Like him or hate him, I credit the idea of BubDesk to Jack Delosa of The Entourage. Until attending the ‘Unconvention’ BubDesk was going to be a café with a crèche. Now there’s nothing wrong with the idea of a café with a crèche, in fact I think we desperately need one (open one please!), but you have to sell a hell of a lot of coffee to make a profit. My café was going to be more than a café, staff that doubled as nannies, workshop space so that people could learn as well as relax, sewing classes, language classes, marketing classes, a really cool space. In the end though, I realised, to survive the fierce café competition it would need an expensive liquor license and how many parents were going out to booze with babies in tow? Hmmmmm. Parked.
I was sitting in the audience at The Unconvention of September 2015 listening to the incredible entrepreneurs tell the stories of their success and don’t ask me how, but something that was said that day sparked the idea in me that what Perth needed was a hub for all the female entrepreneurs out there, many of them mums, it could have a café as well, but it needed to be a workspace, a breeding ground for crazy ideas and collaborations, somewhere that brought together all the high energy women that I loved so much to be around, and BubDesk was born.
Bursting with excitement I went home to tell my husband and you know what he said? “I can’t think of anything worse! Collaboration?” Typical bloody engineer – loves to work in solitude on incredibly boring maths based challenges. After a week of me trying to convince him that BubDesk would be a raging success he finally said, “Please find yourself a business partner. I am not your target market. This will end in divorce.”
Hmmmmmm……business partner? Where would I find one of those? Facebook? That night I floated the BubDesk concept in one of the many entrepreneurial hubs (actually more than float the idea, I made it sound like the space was about to open), the next day I met for coffee with someone equally as excited at the concept and within a week this complete stranger was on board as my business partner ready to help me bring it to life.
Now I was lucky, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that if in search of a business partner you should turn to Facebook, it could have gone horribly wrong! In the end, 12 months on we’re actually no longer business partners, but it was brilliant while it lasted. I certainly couldn’t have grown it to become what it is now without her, and we remain great friends, but the stress of not being able to pay yourself for a whole year, with no salary in sight, especially when you’re a single parent was too much and she realised that the corporate world of job security was more suitable at this point in her life. I don’t blame her! …..the daydream of returning to corporate employment often catches me out.
Anyhow, I digress, with a business partner on board and feeling invincible with an idea that I thought was sure to be a huge success, I went in search of a commercial lease. The month was now October 2015 and by February of the following month we had secured a lease, I’d poured $100,000 of my own money into its creation and we were open.
And then?…….and then hardly anyone came! All these people that on Facebook had told me it was an amazing idea, that they’d use it for sure, were nowhere to be seen. Sure, we had some early adopters and more signed on throughout the year, but it was a slow trickle. It turned out that all these people who had been such avid supporters actually couldn’t afford the service. They loved the idea, but their businesses were mostly start-ups, they weren’t paying themselves and they couldn’t justify paying for what we were offering. Oh God, had my husband been right?
Stubborn as hell, I refused to admit defeat. Rent in arrears, my back against the wall, I made my next catastrophic error of judgement, I quit my job. Until that point I had, had the most flexible and accommodating job at Woodside, but I felt like a fraud, sitting there day-in, day-out thinking about BubDesk I convinced myself that if BubDesk was to succeed it needed 100% of my attention and that with that focus I could turn it around. I was wrong.
The Lean Start-Up? Have you read it? Me neither! Another one of those things on my to-do list that I possibly should have prioritised higher than some of the others. Here I was, in debt up to my eyeballs, with a business concept that was so well supported in theory that the perception was it must be doing incredibly well, in a disconnected marriage and with a business partner on the way out the door. I’d made my own bed, I was going to have to lie in it. My reckless approach had brought about all of this. So, what next?
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this epic start-up journey.