It’s not what you know
The belief that the right connection can change your life was the driving force for Lucy Lloyd and Heidi Holmes to start Mentorloop. Equally important was their understanding that not everyone has access to the right networks, or has the courage to put their hands up and ask for help.
Driven by their own experiences, they decided to create a software platform that would help people find these life changing connections.
“Heidi and I discussed how wonderful it would be if you could find a future version of yourself to help you navigate those career transitions,” says Lucy. “And we wanted to develop a platform that made mentoring accessible to everybody.”
So they set about putting their plan into action.
Testing, testing, and more testing
Lucy and Heidi took a methodical approach to building the business. Rather than quitting their jobs and jumping in head first, they took it step by step, testing at every opportunity to validate their ideas.
“We did a lot of testing in those first couple of years,” says Lucy. “We worked around our day jobs to validate that people wanted mentoring and also that it wasn’t already being done efficiently.”
After identifying that there was a gap in the market, the next step was to get buy-in from other people. They set themselves a condition: if they could get external people to believe in their vision and invest in the business, then they would go all in.
Taking that decision out of their hands and putting it in the hands of potential investors helped reduce any tension between the two of them as they debated whether to make the jump. Whether they decided to go ahead with Mentorloop was now no longer completely up to them.
Lucy and Heidi pulled together a one page business plan of their vision and began to approach investors. “We pretty much spoke to everyone who had money in Melbourne,” says Lucy. “We probably had about 100 meetings and of those maybe 15 parties were interested in investing. It was a volume game.”
And they made a point of wanting to have a real connection with their investors. “Investment isn’t just about money, it’s advice and mentoring.” says Lucy. “Our first investors are still mentors to us in the business.”
After securing investment for the business, Heidi and Lucy were able to go full time with Mentorloop. They rebuilt parts of the product, got it more commercially ready, then started to sell.
As a start-up, keeping costs low was vital for the health of the business. So when it came to investing in platforms and software, the products Lucy and Heidi chose had to be offering an essential service to the business. Xero was one of the first platforms they invested in.
“I’d used Xero in a business before we started Mentorloop,” says Heidi. “It really made my life easier and also gave me visibility of what was happening in the business. So when we started Mentorloop it was a no brainer to continue with it.”
Using Xero has helped Heidi and Lucy make better business decisions, with the ability to easily generate reports and show investors how Mentorloop is doing.
“We’ve got outside investors in the business so we have a reporting responsibility to them,” says Heidi. “With Xero we’re able to generate reports and provide them in a format that is professional and accurate.”
With up-to-date numbers on Mentorloop’s performance, Heidi and Lucy have been able to get accurate forecasts for the business and rapidly grow the team from two people to ten. But as the team has grown, so has the responsibility of doing fortnightly payroll and managing the accounts.
“We brought in a bookkeeper to help with that side of the business,” says Heidi. “And with Xero it can all be done remotely, we don’t have to catch up face to face. The finance manager and the accountant are both looking at the same information.”
Growing the business
Lucy and Heidi are clearly passionate about what they do – and that shines through in their plans for the future of Mentorloop. With a growing number of clients in Australia as well as working with businesses in New Zealand, their sights are now set on breaking into the UK.
“We’ve had a lot of inquiries from the UK already,” says Heidi. “So opening an office in the UK to service that demand is definitely a focus for us.”
And with their trusted method of continuous testing and improving, as well as big names like the BBC, Visa and Just Eat already using their platform, Heidi and Lucy are ready to take on the other side of the world.
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