Suzanne Noble: Why building contacts is an essential entrepreneurial skill

What’s your best entrepreneurial skill? 

Definitely my network of contacts. I have a very fat address book and I've been able to call upon friends and former colleagues for favours and support. Working in PR for over twenty years has been an enormous advantage in that we've been able to generate a wide spread of publicity in a very short space of time that has contributed to thousands of downloads. 

Did you always want to run your own business?

I've been self-employed since my late 20's when I left working for a West End video production company to produce a series for Channel 4. After that, I joined my husband to work in PR which we built up to become one of the most successful home entertainment PR agencies in the UK. So I've never really known anything but running my own business.  

How does Frugl work? 

Frugl currently works by aggregating content from various sources of events, filtering out anything over £10 and then presenting those events on a dashboard from which we edit and modify the content before pushing onto the app. It's a bit of technology we created that allows us to showcase events that might not get picked up by the mainstream media. 

Did you always want to create an app?

Yes, I just was not sure whether it was going to be a native app (designed for specific types of phones) or a web based app. We did try creating a web based app before the current iteration but it wasn't able to offer the same level of sophistication as a native app so we decided to start again and released the current iOS version in mid-March. 

How have you grown the business and how important was it to grow in stages?

For the first few months it was mainly just me working at my kitchen table. Now my son is helping to curate the content, we have a social media manager who works part-time and a CTO and CFO to help with the technical and financial aspects of the business. I've always grown businesses organically. I think it's very important to get to a stage where there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything before taking on more staff. Frugl is all about lean bootstrapping! 

What was the biggest barrier you’ve come across?

The financial aspect of Frugl is the hardest part. At the moment we're pre-revenue with a focus on user acquisition, our rationale being that you can't attract businesses to spend money on a platform with few users. At the same time, raising investment in the UK can take months and we're definitely going to need some financial help in order to scale so it's all about juggling my own finances to maximise what we can do to build our user base while keeping prospective investors warm for the future. 

What's the best advice you've been given?

Just keep doing what you're doing!  I've been given so much advice, much of it conflicting. Ultimately I just have to trust my instincts and the positive feedback that we're getting from users.

How would you describe your experience as a business founder?

Like most entrepreneurial people, I've experienced my share of failures and successes. I had ideas that I thought were sound and just didn't work and others that became very profitable. Sometimes I've tried to spread myself too thin and worked on multiple businesses at the same time and that rarely works. I made a very conscience decision with Frugl to give it my full attention.

I realise now that's necessary if it's going to work. Funnily enough, since I started generating so much publicity for Frugl, I've been offered heaps of work doing PR for start-ups and businesses supporting them! I've turned it all down although I've been doing bits and pieces of work running talks on generating PR on a shoestring. 

How did you find the process of creating the business and the app?

Creating a tech product is always going to be a challenge when you don't have a huge pot of money. I spent a good six months getting the run around from developers who said they could do what I had in mind but never delivered. From speaking to others in technology, that's not unusual.

What makes it even harder is that London's best developers can take their pick of work so finding anyone that doesn't cost £400/day is challenging. Once my CTO came on board in December 2013, we went back to the drawing board, rewrote the creative brief and interviewed half a dozen agencies before finding the team that we eventually used.

 

Do you have a business story that you want to share? Let us know using the comments box belowYou can find out more about Frugl by checking out their website, liking their Facebook page or following them on Twitter

 

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