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How I’ve succeeded in growing my start-up without a co-founder

Lana Elie started florist marketplace Floom in February and wasn't aware of the sole-founder "taboo". Eight months on, Elie shares what she's learnt from starting a business solo...

Name: Lana Elie
Company: Floom
Started in: February 2016
Company description: Floom is an Etsy-like platform which allows pre-approved florists to upload their bouquets to sell to customers who are time-poor and want a savvy online experience, but don’t want to compromise on quality of product.

Describe your start-up barrier:

Being a sole founder!

The first time I realised what a taboo being a sole founder was was when I’d applied to Techstars accelerator. I remember that “Add LinkedIn profile to your co-founder” (or something like that) was a required field to filling out the applications form. The same issues have arisen with fundraising; some organisations won’t even see me!

How have you worked to succeed as a sole founder?

I’m an only child so being a sole founder has never made me feel less-able, though when I first started realising that it was affecting the kind of accelerators I could get in to, or even people that would invest in me, I was originally incredibly disheartened.

If there were anti-sole-founder cults, there had to be the opposite right?

These were the steps I took to strive for start-up success as a sole founder:

  • Firstly, I found out what the industry “fears” towards sole founders were and then thought ‘How does not having a co-founder actually benefit me'? After a fair bit of asking around I could see that the overwhelming concern for running a business as a sole-founder is that start-ups are hard on people, so having two or more founders to rely on makes things easier – even I can agree with that.
  • So I highlighted the skills I needed in the business that were not my strengths and I built jobs specs for those roles. I then built a great support structure out of the team I hired. I now have a really reliable, driven and inspiring team. I have team members who I can share very important tasks with and also feel responsible for the company the way that I do.
  • Upon reading more and more on the subject of co-founders and sole-founders, and going to many different talks, I found there were actually investors who preferred sole-founded companies and I reached out to them.
  • Finally, I wrote down a list of all the sole founders who have made it big and now and again I remind myself that there’s no defined path to success. It’s what you make of it!

What has being a sole-founder taught you?

It has taught me not to focus on the negatives, and that my company wouldn’t be a company without the team that I’ve built.

I've recently been accepted onto the Mass Challenge UK accelerator programme, have attracted a number of happy customers including WAH London founder Sharmadean Reid and Burberry's SVP of creative; Greg Stogdon, and am about to launch a crowdfunding round.

What three questions should others consider if they want to make it as a sole-founder?

  1. How confident are you not only in your capabilities, but your ability to spend the time and focus learning what you may not already know?
  2. Do you feel hiring and building a team in one of your strengths?
  3. How confident are you that you only need yourself to pull yourself out of a rut? (Because you’ll get a lot of them!)

What one piece of advice do you think prospective sole-founders should consider?

Even people with co-founders get lonely, and fail…

Don’t let not having a co-founder be a limitation, and definitely don’t let it stop you from doing what you love.

Is there anything you would do differently?

Not really, no. Not yet anyway! I’ve made plenty of mistakes but they’ve taught me great things about myself and the business.



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