We really enjoy working with successful start-ups & entrepreneurs. So, we’re taking the opportunity to find out more about the entrepreneurs that inspire us by shining the spotlight on them and the businesses they run.
First up for our regular Entrepreneur Insight is Ash Phillips, founder, YENA. We asked him …
Your & Your business:
Tell us a bit about you … My name is Ash Phillips and I run a company called YENA. It’s a network & membership organisation for young entrepreneurs & ambitious professionals. I’ve been running businesses since I dropped out of university at 19 (primarily in brand & social marketing) until deciding to take YENA on full time in 2016.
What made you decide to set up your own business? Before university I was looking through salary tables to see what jobs got paid the most. Above doctors, dentists, architects, lawyers, etc. was this mysterious term ‘entrepreneur’ and that’s what first caught my attention.
After heading to university I realised that education really didn’t engage me – I liked to learn by doing. So I felt a huge urge to just take my career into my own hands and that’s where it all began.
What is your business all about? YENA looks to offer a safe and non-intimidating environment for people under 35 to meet others just like them who want to achieve something in business. I was bored of attending events with old school approaches, cult-esque formats, or high-ticket prices. So, I set out to fix the problem.
After a few years of building the YENA community we built a membership offering designed to make starting and growing a business easier, faster and more affordable. When teamed with our events where people build their network, this makes for a formidable offering to get people going in business.
What would be your elevator pitch? YENA is the network for young entrepreneurs and ambitious professionals. We connect you with people who are ambitious and think like you. Come to an event and check out our memberships to make the most out of what we do!
Why is YENA different to other networks? YENA was built on the knowledge that other networks are expensive, elitist, throwaway or boring. We’ve taken every step to avoid those pitfalls and create a generation of business leaders from the very start of their journey. We get to see people grow amazing businesses. The community we’ve built aren’t judgemental and will actively seek to help others – so if you’ve not been to a networking event before or if you’ve been to lots and are tired of them, then come to ours and see what you’re missing out on!
What do you think about …
Do you have to be business savvy to become an entrepreneur? Not at all. A phrase I’ve recently started to use a lot is – albeit pretty cheesy – ‘ship it, learn, pivot, earn’. The reality is that you’ll never end up selling exactly what you set out to sell in the way you thought you’d sell it. Something will change. So just getting started and learning along the way is my advice. The fastest way to learn is by the mini failures you’ll have every day/week/month but the more you have the more you learn and eventually you’ll have none left to make.
An entrepreneur, by default, in my opinion, is making it up as they go along every day. They use their initiative to spot opportunities others otherwise wouldn’t and thus don’t really know what they’re doing exactly until they’ve done it. There’s a saying I love that goes “entrepreneurship is like jumping off a cliff and building a plane on the way down”; I think this goes some way to explaining my thoughts behind it.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur? Fix a problem you often have. Chances are, if you do, other people do to. If you’re solving a pain point for someone then they’ll usually be happy to pay for it.
And learn, like a sponge, as much as you can, as fast as you can. Don’t be afraid of failing. It’s cliché now but just know that you’ll fail lots. Sometimes big, sometimes small, but always it will be a learning opportunity. The difference between a successful entrepreneur and one that isn’t is their reaction to that. If you can find a way to be excited by failure because it helps you to avoid it in future and be better for your customer or clients then that’s the makings of someone who will succeed.
What would you say are the top skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- People skills – no business in the world would exist without people. They’re your team, your customers, and your suppliers. They are everything. Know how to communicate with them and you’re off to a great start.
- Constantly question yourself – do this more than your customers and you’ll be ahead of them at all times in know what your business should do next
- Persistence – just because it doesn’t stick in week 1, doesn’t mean it won’t work. There are countless stories of people trying hundreds of times before something worked well enough
Also, focus on delivering value, not the money you make. The latter is a by-product of the former. If you do what you do better than anyone else then you will succeed.
Why you do what you do …
What motivates you? The feeling I get from helping to connect other people with opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise get. Having the opportunity to understand more about people, what drives them and seeing them succeed is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
How do you generate new ideas? After a while it becomes habit. Learning to question everything to the point of being annoying is where it starts. Just keep asking yourself why, or how could something be done differently. Does this bug me? How could I fix it? Eventually it will become second nature.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur? The opportunity to do something new whenever you feel like it and being in control of your own success. I’m 100% unemployable now as I don’t think I could stick within the set rules of a company. Being allowed and encouraged (by my need to survive) in using my initiative all the time is actually addictive. It has its cons as you’re constantly looking for stimulus but this is far better for me than being bored with idle thumbs.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur? Ha! Um, everything?
Living with parents in a box room for 27 years?
Having people assuming you’re already a millionaire whilst you’re picking up national awards for developing entrepreneurs is a weird irony.
I’ve been close to bankruptcy more times than I can count. Multiple times had the change in my pocket be the only money I’ve had left.
Sacrificed my social life for a lot of my early 20s – not necessarily because I had to but because I wanted to, for the future success I hoped for.
The thing is though that no matter how much you sacrifice, you learn to love it. I remember a friend once asking me how I could be so happy with such little money and honestly it was hard to answer but I just loved what I did/do for a living.
And finally … If you could ask someone who inspires you a question … who would you ask & what would you ask them? Elon Musk & I’d ask him “How do you manage such a demanding portfolio career with so many impactful and successful businesses?”