Oli Barrett: "Redundancy is an opportunity to start up"

Wednesday is, so the research goes, the most depressing day of the week. Deepening this one-in-seven calendar black hole yet further comes more news of job losses, youth unemployment rates, and oversupplied universities which have been forced to close their doors to 13 of the 14 candidates applying for each place they can offer.

But there is a way forward. And entrepreneur and entrepreneurial motivator Oli Barrett teamed up with business-starting encouragers Make Your Mark and the British Library last night to prove it.

‘Passion into Profits’ was all about showing people who had found themselves without job and struggling to find one that, actually, creating a business out of something you truly love can a sensible stop-gap source of income while you find your next employer – it can even become a whole new career. And, often, you end up enjoying it more than anything you’ve done before or would have gone on to do.

Oli wrote on his blog last night: “The thinking behind the event was simply that at a time when thousands are being made redundant or are unable to find their first job, perhaps working for yourself is a good option.”

He was quick to point out, though, that it’s not just as easy as setting up shop with your dream idea and everything falling into place, bringing in millions and you suddenly becoming happier than a Blue Peter presenter surrounded by golden Labradors in a toilet roll factory. There are complications.

“Firstly, when should you turn a passion into a profit, and when should it remain just a passion?  Secondly, at what point does someone who has decided to set up a venture cease to enjoy their activities, precisely because their business has taken off, meaning that they are drawn away from their original passion.  Thirdly, is talk of starting a business in a recession absolute nonsense?”

Expanding on this third question, Oli points to some pretty sound arguments. Firstly, that during economic downturns, consumers want discounts and great deals. Because startups are more nimble and flexible than larger companies, they’re able to offer this while their more established competitors struggle to.

Secondly, with so many people being made redundant, there’s huge pools of fantastic talent out there ready to be sucked up and injected into your team. Oli argues that staff taken on now are likely to be more loyal and focused than in more comfortable economic times.

And, of course, if you start a business now you’re going to be more aware than ever of the need to keep all costs as absolutely micro as possible. Which isn’t as hard as it sounds, since there are lots of great deals out there with landlords and suppliers being forced to drop prices to keep business rolling. “It can’t be too difficult to argue that if a venture can survive in a recession, its prospects in a boom must be rosy,” he adds.

“I look at it this way; our speakers this evening [who have each started their own businesses out of a passion having been made redundant] have multiple customers. Multiple clients. Multiple sources of income. By contrast, even the best paid of corporate employees in the room were reliant on just one cash provider. At a time when talent is waiting to be snapped up by entrepreneurial spirits, problems ready to be solved and customers ready for a change, who are the REAL risk takers now?”

Find out about future ‘Passions into Profits’ events by emailing matthew at makeyourmark dot org dot uk.


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