesses to Elon Musk).
Why I studied business, and what I learned
Inspired by my newly discovered (and slightly exaggerated) identity as a Woman in Tech, I decided to apply for a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship at Amsterdam Business School. Studying entrepreneurship is a funny thing. The startup world is something we associate with one-of-a-kind college dropouts, disruptive companies and idiosyncratic geniuses – not with sitting in a classroom diligently learning how to start a business. I approached the Master with caution, intrigued to see if the course would deliver on its promise to immerse us into the ‘real’ startup world. Luckily for me, it did.
During the year, we got the chance to work at a startup for a month helping out with their internationalisation, we set up our own businesses and pitched to a real venture capitalist, and we sat in workshops with successful entrepreneurs learning about their journey. The experience set my brain in motion, and I sat in lectures trying to absorb as much as I could, hoping I’d be able to put it into practice in my own business.
I knew this was my chance to learn the key business skills I was lacking – pretty much anything numbers related. I worked my ass off to pass Finance, and surprised myself by actually enjoying learning about calculating EBITA and all that jazz. It was the first time I’d picked up a calculator since my Maths GCSE 8 years ago, but I suppose it’s a good adult skill to be able to count.
It helps that the fees in Amsterdam are very cheap (at least, they were until Brexit… thanks Boris). My Master’s degree cost just under £2000 – pretty much the same as doing a couple of courses at General Assembly or equivalent in London. This meant that deciding to do the Master’s wasn’t a horrific financial decision, and I knew I’d make a return on the investment pretty quickly.
Setting up a business straight out of uni
Alongside studying, I’d kept up my writing, becoming a columnist for the Holland Times and contributing regularly to publications like For Working Ladies. Writing is something I really enjoy, so I wanted to find a way to monetise it, and turn it into a viable business.
I came up with my business idea by combining some of the things I enjoy most: writing, meeting female founders, business development and entrepreneurship. I started reaching out to some female entrepreneurs in my network, offering my services for strategic copywriting. Rather than producing snappy, slick copy for product descriptions or social media, my focus was on writing digestible articles with a business goal in mind. My USP is bringing together my creative writing skills, honed through 10 years of journalism, and my business skills, developed in the startup world and through my Master’s in Entrepreneurship.
An example of a project I’ve been working on is for a tech brand aimed at ambitious women. The client wanted to create motivational and inspiring content for her fan base of business women, and the goal was to create lead magnets that would generate signups for her email list. We reverse engineered her ideal customer to work out the kinds of things they would search for, and identified a bunch of topics most likely to appeal to them. From there, I created a series of 30 short articles designed to be digestible and binge-worthy. We’re now in the process of turning these into free downloads that customers will be able to access in exchange for providing their email address.
This project was a success, and the client recommended me to many of her connections, who soon became clients of mine too. I got such a rush from working on fun projects combining everything I love – for most of these brands, I actually embody the ideal customer anyway (young female entrepreneur…), so I’m pretty much writing for myself!
I had the backbone of my business, but I hadn’t yet packaged it up into a neat offering. I wanted to make the most of my energy in case it was short-lived, so I quickly came up with a name, put together a website and visual identity over one (sleepless) weekend, and got to work reaching out to people via Instagram. It’s such a great way to get new clients, and I’ve been amazed at how willing people are to trust someone they’ve only met online. The best thing about this workflow is that everything can change in the space of a day. I can spend one morning worrying I won’t have enough clients next month to hit my target income, hustle at lunchtime to set up a few calls and coffees for later in the week, and suddenly work is flowing in for two months down the line.
The challenges I faced
A challenge so far has been the fast pace with which everything moves. It’s incredibly exciting to work in such a crazy and dynamic world, but you really have to be on top of your shit. Especially if you conduct a lot of your client relationship management via Instagram, as more and more people do these days, it can be difficult to keep track of what you’d promised and to who, and what’s due when.
I’m testing out some productivity and organisational tools to try and figure out a way of keeping everything in one place and under control. So far, the reminders app on my phone has been my best friend, but I really want a way of keeping everything more organised.
I’m also learning how and what to prioritise, and how to listen to my body so that I don’t take on too much. It’s a weird shift, not having a boss looking over you and telling you exactly what to do and by when. Having the freedom to plan your entire day as you choose is the best thing ever, but it’s also a big responsibility, so I’m trying my best to make sure I get a good balance right.
The most difficult challenge has without a doubt been my age. Even though I’ve been writing for international publications for almost 10 years, some people refuse to see past your date of birth, and look down on you for being young. It’s just something that you have to deal with, but it doesn’t feel great when your experienced is questioned, even though you’ve got a bunch of examples of successful client projects under your belt.
Tips and tools – what is imperative for business success
What allowed me to go full-time with my business straight away and without much in the way of savings was networking. I spent the past couple of years relentlessly attending free events in Amsterdam and London, setting up coffees with strangers to hear more about what they do, and putting feelers out to test the waters. This network that I’d built up meant that from day 1 working full-time on my business, I was getting in new clients every day, without having to put in much more effort than usual.
There’s also a great snowball effect: if you have a wide pool of possible clients spanning different industries and countries, that also means that the pool of people who you might be recommended to is much bigger. My biggest tip is get yourself out there. Even if you don’t have a business yet – as I didn’t at the time – go to networking events and make friends with people you click with. Most of the events I went to were free, so it’s not like networking has to be a massive financial investment. You never know who’ll come in handy in the future, and who you’ll also be able to help out by recommending them to your own network. I set up coffees with people right, left and centre – even if I know there’s zero chance of new business. It’s opened the door to new opportunities I never would have anticipated, and I’ve got to meet some amazing and inspiring founders in the process.
My other tip is to do all you can to keep learning. Whether it’s an online course, a workshop at your local community centre, or just by reading books, immerse yourself in everything related to your business. I’m a nerd when it comes to reading, and love business books (the tackier the better, and bonus points if it’s a Kardashian autobiography – the most inspiring business women out there). If there’s something related to my business that I’m struggling with, I pick up a book and get my highlighter out. Learning doesn’t have to involve ultra pricey corporate courses – there’s plenty you can access totally free online, so there’s really no excuse not to get stuck in. Invest a bit of your free time into mastering something you’re struggling with, and you’ll save shedloads of money not having to hire an expert!
How you can get in touch?
If you’d like to know more about me or what my business does, my website is www.buro155.com, and you can also follow me on Instagram @buro155, where I share updates from my daily business life (mainly featuring Sex and the City memes, and my choice of snack for the day).
About the author
Phoebe is Found & Flourish’s resident Business blogger, she is London-born and Frankfurt-, Paris- and Amsterdam-raised. Combining her Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship with 10 years writing for international publications, she’s the founder of BURO155, helping female entrepreneurs achieve their business goals through strategic online content. Phoebe is also a writer, and has written for outlets including the Huffington Post, the Guardian, the Next Web, For Working Ladies and Restless Magazine.
Got any comments or quetsions for Phoebe? Please drop a comment below : )
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