Case study

Entrepreneur — Georgie Nightingall

From running a tuck shop at school to undertaking a philosophy degree at university, Georgie relishes solving problems. Her role as a project manager helped her on the path to setting up Trigger Conversations

Why did you decide to start your own business?

I've always been interested in solving problems where I believed things could be done better. This process involves deconstructing what's happening and what works (processes and principles), understanding where there's space for improvement, creating hypotheses for how to achieve this, experimenting with these ideas and then working on them until I come up with something that's really effective.

Most problems I solve are my own, and they end up also being those that others share too. As a 12-year-old, I started a tuck shop from my school locker. This gave me the confidence to follow through with my ideas.

I always wanted to start a business, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I had an idea I was passionate about. I started Trigger Conversations because I was struggling with wanting better conversations. I knew there was a market for this, as others shared the same problem, and felt that there was a solution out there - I just didn't know what it was yet. That was my drive to solving it.

How did your degree inspire your career choice?

I studied the four-year MA Philosophy at The University of Edinburgh followed by MSc Emotions, Credibility and Deception (Applied Psychology and Linguistics) at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Philosophy taught me how to deconstruct thought and build arguments, which is more of a 'meta-skill'. Applied psychology and linguistics fuelled my passion and understanding of the hidden dynamics at play in social interactions and how they can be influenced.

My degrees taught me plenty of theory but this isn't relevant until you're able to apply it to the world, experientially. It was this, combined with extra-curricular activities, curiosity side projects and internships that helped me to develop my ideas, skillsets and passions. I experimented throughout university and after graduation.

Working as a project manager suited me very well and it gave me a sense of what I liked (and didn't like) doing. It was while in this role that I had the idea for my business.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Just get started - do what you can, with what you have, and wherever you are. It's so easy to get lost in trying to solve huge problems and feeling you need to have a website and business plan set up beforehand - but you don't. It's a waste of time because the initial stages are about understanding the problem you're trying to solve, testing hypotheses and focusing on an idea until you identify a market fit and can build that first group of customers.

When I launched Trigger Conversations, I built as little as possible. I designed an Eventbrite page with copy and an initial logo, a basic Facebook page, and talked to friends and other people about it. Then I launched the first event within eight weeks.

What are the top three skills needed to be an entrepreneur?

  • Passion - you need to fall in love with what you're working on. Otherwise, you'll get bored quickly and give up when it's not fun, or people won't invest in you or the product. Passion is infectious and people invest in people.
  • Resilience - it can get stressful running a business as there are so many spinning plates, including building an awesome product, finding a market and understanding how to tap into it and sell, recruiting people to help you and managing them, dealing with legal aspects and more. There's a lot you don't know and you don't know how important these things are, so you spend time and energy trying to figure out how to do everything. You have to take risks and make decisions every day, which can be emotionally draining - but it also makes you grow. Resilience is founded in having a good relationship with yourself, looking after yourself and not giving up, while viewing each day as a new opportunity.
  • Curiosity - being an entrepreneur is about solving problems. You need to constantly ask 'why?' and what's behind that 'why?' Questions prompt insights that dig deeper into issues and spark new connections. You'll always be learning so having curiosity is essential.

What sacrifices have you had to make to be successful?

Stress drastically affects the body and mind if you haven't put good boundaries in place and don't have a support network. Many entrepreneurs want to go fast and tend to burn out, which isn't sustainable. I experienced a lot of psychological and existential stress and couldn't switch off from my business. This affected my health and I had to take some time out to get better.

I'd also add that finances could be hit hard if you let them - ensure you have a savings buffer and decide how much time and money you'll invest in a project before moving on.

What are the five key elements for running a successful business?

  • Take small steps - start small and dream big.
  • Forgive yourself - it's a hard game to play, but a fun one. Don't make it harder.
  • Ask for support - you cannot do it all yourself and you'll need to rely on networks to learn new things and family and friends for care, love and support. It's important to have boundaries.
  • Talk to your customers - that's where you'll get the answers for what they want.
  • Ask 'why?' five times to get to the heart of any problem.

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