1. Tell us about Prettly – what is it and how did you start?
Prettly is a website where women can book beauty treatments to the location of their choice. It was officially started by my co-founder, Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista – Rhea is originally from Greece, where it’s common to receive treatments such as manicures in your home. She discovered that there was a desire for this in London, and a strong community of freelance beauticians doing this anyway. With the rise of on-demand marketplaces such as Uber and Ocado, I totally loved the idea. I joined her a few months after she started the business – we had a common connection in London Business School, plus I really enjoyed working with her and respected her vision and approach for the company.
2. What do you think is the key to secure fundraising for start-ups? What should aspiring entrepreneurs keep in mind?
Fundraising is very tough! For Prettly we were lucky to secure a seed round of funding with some incredibly accomplished investors and advisors, but it was quite a process and as first-time entrepreneurs we definitely learned a lot of tough lessons. This is also a very big topic and question, but in a nutshell I would recommend being very prepared before approaching potential investors, follow through with your promises and be persistent, and build a strong network of experienced mentors to guide you through the process. Also importantly, remember that it is a two-way street – bringing someone into the fold of your business – in other words, your passion and a massive part of your life! – will impact everything, so consider each person just as carefully if not more than they are considering you.
3. What were / are some of the initial challenges with setting up a new business? What did you do to tackle those challenges?
The first few challenges were establishing credibility, gaining some traction among customers (outside of our own friends!) and putting founder agreements into place. Each one is a subject on its own, but I cannot stress the impact that mentors had. Rhea and I together sought amazing mentors and advisors, and then also had our own individual advisors, because pursuing a start-up has a big impact not only on your career but your life. We were incredibly surprised and overwhelmed by the positive response that we received from some highly influential individuals, just as a result of using our networks, and also cold-contacting people on LinkedIn. A well written and focused email really does go a long way!
4. Are there any online tools or resources that you can guide aspiring or current entrepreneurs towards?
For women, I definitely recommend subscribing to Ada’s List. It is a Google group of women from around the world that are sharing advice on a number of topics, with a heavy focus on technology and entrepreneurship. The emails can be a bit overwhelming in terms of volume, but you can manage that with folders in your inbox. The second recommendation for me is by far LinkedIn – we have used it for everything from getting advisers, investors, new hires, sales leads and press contacts. I cannot live without it. My third recommendation is a VC newsletter called First Round Review – there are a lot of resources out there, but I’ve found articles from this one to be particularly insightful.
5. What has been the most effective way to raise awareness of your business?
Initially, press coverage, and making good use of our networks.
6. Have you used any networks to help you achieve your goals? If so, what networks have you used and which have been the most helpful?
In addition to the ones I’ve mentioned above, I have to say that the London Business School network was so helpful. I really encourage reaching out to your undergraduate – or even high school! – networks for support and encouragement in getting your business off the ground.
7. What is the most valuable piece of advice you have ever received? Do you have any advice for our readers?
It’s really hard to choose just one, but something that I’ve been leaning on a lot lately is to learning how to strategically (and politely!) say no to tasks and projects that will derail you from your goals. This is really hard for someone like me and I know many others, especially women – some of us are inclined to want to help people out, and saying no can be excruciating, it can really feel unnatural!
And finally some short answer questions for our readers:
Israa Nasir, Co-founder of Ammi Service and a Therapist
Video: Nazish Hussain, Founder of Secret Stash
Farrah Hamid, Founder, Prettly.com
Madiha Waris Qureshi, Consultant, World Bank
Arsla Jawaid, Foreign Policy and Counter-terrorism Guru
Sana Khan Niazi, Founder, Paimona
Sobia Sheikh, Finance Manager, Sodexo
Ruqayya Diwan Adamjee, Creative & Social Impact