The CEO and co-founder of TableCrowd explains how she escaped to form a social network for meeting up over a meal.

I co-founded and am CEO of TableCrowd – a real life social network to meet people over food. We reached minimum viable product around 3 months ago and are now running tables daily for our members to meet over food. Prior to TableCrowd, I co-founded ClickTonight, a website that helps people meet quickly through its online community and off line events.

Before I escaped
Before I escaped, I was a commercial lawyer at Addleshaw Goddard (coming from the Theodore Goddard branch pre merger). In 2007 at around 1.5 years PQE, I left to focus solely on my own business. There was a period when I was working a busy full time lawyer’s job, squeezing in progress on my own business around the edges. I was constantly tired and giving priority to my paid job meant development was slow.

My Moment of truth
I was fortunate to have an amazing boss and I generally I enjoyed legal work, but for me, when assessing the future and what I wanted to achieve, I wasn’t going to find it in a law firm. Firstly, when I looked at the partners, especially the women, this wasn’t what I aspired to be. Secondly, I never enjoyed the perception clients had of their lawyers; we were always viewed as a necessary evil, an annoying bill, rather than something that provides value to a business. Thirdly, it was all change at my firm post merger and not an environment I was enjoying. It was this combination of factors that gave me the final shove.

Planning for it
It was a little fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants – I don’t have the risk-adverse trait that characterises many lawyers. I did a simple calculation and made a call on how long I would need to find something else to tide me over financially if it all went wrong. I decided that one month would be sufficient, so I just needed to make sure I had at least a month’s money, enough to cover mortgage and bills, in the bank at all times (this good intention lasted a while, but it wasn’t long before I was down to my last penny each month!). I hosted a TableCrowd dinner last month for people thinking of leaving the law, and when I posed this question, the response was more like 3 months. Of course, the job market was a lot rosier in 2007 when I made the move.

Worst & Best bits
There are many, but one of each. It’s good because I’m never bored – I only realised this a few weeks ago, but I can’t remember the last time I was bored. There certainly is drama on a daily basis, good, bad & ugly, but there is never a dull moment, and there is only ever ‘reverse clock watching’ – wishing the days would be longer not shorter! It’s bad due to the lack of security – it’s down to me to make sure I get paid each month. There is no regular pay cheque. I am also the lowest priority now we have a team.

Best Advice
If you are starting your own business, don’t go it alone. Find a co-founder that complements your skill set.

Useful resources and info
TableCrowd is running a series of dinners for people thinking of the leaving the City. As well as being a networking opportunity, they are a social outlet for people wanting to talk to others in the same boat about where they are currently and options for the future. Upcoming dinners will be listed here. The next dinner is on 8th January in the City. Join the Crowd to receive notifications.

How I can help
I’m happy to make introductions to help people get the leg up they need – my email is I’m also happy to organise TableCrowd dinners on request for people thinking of escaping who want to meet others with a particular background, interest or concern. Just let me know.

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