I met Georgia at university in Leicester where we both studied. In our final year, Georgia and her boyfriend, Matt, saw a gap in the market and set their sights on starting a business in the CBD/drinks industry. This meant that their third year essays and exams were paired with business research, planning and meetings.
Since then, the business has done very well and their hard work has really paid off! I wanted to interview Georgia to show other budding entrepreneurs what starting a business at university and going straight into working for yourself is like and the challenges and accomplishments that go alongside it.
So, here is what Georgia has to say about working for herself after university! P.s. their coffee is amazing so make sure you grab some.
Can you give a little background to what you do?
Hamilton Street Cold Brew specialise in ready-to-drink coffee products infused with CBD. We founded the business while we were at university about a year ago during our final year. Fun fact: Hamilton Street is the name of street we lived on during 2nd year.
Matt and I (my boyfriend who is also my business partner) started using CBD in the mornings along with our coffee and quickly found the positive effects it had both mentally and physically – such as increased focus and productivity, reduced anxiety and the absence of coffee jitters associated with caffeine.
The CBD beverage market was relatively small in the UK at the time so we came up with the concept of Hamilton Street and brought it to market.
How do you manage your working day/week? What hours do you work/how do you get motivated?
If you asked me this a little while ago my answer would have been a lot different! When we first started the business I was having to juggle it with revision and essay deadlines for my final year exams which in hindsight wasn’t the smartest move.
The business has been going for about a year now and we’re lucky to enough to have reached the stage where we have employed/outsourced a lot of roles. We currently have 2 full-time sales consultants and a warehousing and fulfilment company who take care of everything from stock storage to packing and shipping orders.
This has allowed us to work ‘on’ the business as opposed to ‘in’ the business to start scaling up and deciding the future of Hamilton Street and focus more on other ventures aside from it. Early on it’s important to work out processes and create systems for different roles to optimize them.
A really good book I recommend is ‘The E Myth Revisited – Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It’ by Michaele E. Gerber.
I think finding the motivation in business is hard initially when you’re putting in 10 hours a day and have nothing to show for it. It’s definitely important to change your focus to the bigger picture and long-term results. Celebrating little wins in the meantime has also been a motivator. I love vision boards and regularly hand write my goals so I find that keeps me motivated too!
Have you received much criticism about starting a business at university and then not going into a ‘typical’ 9-5 job? How have you dealt with it, if so?
I’m lucky to have an unbelievably supportive family. I did Law at university so my family were actually expecting to me to pursue a legal career but they weren’t surprised when I said I was going to go into business.
I’ve always been quite free-spirited and ambitious. Working a 9-5 personally isn’t for me. Of course, my family were hesitant and questioned whether I was making the right decision as a lot of risk was involved but they backed the idea because they backed Matt and I.
I did have a lot of ‘are you sure?!’ from both family and friends and I’m sure some people thought we were going to fail but you just have to use it as a motivator to prove them wrong. I think it’s important that when you’re facing social pressure to pursue a certain career/job to visualise what your life will be like in 5-10 years’ time after living on your own terms as opposed to someone else’s definition of success.
What’s been your biggest achievement through it?
Probably walking into stores and seeing Hamilton Street in the fridges next to big beverage brands. I’m not sure when that will feel normal but currently I still freak out when I see it.
What’s one thing you wish you knew before starting the business?
Only one thing?! Jeez, so many. I’ll split it into two and do a strategic one and a personal one.
Start small and don’t expect overnight success. For food & beverage businesses in particular – you should start small and slowly scale. We should have done a lot more kitchen experimenting before going to a big manufacturer as we probably would have encountered the teething problems sooner and saved a lot of money.
Business is most definitely a marathon, not a sprint and the overnight success stories you’ve read about are either a fluke or fake. I think I underestimated a lot that went into it, especially on the operational side and how cash flow is way more important than profit.
An important one for me would be to know that imposter syndrome is NORMAL and it is absolutely not a reflection of your ability or your success in business. This really affected me, as I imagine it affects a lot of people. I had in my head that people weren’t taking me very seriously, or were taking advantage, as I was only 21 in meetings with people who’d been in the industry longer than I’d been alive! As we hired employees I also found it really difficult to manage people a lot older than me. But looking back now I wish I knew how normal it was and to not take as much notice of it.
What’s one thing that you’d say to other students considering starting their own business?
Don’t overthink the possibility of failure. ‘The biggest risk you can take is to take no risk at all’ is my all-time favourite quote. You might fail but so what? The best time to fail is while you’re young and some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt over the last year have been due to things that have failed or have not gone the way I wanted.
Obviously do your research, do your business plan to a T, do your cash flow forecast the best you can as although something might be a great idea – it needs to generate money. Predict your expenses then double them – you almost always go over budget!
Also, carefully research financing options – many government-backed start up/business loans are unsecured personal loans, make sure you’re knowingly and willingly taking on that risk and responsibility of repayments and see if you’re eligible for any grants too.
Thank you so much to Georgia for sharing her experiences and advice on what it’s like starting a business at university and not going into a ‘typical’ job (and I cannot stress this enough, there is no such thing as a typical job!). Head to the Hamilton Street website if you’d like to find out more about their CBD cold brew coffee business or order some of their drinks.
Have you thought about starting your own business? Would you take the leap and try starting a business while at university? Let me know in the comments! Or if you’d like to share your story about post university life, head to my graduate stories series here.