When James Kirkham founded his first company he was in his early twenties, and it was 2001. “It was a pretty crap year to start for many reasons,” he says. “You had the dot-com crash and then 9/11, it was a pretty tumultuous time. But that pales into insignificance compared to this coronavirus situation.”
The covid-19 pandemic has left thousands of UK startups and small businesses in a dire financial situation. Founders are dealing with an unprecedented mixture of confusion and debt – but there’s no need for them to go through it alone.
Kirkham, now chief business officer at Defected Records, survived the 2001 tumult by building a support system. “I very deliberately surrounded myself with silver hair, with people who had been there and done it,” he says. “I found that age brings so much knowledge. Even if people don’t cast themselves as consultants or gurus, if they’re ten years older than you, they probably know something you don’t.”
Every month or two, he’d organise a quick meeting with someone new. “In every one of those conversations there was always one thing I wrote down that I’d never considered or thought of,” he says. “For the price of a cup of tea or a pizza, or these days for the cost of 20 minutes on Zoom or FaceTime, I would always pick up a nugget of knowledge.”