Article by our member Gavin Duffy about the journey of his company Trigr and the challenges of entrepreneurship during the pandemic was recently featured in The Sunday Times
What I remember most since entering lockdown is embracing online supports. Through organisations such as IrelandTogether, the new networking platform for small and medium businesses, Back for Business, which helps returning emigrants looking to start businesses, and my local enterprise office, I have thankfully been able to stay in touch with many other entrepreneurs and share the journey over the past months.
That journey has involved many moments of self-doubt, confusion and worry but there was also comfort in knowing I was not alone in my experiences. I was able to seek advice on my business model and whether the pandemic would mean pivoting, changing course or simply abandoning my start-up Trigr. I decided to remain resilient and stay true to Trigr’s original mission: connecting businesses with creative freelancers.
After working in PR and marketing in the creative industries for a decade, I decided to take the leap and focus entirely on my start-up Trigr for 2020. Little did I know what the future had in store. Trigr is an online marketplace to connect businesses with creative freelancers and, with my platform fully developed, I started to shop it around to potential clients in the UK, where I lived, earlier this year. The response was positive and things seemed to be off to a strong start.
However, when the pandemic hit and I could no longer travel the conversations started to cool off. The companies I had been speaking with were putting out their own fires and so the potential to work together was paused.
My plan at the beginning of 2020 was to work remotely for the foreseeable future so, in that sense, nothing changed. I have always felt that remote work will only grow in popularity and the Trigr platform specifically works with those who very often work remotely. The most significant change for me, though, was around remote meetings. Meetings with website developers and potential customers moved to Zoom — a system I’m not sure if I had ever used before the pandemic, or heard of for that matter.
Although Zoom provided a solid basis to continue my meetings, I found that most of my associates were all going through their own business difficulties as a result of the pandemic and, although communicating online was easy, securing business was not. Working from home with my partner and our three-year-old daughter felt strained and overwhelming at first and there was definitely an adjustment period
Thankfully I was able to start viewing the unusual circumstances with a renewed optimism. I decided that the pandemic provided an entirely unique opportunity to slow down and revisit the purpose of my work, my career and my life in general. I clarified how to progress with the Trigr platform going forward, helped in no small part by my partner, and I also decided to apply for an MBA at Trinity College Dublin — I was accepted and was offered the Seamus McDermott entrepreneurial scholarship. I have also been accepted on to Enterprise Ireland’s Accelerator programme, which offers supports to new businesses.
The entrepreneurial life can be a lonely one. We often start out working alone but many people, like myself, would avail of networking and conference opportunities. With the pandemic, these options disappeared and Ireland Together thankfully filled the void as a space to share questions, advice, and feedback.
Similar to me, I felt a lot of members were also re-examining their own projects and careers. Entrepreneurs are brave and resilient even if we don’t often feel that way, so in many ways we are the most prepared for this situation we all find ourselves in. There will be a significant number of people out there who have lost their permanent jobs and are considering freelancing.
Many have possibly dreamt about the level of control they could have in their work for years but fears of instability and insecurity held them back. Sometimes, when the worst case scenario happens you realise that your fears weren’t so terrible after all.
Regardless of whether you are thinking of going the freelance route, or are already a freelancer or entrepreneur of some kind, my advice is to hold true to your idea if you can. Keep standing up every time you are knocked down and you will get stronger every time.