Updated: Jan 6, 2019
"Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard."
Time-travel back to MAY 2018...
This was the first real steps for Tote. The idea came before, but this is when the idea got legs. As a great man once said How true this statement has become.
Apparently building an app is a lot harder thank you think. First problem - I couldn't code. No problem I thought, I'll learn. Well that soon fell through. But with it a new found respect for people who can code was found. At this early stage of the company, with a young family and my baby girl being born in February, time was also an issue. Fortunately deep down I knew the need for the service was there, and so I pushed on.
Like all companies, We had our ups and downs. But I thought Tote had hit the jackpot when we found a young, local developer who had already built and distributed several apps. Celebrations all around! But once again, the rollercoaster journey found its downward track and we quickly realised the partnership wasn't to be, and we went our separate ways.
What now I thought? Well I can always pay a team to build it for me right? Hours rolled in to days , which rolled into weeks as I heavily researched what options I had. Local companies didn't respond, London based companies tended to be quite expensive, I didn't trust the freelancing networks and I had heard horror stories about some off shore app building businesses. I faced two big issues, Trust and Finance. I trusted nobody, and had zero money in the bank.
People are the most important thing. Business model and product will follow if you have the right people." -Adam Neumann, Co-founder of WeWork
After all the ups and downs, a shining light started to appear. First up I connected with a creative genius. Ideas started coming out like fireworks from both sides, and I saw straight away the passion from him for the project. This is when Hamlyn joins us, & with the design element of the app being taken care of, the website being updated and a new, slick branding in place it allowed me to focus on the next important part. App Development.
Now I am quite lucky that I have a vast network to draw on, so I put my beacon out to social media, looking for advice on using certain tools. Well my prayers were answered when an old friend, who I hadn't seen in years, messages me to offer some help with our back end requirements. That help quickly turned to be involved full time with Tote and then the founding team was in place. With Mark on board, we now had a coder involved and in my eyes the skill requirements of the company were complete.
I now had all the tools. Or so I thought. In my very limited knowledge, I assumed that if you could code back end, then front end would be easy too. How wrong I was! My new team members were willing to learn, but certainly we were not able to close the loop in the way I had imagined.
AUGUST 2018 - The hard work begins...
“An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.”
- Roy Ash
Never a truer word spoke! I had certainly bit off more than I could chew. But nobody said this was going to be easy. I knew it would be worth it, and I still believe that. The further into the journey, the more I discover and the bigger the beast becomes. The wheels are in full motion, with weekly meet ups at my home, and although the effort is there, it is blindly obviously that we need more. More Focus. More Skills. More Guidance. No one in the founding team had any experience in making an App, and although we were all skilled in our own unique ways, the key part to our service is the Tote App. With this looming over me, stress levels were at a high, not wanting to let down your team shows how much you care for the business, and I knew that we would find a way through.
"Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity."
- Oprah Winfrey
Reading the local paper, and I stumble across a new initiative from Nationwide Building Society. The Swindon Advertiser was reporting on how Nationwide were looking to support local start ups with mentorship. My first thought is I haven't even got a product, so should I waste my time and theirs by applying? Easy answer, YES! Whats the worse that can happen? I get told no?
So my application goes in and I meet Nick and Michelle from the Nationwide innovation team. We discuss the business at length and I show them my very limited prototype. They seem impressed and I leave feeling quietly confident about being at least short listed. Even if there are a ton of other companies trying to get a place.
Well Tote gets shortlisted and I'm asked to do an interview before my case is presented to the board. Maybe this is bigger than I think! Can I impress them enough? I have a great idea and a great team, so I get to work preparing for all the questions I may face.
OCTOBER 2018 - Opportunity of a lifetime
“You know, you do need mentors, but in the end, you really just need to believe in yourself.” - Diana Ross
Success! We have been accepted as one of two local business to be supported! Motivation goes sky high, and we will now have a home. From previously, working from my dining room table, we have an instant lift when we are provided with our very own office by nationwide. In the heart of Swindon, our home town. Nationwide are supporting us for the next 6 months, and have paid for our very own office in The Workshed. This was the heartbeat of Swindon in years gone by, where the trains were built through blood sweat and tears. Now the future can fuse with the past as we travel through a parallel journey.
The office is great, but the real value of our support from Nationwide lies in the mentorship, knowledge and network available to us. Its supercharged our engine and helped us jump forward at a fantastic pace. More than anything, the belief in ourselves, our service and the business is giving a massive boost. If a company like Nationwide believe in Tote and our vision, then we certainly should!
With the help of our mentor Rob, we have plugged several holes that we had in our ship. The biggest one was front end development. Rob has quickly connected us with the mobile team at Nationwide, who have kindly offered to spend time with Mark to help us get the product to launch. We now have set goals, work in sprints, and have regular meetings to check we are on schedule to meet our targets.
On top of this, we have been working with a local legal company called Thrings, who have been amazing in helping us identify what legal documents we need. We have lots more to do to achieve our goal, and I'm sure there will be lots more up's and downs. But the future is bright, and we cant wait to get our app out to you all to make your lives that little bit easier when it comes to moving big items!
“Fear is the disease. Hustle is the antidote.”
- Travis Kalanick
Hole in the ship! Time to plug again. We realise the project is a vast beast, and it's hungry for more. We need to recruit a full stack mobile developer into the team to take the project to the high level we have set for ourselves. What started off as a few friends making a small scale app, has grown into a big challenge and we now find ourselves requiring more skills than we have. The rollercoaster continues, as we bring in an experienced mobile app developer in Trevor. This has seen motivation in the camp sky rocket, as the project moves on at a blistering pace. Bringing in the skillset that Trevor provides, has really driven the project forward and given everyone a confidence boost in the work to date. We know what we are creating is achievable, and that we now have the skills required to complete the app. The lesson here for us is that you may fear the path ahead, but there is always a way. Work hard, and find a way through. In business, you have to break walls down, you have to go off course. But successful companies find a way. When the struggle happens. Hustle.
DECEMBER 2018 & Beyond - Where we stand
“You have to work on the business first before it works for you.” - Idowu Koyenikan
December means one thing for most people. Christmas.
We hope to bring you the biggest gift of the Tote Service in the new year, so for us its all systems go. Whilst we wished we were live and able to provide your pick up and courier needs for the Christmas period, we just wouldn't feel comfortable delivering a below par service to you all.
REGISTER NOW FOR EARLY ACCESS AND GET REWARDED!
If you are interested in registering for our early release, as either a customer or van owner, we would love to hear from you! As an early adopter, you will have exclusive discounts available, alongside competitions (including entry to a draw for a free house move!*)
We are busy behind the scenes, and we cant wait to launch in 2019. Connecting our amazing network of van owners with our equally brilliant set of signed up customers. We are so excited to be bringing our service to the UK, and would love to keep you all updated with our progress!
We know the excitement is building, and if you haven't already, please get yourself on our list for early access, with exciting prizes to be won and exclusive discounts.