“How we did it!” – Swansea entrepreneurs share their secrets to success

We’ve all dreamed of starting our own business and becoming our own boss – but what exactly does it take to achieve this goal? This September, Venturefest Wales will put entrepreneurs and innovators face-to-face with big players in the business world who are able to offer the funding, investment, and - most importantly - the advice, that can get a business idea off the ground, and turn a dream into a reality.

Successful Swansea-based entrepreneurs Anna Bastek and Matt Warren will be at Venturefest Wales to share their expertise and tell the stories of how they managed to grow an idea into a business.

Anna Bastek is the CEO and founder of leading translation services company, Wolfestone and multimedia sister brand VoiceBox. She admits that the decision to start her own company was a difficult one for her to make.

Anna Bastek

“No one in my family ran a business of their own - the idea of setting up a company was associated with risk,” she said.

Originally from Poland, Anna had graduated from University and was living in Wales working as a marketing manager for a local company. Her boss at the time wouldn’t agree to give her unpaid leave so, despite warnings of caution from her family, she formulated a plan.

“I wasn’t good at taking orders, I had the urge to travel and wanted to have flexible time. I knew I wanted to start something of my own but I certainly couldn’t afford to quit my job. Instead I went part-time and started to learn everything I needed to know about setting up my own business. This way I slowly developed the foundations of Wolfestone over a 12 month period.

“Now, I can travel whenever I want and no two days are ever the same. Having the courage to set up my own business has allowed me the freedom to take charge of my own destiny. And of course, I have no boss!”

“Make no mistake - it can be hard. Running a business can be stressful and it’s definitely hard to ‘switch off’ after 5pm; you find yourself thinking about sales, cash flow and recruitment a lot.  There are tough decisions to be made every day and it really is hard work!”

She speaks highly of Swansea and had specific reasons for choosing it as the base for Wolfestone.  “Most of our business is done electronically so we could be located anywhere – but I chose Swansea. It’s my home, but it’s also a smart location for a business.

We have close links with the University and its talented students, plus our location helps us stand out as one of the best translation departments in the country.  Lower overheads than London means we have the ability to purchase premises - with ample parking! I believe Swansea is the future.”

At Venturefest Wales, Anna will deliver a talk telling the full story of how she co-founded Wolfestone, grew it into a multi-million pound company and achieved financial freedom.

She will be joined at the event by CEO and founder of Veeqo – and serial entrepreneur - Matt Warren. Veeqo is a platform that offers online retailers inventory control.

“I moved back to Wales after 20 years in London.  In terms of business, Swansea has so much untapped potential, and there is less competition for talent compared to London. It’s much cheaper to run a company here and plenty of options for new businesses to receive support. I also wanted my children to have the same fantastic lifestyle I had growing up in Wales, the warm people, amazing countryside and beaches!”

He said: “Starting my own company felt natural. I am a risk-taker by nature and I strongly suspect I might be addicted to being an entrepreneur! I never really had any fear. If it hadn't worked out, then it wouldn’t have worried me at all; I just would have wanted to understand why, learn from the experience, and move on to the next business adventure.

Veeqo was the first Welsh company to secure more than £1m in crowdfunding. Having set up two businesses before launching Veeqo, Matt already had a sound knowledge of the funding landscape and wanted to try something different.

“I wanted to try out crowdfunding, so I opened up for the public to invest. We carried out three rounds of funding through equity crowd funding platform Seedrs and raised more than £1m from around 177 shareholders.

At Venturefest Wales, Matt will be sitting on a panel called ‘Investment for Innovation’ which will explore Wales’ funding landscape and look at the investment options that are available for companies today.

“My experience of crowdfunding was fantastic but it’s no quick-win, it can still be hard. But one of the great things crowdfunding does is to open you and your business up to more potential investors from all over the world. Making connections with people who have a genuine interest in your business is vital. That’s why events like Venturefest are so important for fostering the right kind of collaboration."

Anna and Matt will be joined by a host of business experts, investors, and budding entrepreneurs at the event later this month.

Venturefest Wales is a free event held at Cardiff’s SWALEC Stadium on 29th September. Registrations are open at http://www.venturefestwales.co.uk/