Start-ups 101 with Alex Birtles

We talk to the co-founder of impact start-up In Good Company – who tells us ‘it takes years to be an overnight success!’

We were delighted to welcome Alex Birtles, co-founder of In Good Company to deliver a ‘Start-ups 101’ session to the new cohort of Female Founders who are on our current Impact Accelerator programme. Alex graduated from one of our previous Impact Accelerators last year – and her company, a dedicated platform to find the best ethical and for-good local businesses, is going from strength to strength.

When we asked Alex if she’d like to run the session for us, she reached out to other founders in her network to ask what they wish they’d known sooner. This created a hub of thoughts, feelings and realistic expectations that many founders might find useful at the start of their journeys (and throughout).  

Alex says: “You don’t need to (and let’s be honest, can’t) have all the answers yourself – it’s one of the reasons why building an awesome support network of fellow founders is so important.” So, first tip… grow your network! Often the most valuable insights come from founders who are a few steps ahead of you – they care about you, because they recently were you.

So, lets hear what other founders had to say!

It’s a journey, ask for advice but do what’s right for you

Advice is just that. You don’t need to follow it if you don’t feel it’s right and remember that decisions need to be made by those who will be dealing with their consequences.”

Be clear on your aims

There’s a ridiculous amount of survivorship bias and obsession about money… and maybe not enough is heard about small, perfectly sized businesses serving a genuine need.”

Listen to your customer

Build something that helps them, rather than something you want to build

Asking for feedback is important – put this into practice early. It’s easy to plan an idea out and hypothesise your market fit, but you only really start adapting properly after collecting feedback from your minimum viable product (MVP).”

Edit constantly and get it out there

You will always laugh at the first design, product or thing you ever produce. Check out to see how silly other brands looked like when they started out.”

Be scrappy, you could be holding products, websites, social pages back worrying they aren’t perfect. It doesn’t matter, release things, get feedback, track the data and iterate.”

Everyone loves the pitch deck, but the spreadsheet matters too!

Take the time to get comfortable with your financials. Build it with assumptions and drive it with calculations. You can ask people with similar business models to share their templates – Allia has some!”

Look after yourself!

Purpose is a double-edged sword. It’s why we’re so driven to do what we do, but it can also cause us to lose sight of looking after ourselves – because we put so much energy into making the business work – worst case this can lead to burnout, so don’t lose sight of you!”

Thoughts on external services?

Don’t get suckered into fancy digital services or consultancy groups looking to take advantage of your naivety for money, equity etc.”

Celebrate the wins, no matter how small! And use them to ride out the lows.


  • Your personal brand matters.
  • Warm introductions are always better than cold.
  • Be cost-effective when you have limited capital.
  • Local news is an awesome way to get early PR! It might seem really cringe to ‘pitch yourself’ but stories about local business people can really boost your profile. Use launches, awards, investment milestones as a hook.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, build a team.

Find your tribe, support them hard. Join communities, support programmes (like Allia!) and /or build your own team.

Don’t let these things catch you out

  • Public Lability Insurance
  • Diversity and Inclusion Policy
  • Privacy Policy
  • ICO Data Protection Fee
  • Get a good accountant!

Thoughts to leave you with

  • Learn how to turn a preventive question into a promotive question.
  • Don’t feel bad about paying yourself (even if it’s small) – you’re worth it!
  • Rejection is so much worse in your head.
  • Do start-up the way you want to do it… and keep having fun