• Ngaire Blankenberg

The 50 year old Entrepreneur: Money and Mentors


So I am diligently trying to follow the entrepreneur’s playbook (gleaned from the internet and multiple excellent podcasts)- but there is one thing that is still baffling me. How do I find enough money to support myself and my family RIGHT NOW and how do I find the right mentors who can lead me to the right team members all of which I apparently need to get more funding in order to scale to make a living. And should I build a not-for-profit or commercial organization?

It is all a bit of a confusing circle. I am starting with

  • Me- I have 20 years of experience in museums and learning, and I have a good sense of what has worked and hasn’t and what could.

  • An Idea- I have a big idea that I have encapsulated in a little product that I think could have multiple spin-offs.

  • A ‘Prototype’-I have scraped together enough money to pay a developer in India to do a ‘minimal viable product’ or prototype for me. When you touch parts of your mobile screen it works more or less, and I am very excited about it. It is almost ready!

  • Some people willing to test the said prototype for me

  • A Business Plan- a reasonable assessment of what I need to get to where I want to go.

  • Time- for the first time in my life, I am not juggling work and kids and I have time to do this!

I do not have

  • An income

  • Savings

  • Team members

  • Impressive advisors

So what next?

Full disclosure on the money front: I have a friend who is willing, for now, to keep me from living on the street and starving. And he will make sure that if my almost-adult, university-going kids can’t pay their rent they will not be homeless. And I have low expenses right now- because said kids are getting jobs and taking loans etc. I am aware how extremely lucky I am.

But is it a prerequisite for all entrepreneurs to have money in the bank- from a lucrative career or inheritance, or wealthy enough parents or partners or generous friends? Even after a fairly successful 25-year international career (which sounds glamorous but has resulted in no pension, a few months of savings, no unemployment insurance and no safety net)- there is no way I would be able to build this business without my friend… who may easily stop being my friend anytime. I’m not married (i.e. no alimony or spousal support). There is no inheritance. This is it.

I think I need to be able to convince other people to give me some ‘seed’ money but apparently in order to do this I need to prove that I have a good idea (I think I can do that), and I have the team to make it happen (I do not have that). How do I get the team if I can’t pay them?

To start with I need a credible educational technologist/software developer, and a graphic designer. The former to continue to develop the product- once I get feedback from all my awesome testers, the latter to make it and all my communication sexy (‘sexy’ is one of the core values in my business plan and one of my ‘Unique Selling Points’- given that I’m working in museums and education). Then probably a specialist marketer and some multi-talented educators to bring it all to life. I need these people. I can’t pay these people. What do I do?

Also apparently, if I have advisors who are impressive and successful that will also help show that I can do this. I am lucky to know some incredible people, who have been really generous with their time and advice. But they are mostly in the cultural sector- and we are notoriously bad at making money and developing technology so I’m not sure that’s going to be convincing. I don’t really know super successful EdTech people, or even just Tech business people or actually even business people …. How do I find these mysterious strangers to advise and give me credibility?

On a related note- I am drawn to making this all 'not-for-profit' because I really do have social impact vs commercial goals. But it seems way way easier to register as a business- you don't need to find a board of directors or to meet the strenuous reporting requirements for one. But I also don't want people seeing this whole thing as a grubby grab for cash- museum and education people (like me) are almost hardwired tend to find money a necessary evil. Also- which type of business would enable me to access funds fastest? (Rent and all...)

Would love any advice on shuffling a few more feet forward…

#entrepreneurship #seedfunding #angelinvestor #mentors #money #income #funding #museumlearning #edtech

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