Dicky's Startup Story
This is Dicky, Escape School Alum and Founder of Morse Toad, a messaging company for all those occasions that require something unconventional, extraordinary and personal. He’s someone who loves to create new things, conjure up new ideas and then bring them to reality. Here he shares his startup story…
Describe your life before you escaped? What were you doing professionally before you escaped?
I helped sell office blocks and hotels. I spent a lot of time in spreadsheets and creating sales particulars.
How were you feeling at this point in time?
I was bored, uninspired and miserable. I was unable to find any meaning in what I did. I had no sense of purpose.
What main blockers were stopping you from starting your own business before joining Escape’s Startup Tribe?
On reflection, what I needed was both approval and self-belief. I needed approval from my nearest and dearest to give it a go. I’ve since learnt that you don’t need approval from anyone except yourself. The self-belief is harder to come by. I was in a job I didn’t enjoy, so it’s hard to derive any self-belief from that. Instead, I did a lot of endurance challenges that enabled me to push myself and gain a sense of achievement.
Why did you decide to join the Tribe?
I had already taken the first steps to set up my company. I had left my job, listed the company and started the process of a product. When I heard about the Tribe, it represented a platform from which I could progress with my idea and expose me to an audience that was sympathetic to my mission.
What did Escape’s Tribe mean to you?
The Tribe meant a community of people striving to do the same thing. In the early days, you need encouragement and positivity. You need ‘Yes’ people. Your friends and family may be more likely to be ‘constructive’ with their feedback. Great, but perhaps not the best source of energy for your business.
How did you start to overcome your startup blockers?
I was made redundant in 2009. I took a sabbatical on a bicycle journeying 5 months from Cairo to Cape Town. After another spell in the corporate world, I took a second ‘radical’ sabbatical following the principles laid out in a book called ‘How To Find Fulfilling Work’. I worked in 5 different short-term jobs over 10 months in vastly different environments. These trips took me far out of my comfort zone and exposed me to different ways of working. They showed me that I could actually do what I wanted. They gave me the self-belief to choose what I wanted.
Even after that, I was still unsure if I was cut out to go out on my own. But at that time, I met my wife. She showed me that there was actually no other option. Set up your business, or forever be asking yourself ‘what if’.
From the Tribe experience, which learning has served you most going forwards?
The best thing I learnt was the confidence to just put yourself out there. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. The older you get the more you realise no one cares what you do anyway.
What have you been up to since finishing the Tribe?
I officially launched Morse Toad Messaging about 2 months after the tribe. The business has grown consistently partnering with Not On The High Street, Yumbles and a number of corporates like Virgin and GoCardless. We recently received investment and are pushing ahead with new products. We are also on the look-out for a marketing guru to join the team.
What are you doing now? What does your day-to-day look like right now?
My list tends to be something that only ever gets added to. As a business owner, you have to be a jack of all trades. On any given day I might be working on product design, manufacturing and accounts. What I love is that no day is ever the same.
What has been your biggest challenge since joining Escape?
Marketing is the biggest challenge. As an internet business, you need to be in lots of different places online to drive traffic to the site. There are never enough hours in the day, and it is so easy to waste money trying to find something that works.
From a personal point of view, the challenge is summed up by this graph. On any given day, you can be hit by 3 different dramas followed by 3 different big wins. It can be exhausting. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. That is for certain.
How are you dealing with this challenge?
I set up my business on the south coast in the New Forest. My commute is 10 mins, sometimes along the coastal path if it is sunny. It’s a beautiful place to live.
For all those days that are stressful, I do some exercise, take the dogs for a walk, embrace the present and my good fortune to be where I am. Whilst I work a lot of hours, I take some time out each day to clear my mind.
How are you feeling about yourself now?
Every day I wake up with a purpose, which is fulfilling in itself. My goal is to build a unique messaging service that people love the world over. On that basis, I feel great.
How can we help?
- We are looking to promote our products to businesses. We send a lot of gifts as staff welcome gifts, client thank yous and as marketing/promotional products for goody bags and giveaways. We are always on the lookout for new corporate customers.
- We are looking for a marketing guru to join the team. Get in touch if you’re interested.
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