I’ve had two eureka moments in my life. The first was in 1993, at the age of 29. I had a successful career in PR but I packed it all in because I wanted to work in TV. Fourteen years later, at the age of 43, I had my second eureka moment - on a barge on the Canal du Midi in France. This time I stepped away from a successful career spent making & developing TV programmes (including Changing Rooms, Ready Steady Cook and Don’t Get Done Get Dom for BBC1), looking for talent and running channels (London TV and Today on 3 Mobile) to set up www.findaTVexpert.com.
In a nutshell, findaTVexpert is an online database of talent that gives experts who want to be considered for TV&Media opportunities the chance to promote themselves to the industry – and members of the media a fast and easy way of finding experts to comment on a subject or be part of a show. As the meerkats say in their catchy little ad, ‘simples’!
The only problem was that I’d never set up a business before. I wasn’t a natural born entrepreneur. I didn’t sell lemonade when I was young. I’d been an employee since I left University and words like cashflow, profit & loss forecasts and returns on investments were double dutch to me. That wasn’t the language I spoke. I was a “creative”.
But I had passion. And conviction. I knew this was a service the experts wanted and the industry needed. So much so that when I was offered a contract to oversee another series of Don’t Get Done Get Dom for BBC1 (10 months of financial job security!), I turned it down. I was going to live off my savings and create a bespoke business that plugged a gap in the market, played to my strengths and allowed me to do the things I enjoyed doing – ie help experts get on TV, meet people, network, write and be creative!
And that’s when I realised that setting up and running a business was like developing and producing a TV series. First of all, I needed the vision (the TV idea). Then I had to do my research. In the case of findaTVexpert, I’d researched the market but I needed to find out how to run a business. So I read the Financial Times Guide to Business Start up 2008; Starting a Business for Dummies, Starting & Running an Online Business for Dummies, Marketing for Dummies, Great Brand Stories: Innocent and Anyone Can Do It.
Having done my research, I wrote a business plan which gave me a clear idea of what findaTVexpert did, how it worked and why it was unique. This was equivalent to writing a TV pitch, format and running order.
Then I started pulling everything together, which was like developing and producing a TV series. And like so many of the series I worked on, I had an extremely tight schedule and very small budget. But I made it happen.
findaTVexpert launched in April 2008 – 9 months after I had my eureka moment on the Canal du Midi - and has gone from strength to strength ever since. And I’m still using my TV skills: I have to be organised; I ask for help when I need it (a problem shared is a problem halved, as an executive producer once said to me); I see problems and challenges as ‘opportunities for excellence’ (as another executive producer once said to me); and I think creatively 100% of the time (what’s working, what isn’t, how can I do it differently, how can I do it better, etc).
Packing in my TV career and setting up a business was a huge risk but every time I get a call from an expert who’s been spotted on findaTVexpert and booked for an interview, a screentest or a series, I know it’s been worth it.
I’m still not brilliant with the financial side of things – I’m a ‘creative’ after all - but I’ve realised I don’t have to know everything. There are people out there who can help me. All I have to do is ask.
I used my TV skills to create a bespoke business. Could you use your skills to do something completely different?