Joppe's Startup Story: From Fintech sales to children's author

Joppe is a former Sales Manager in Fintech. He completed the Startup Accelerator in 2016 and has since published a successful children’s book and started a business on Amazon, as well as a separate Amazon advisory business

What businesses have you started since Escape?

I wrote and self-published a children’s book about cleaning your teeth, called ‘What’s That Smell?’. It was illustrated by Lamia Sbiti, a fellow escapee who I met through the Escape community. The story was inspired by a poem I shared at an open-mic during the programme and the community encouraged me to put it out into the world. The book is stocked in Waterstones, WHSmith and is available on Amazon. It was also endorsed by the Oral Health Foundation, one of the World’s leading independent oral health charities, and was featured in their Monthly Smile Campaign.

Following the book, I co-founded an Amazon business, also with someone in the Escape community. The business model is product agnostic and instead we use data-driven analysis on keyword searches to find and fill gaps in the Amazon marketplace. We now also consult established retailers on how to optimise the sale of their products on Amazon, including their brand awareness, product display and pay-per-click advertising. We spent thousands of hours learning about Amazon and now we leverage that knowledge to help corporates who don’t have the time or expertise to make the most of this distribution channel.

Describe your life before you founded your business. What were you doing professionally and how were you feeling?

I was a Regional Sales Manager for a fintech company called Factset. After 9 years in financial services, I was ready to try something new and had always felt the urge to build something for myself. I wasn’t that happy in my job anymore so I joined Escape’s Startup Accelerator in September 2016 and I’ve never looked back. I quit my job 6 months later. I took the advice from the programme and saved money to give myself a runway before I left.

What did the Escape community mean to you? How did it help? What elements of the programme resonated the most with you?

I found the illustrator for my book and many friends who have given me solid advice through Escape, so the community has been really good to me. The programme gives you the nudge to actually do stuff and it prompted me to move from thinking about doing something to actually taking action. Being taken out of your comfort zone, in a room full of people also out of their comfort zone is very powerful. It’s been a few years now and I still see some of them and I am working with others on business ventures and partnerships. The Escape Club Facebook page is a good source for advice and staying in touch with the network. I like having the opportunity to advise others who are interested in building something in the ecommerce space and giving back to the community.

What has been your biggest challenge since joining Escape? This can include during the accelerator or after – what’s been the hardest part?

During the programme I had no solid idea of what I wanted to do and what sort of business I wanted to build, but developing the startup mindset is more important than the idea itself. After the programme and at the start of building the business, it was a struggle financially and it took longer than expected to pay myself a small salary. I also had a second child and moved house from London to Peterborough during this time. Even though the business is doing well, cash flow is always a focus when you’re selling a physical product. We invested into the business ourselves and we are now coming out the other side. We follow the lean methodology from Escape, and Amazon allows you to test the market with small volumes of stock to start with, which helps.

What advice would you give to those feeling the way you did before you began your escape?

Everyone has their unique situation and it depends on their own journey. Having a financial plan is vital and don’t give up the day job before you can afford to. Build an income stream on the side if you can. Starting a company is a 24/7 business and it’s on you to make it work, but the rewards are all on you too, so there’s a big incentive to keep going.

Finally, is there anything you’d like to share with the Escape community?\

Yes! If you want to find out more about my book, then check out www.routineadventures.com.

I’m always on the lookout for contacts in established businesses who are looking to maximise and grow their business on Amazon. You can have a look at how I can help at www.generationamz.com 

Joppe completed Escape the City’s Startup Accelerator in 2016. Find out how Escape’s 12 week programme can help de-risk your finances and launch your business in 3 months.

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