Best laid plans: I didn’t come to Cambridge with a plan to start a business. Following a six-year stint in the military, I wanted a change of pace. I was looking forward to a year abroad to build my business skills. I was also looking forward to the massive raise in salary that a consulting or finance role would provide. Now I find myself in temporary accommodation, spending every waking minute between a start-up accelerator office and various locations throughout London; testing how long a few pounds sterling will allow me to eat while I attempt to launch a business in the UK. But, here’s the thing; I’m loving every minute of it.
Why the change of heart? During the MBA in Cambridge we were exposed to an incredible entrepreneurial atmosphere. We were able to hear the stories of successful business founders from around the globe, sit down with them for dinner and receive immediate feedback about the ideas that we had. We had hands-on support from some of the most brilliant minds on the planet and it turned out that I couldn’t resist getting swept up by the opportunity to make the leap. So, we are starting Strive – A Human Development Project.
How did this all come about? Fellow MBA and Derrick Quandt (Co-founder of Strive) and I are endurance athletes. We’re constantly testing new training methods and we love sharing these ideas with others. This addiction gained a following in Cambridge after we began hosting training sessions with a local fitness center partner. Our experiment paid off. 270 training hours and 80 athletes later we were able to develop and host our first community endurance event: The Monster Mash. Teams of three came together to race around Cambridge to challenge themselves, have fun, and support Aiducation, a local charity organization. We spent most of our free time from the MBA becoming better trainers and developing a better training philosophy. This all led up to Strive – A Human Development Project.
What now? We’re moving to London. Strive is transitioning to London to provide premium group fitness training to local communities and businesses with aims to become a global fitness brand. We’ve made some significant steps forward already. We’ve received an endorsement from the University of Cambridge for a tier 1 entrepreneurship visa; identifying our plan for Strive as a valid business model. We’re working with several local London partners to kick off our training. With Strive we believe we’ve identified a large, underserved customer base and an uncontested market space to test out our assumptions. Now we’re refining our competitive position, identifying our target demographics, entering into discussions with local suppliers and approaching investors for seed financing. We thought the Global Consulting Project was the culmination of the Cambridge MBA experience and we were wrong. This is it. We’re putting everything we learned in the MBA to the test every day like our future depends on it.- which it does.
No one goes it alone: There is no shortage of challenges when trying to start a business in the UK. There are visa applications, certifications, licenses, restrictions, regulations and the list goes on and on. There is enough to keep Derrick and me busy every second of every day. There are operational aspects which we have a firm grasp on and there are financial modeling and marketing aspects where we are in new territory. That’s where Cambridge comes in again. The support from our University of Cambridge network has been overwhelming. I knew that I was in the company of brilliant minds with incredible experiences. I didn’t realize that so many of them would be willing to invest their time, knowledge and labor at the drop of a hat to support our success. The CJBS faculty, fellow MBAs, and greater Cambridge network have demonstrated that they think what we’re doing is interesting and we’re working hard enough to prove that it’s worth their effort to help. This has been one of the most inspirational parts of our journey so far and keeps us going strong through the challenges. Every day we’re getting smarter, better and making progress in the right direction with help from our friends, family and network. We know we never have to go it alone.
If it were easy everybody would do it: So far, the entrepreneurial experience has been an emotional roller coaster with setbacks and small wins every day. We’re watching our savings shrink, while our responsibilities grow; wondering if we’ll have to pack it up and head back to the States to get a “real” job. We’re working 19+ hour days, frequently waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweats to send updates or refine the business plan. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Our philosophy: We’ll do whatever it takes. Our mantra is “this is the price you pay to live an interesting life.” If nothing else, every day continues to be interesting.
Follow us: You can stay connected and follow our progress. We will continue to document our experience through our website, blog, and twitter page. We’ll do our best to provide witty, interesting and useful content as we move forward. If you happen to find yourself in London, look us up. (We will have an actual address shortly).
Dave Johnson, Strive
Cambridge MBA alumnus