Startup Story: The Highs and Lows in Starting a Business

jesssica ratcliffeMy name is Jessica Ratcliffe, I’m the founder of GaBoom and this is my start-up story.

The past year has been an eventful journey – that’s for sure!  It has also been a big learning curve and so I’m here to share my experiences with you. 

I launched the “old” GaBoom in July 2010 after raising £55,000 of investment in February of that year and winning NACUE’s National Varsity Pitching Competition later that May.

Since then, I was interviewed by The Next Women, have appeared on BBC Dragons’ Den, left University to focus on GaBoom full-time, met individuals I wish I hadn’t, almost run out of money and re-launched GaBoom - just last Tuesday in fact, so it’s been eventful to say the least.

 

I knew the “old” GaBoom needed to change within months of launching. 

I was extremely fortunate to gather a great amount of feedback from both GaBoom’s members and business heads, including the Dragons, which helped me understand our strengths and weaknesses.  I wanted to make GaBoom quicker and easier to use as well as turn it into a virtual business, where we wouldn’t mix the online and offline world as we were doing with one of our swapping options, the Secure Swap.

Having spent the majority of my investment on the first website, I had very little capital left so I had to be creative and explore different avenues to re-launch GaBoom. 

Delusional connections

I approached students, local web development agencies and freelancers to work on the website.  This was a long process and I met a number of individuals who at first felt like the perfect fit but after further meetings turned out to be completely wrong and rather delusional at times.  This was very disheartening as my hopes would rise before crashing back down to square one. 

Throughout these ups and downs, the one solid constant was my unwavering belief that I would re-launch GaBoom and make it a success. 

After months of knockbacks, I had a lucky break – I met two guys from a local digital agency that have turned out to be the most generous people I have ever met.  They gave me a desk in their office (so I could finally leave the house!) and their unlimited support.  With their help I re-launched GaBoom last Tuesday and I couldn’t be happier!

Simplifying the Model

As well as moving to a new web address (http://gaboomswap.com), we’ve simplified the swapping process with now one swap method – a direct member-to-member swap and introduced our very own virtual currency called Booms. 

One swap costs 100 Booms which members can earn by inviting their friends to the website and receiving positive feedback from the people they have swapped with.  Members can also buy Booms from our Boom store - with 100 Booms costing £1.00.

Even though the past year has been difficult at times and required absolute determination, I believe I have learnt invaluable skills which a University course or textbook couldn’t have taught me.

I now realise that set backs come with the territory of starting a business. 

Facing and conquering those obstacles has boosted my belief that this is what I should be doing. 

I believe that being able to stay motivated at the lowest points will set you apart from the rest.

I have learnt that there is nothing more important than trusting your gut instinct and aiming high even if others think your goals are unrealistic.

I hope my story inspires you and shows that there are highs and lows in starting a business.  I would like to finish with one of my favourite quotes by Les Brown:

“People don’t fail because they aim too high and miss, but aim too low and hit.”

Thank you for reading.

Jess founded GaBoom in 2010 when she was 19 years old and in her first year at Royal Holloway, University of London studying Business Management. Jess has played video games since she can remember and first came up with the idea of creating a website where gamers could swap their video games with one another when she was 15 years old.  Sadly, Jess wasn't quite able to get the website off the ground using her pocket money!  At 19, she raised investment for her idea and we now have GaBoom!  Jess has since left University to work on GaBoom full-time and hasn't looked back since! Jess would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the website so please feel free to drop her an email at info@gaboomswap.com

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