“But really, for us, it’s about bringing together the best entrepreneurs in the UK and London. And this is why it’s so great to have a place like Home Grown: because we find that, actually, so many of our members are already either members here or they know someone that is. And it’s really great to have that sort of community feeling.”
We sat down with our newest member Michael Blakeley, founder of Entrepreneur’s Collective to learn a little more about him and his professional pursuits. Michael is a corporate and eminence lawyer turned serial entrepreneur. He started off working in corporations such as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and ended up working in Sweden for a media group, that also had an accelerator. After 4 years, he came back to the UK and shifted his career focus from law to the dating industry. He launched his own dating application, CLiKD, and realised how difficult it was for entrepreneurs to establish themselves. That led to him launching Entrepreneur’s Collective, which is essentially founders helping founders.
So we started with the basics, and asked him, What is Entrepreneur’s Collective all about?
“We host a number of events for entrepreneurs and investors. We’ve hosted events such as pitch competitions, which we target early stage and SEIS companies. We always have a great panel of judges. Sometimes they’re Dragons, sometimes they’re super friendly, but it’s always interesting. And we’ve hosted other great events at homegrown.
We’ve done lunches here, such as our Fintech lunch, which was brilliant. We got together some of the best fintech investors and start-ups from the UK who came, enjoyed a great lunch and discussed what the future looks like for the fintech sector. But really, for us, it’s about bringing together the best entrepreneurs in the UK and London. And this is why it’s so great to have a place like Home Grown: because we find that, actually, so many of our members are already either members here or they know someone that is. And it’s really great to have that sort of community feeling.”
My curiosity got the best of me, so I had to ask Michael, Why switch from being a lawyer to being an entrepreneur?
“So I used to be a lawyer and for a lot of people who might say, well, that’s a brilliant job, right, you get paid well, you know, you get to do or be involved in a lot of business. But ultimately, for me, being a lawyer wasn’t satisfactory, because ultimately, as a lawyer, you’re always at someone’s beck and call, right? So either you’re working for a client or you’re working for the board. You’re never really making your own business decisions and you very rarely run your own business. So I just got sick of advising people that I felt I was smarter than.
I was also very lucky to come across as an accelerator in Sweden, and I realised I used to sit on the audit committee board. A lot of my work was compliance and law, and I’d spend one day a month at the accelerator trying to help these start-ups understand how to set up their businesses. But I realised that I was more excited and looked forward more to that one day a month than I did to the rest of the month. And I realised that actually, whilst I enjoyed being a lawyer, my real passion was working with start-ups and building a business.
And that was all well and good, but then I thought, well, if I’m going to be a real entrepreneur, then I can’t just advise them, or work and accelerate it. Then you have to actually put your money where your mouth is and actually set up your own business. Though I did get a bit greedy and set up my third business, all of which are sort of growing and building sale.”
So with his wealth of experience helping start-ups, we had to ask, What was his ultimate advice for entrepreneurs trying to launch their business successfully?
“So I think one of the things I would advise every start-up or budding entrepreneur to do is to practise their elevator pitch. You never know when or who you might be speaking to at one of our events or bump into in the corridor at Home Grown, or whatever you might be. And very often you have 15 to 30 seconds to grab their attention. And it’s amazing how often you will come across really amazing businesses or entrepreneurs. But if it’s taking you ten minutes to explain your business or to grab your attention or grab someone’s attention, then you are missing out on lots of business opportunities. So what I advise people to do is take the time out to sit down and work out ‘What can I say in 30 seconds that sums and excites sums up my business?’, but also so will it excite the listener and does it encapsulate what you’re all about. If you can do that, then every day and every journey is a potential new business lead.”
Finally, What was a quote he lives by?
“A quote or phrase that I really admire is one by Marcus Aurelius. The Roman Emperor said, ‘The mountain is the way’. Now, what he meant by that is, if your journey is straight, flat, without any obstacles, then, yes, it’s going to be easy – but every obstacle is an opportunity to excel.
It’s about changing your mindset and looking at every setback or obstacle as something that isn’t pushing you back, but is actually an opportunity to shine, improve yourself and achieve greater things.
Michael will be hosting our next ‘Pitch for Investment Evening’ on Wednesday, 29th September at 6pm.
If you’re interested in enriching your entrepreneurial experience and finding a strong community of entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders then contact our membership team at Home Grown.