Guest post written by Daniella Latham (https://twitter.com/Gold_of_Danae on Twitter)
At The Escape School last night we were privileged to hear from Colin Pyle about how he left the corporate world for a life of adventure and entrepreneurship.
Colin’s got a story that many Escape devotees dream of. A born entrepreneur, he graduated from Ryerson University in Toronto with a degree in Finance, and co-founded a successful currency brokerage startup, which was sold in 2008 just before the Lehman Brothers collapse.
Frustrated with the restrictions of the corporate world and hungry for a new challenge, Colin decided to embark on a life-changing motorcycle ride across China in 2010 with his brother Ryan, a Shanghai-based photographer with similarly itchy feet.
A self-confessed amateur who had never even been camping before, Colin leapt headfirst into the exhilarating challenge and broke a Guinness World Record along the way, whilst also enduring terrifying incidences such as being chased by the Chinese military and crashing his bike several times. As Colin recalled wryly, “a bad day on my desk job was never as bad as that!”.
The brothers followed up this trip with a 54-day circumnavigation of India in 2012. Both epic rides were documented in books and became TV shows originally aired on the Travel Channel, with The Middle Kingdom Ride (China) recently picked up by Netflix.
Colin then completed an MBA from Hult International Business School, and became an active entrepreneur in London, England, where he is currently concentrating on his ventures CRU Kafe and Silicon Real, a weekly talk show about the London technology startup scene and its people. His main focus is CRU Kafe, which is transforming the single serve coffee industry by producing eco-friendly, amazing tasting coffee (voted best tasting coffee pod by the Sunday Times) in a soon-to-be wholly biodegradable pod.
As well as regaling us with his awe-inspiring story, Colin passed on the following advice for those wishing to enter the entrepreneurial world.
“Be self-aware” is practically Colin’s personal mantra. Don’t romanticise the startup world or fall into the ‘rock star’ mentality of some entrepreneurs.
Building a business is fantastic, but it also means leaving your ego at the door, and being prepared to put in the hard long graft, especially during the first couple of years. As Colin succinctly put it, when you start your own business, “the highs are high but the lows are lower”.
Take baby steps but take the first step
Scared of taking the big step of leaving a stable job and financial security? Try to get as much done as possible whilst still in a job with a steady income. Develop your business idea, formulate a plan, manage your cash flow and network like crazy. Take advantage of being able to work part-time or flexi-time if your company allows it.
Taking these baby steps now means you’ll be ready to hit to the ground running when you do make the final leap. However, still be self-aware enough to know when to fully plunge into your new career – know when you need to “run and never look back”.
Network, network, network!
Revisiting the “know yourself” theme – you’re only as smart as yourself. Don’t be afraid to use your existing network to reach out to people smarter than you for help. Colin readily admitted how crucial his contacts were in building CRU Kafe, due to his lack of experience in the coffee industry. You simply can’t know everything, so proactively build a solid network of business contacts, by attending events, workshops and talks with like-minded people, as well as getting your intent known – i.e. spread the word about your ideas through blogging, social media, etc.
To MBA or not MBA?
MBAs aren’t for everyone, but are an amazing way to level up your business knowledge and develop an invaluable network of contacts. Check your existing financial sources to see if an MBA is feasible, or consider gaining experience on the job by working for a startup first.
For an alternative MBA experience, consider Escape’s Startup MBA, which brings together all the diverse aspects of startup management in an expert-led, hands-on double-weekend course, and won’t break the bank.
What matters most is how you see yourself and to know your capabilities – know when you need to “run and never look back” into the entrepreneurial world.
Building a business is a constant learning curve – don’t be afraid to fail, but try to minimise risk where possible. Finally, never underestimate the importance of networking, both online and offline – you can only know so much!
EDITED BY CELIA
Follow Celia’s blog “Dared, Determined, Done!” about making big life and career changes.