Stephen Sacks is an author, facilitator, investor and founder of Funding Nav. Established in 2016, Funding Nav delivers entrepreneurial advice and execution to owners of businesses looking to raise additional liquidity.
In this edition of The Founder’s Brew, we caught up with Stephen who shared his advice for aspirational founders, the role of failure in the entrepreneurial journey and more.
To learn about Stephen Sacks’ journey as an entrepreneur, we asked what piece of advice he would give to an aspirational founder. Stephen advises entrepreneurs to not be afraid of failing “I think the fear of failure holds people back but failure is inevitable”, reasoning that failure is something that has happened to him much more frequently than success on his entrepreneurial journey. This is something that has inspired Stephen to kickstart his own networking event that helps other founders “now I run a networking event which is all about failure. I really try and help people to understand stories of failure and why failure is just part of the journey on the way to success.”
I think that lots of people just don't even start something because they think it won't work but that's no reason not to start.
When discussing what motivates Stephen, it’s made even clearer that the acknowledgment of failure is key on the journey to becoming a founder. “What motivated me was a failure that I experienced personally. Whilst I was dealing with trying to raise money for the business, I found myself sitting across the table from a number of very disconnected and unempathetic advisers”. Stephen elaborates that this experience motivated him to do better than his advisors, “I thought to myself, when I get out of this, I'd like to sit on that side of the table and offer the support which I'm not receiving to others.”
We then asked Stephen what makes his company different from others in his sector. Whilst Stephen runs several different successful businesses, he shares what the USP of his company Funding Nav is. Stephen explains what helps Funding Nav to stand out is the employees “We're not ex bank managers or accountants, but entrepreneurs. We know what it's like to have to make payroll on a Friday and not have the money to do that. We know what it's like to lose sleep”, explaining that empathy is their unique selling point.
Rounding up the interview, we asked Stephen Sacks when and what was the biggest hurdle in his entrepreneurial journey. “Brexit was my biggest hurdle. I had founded a furniture business which was reliant on the ability to acquire customers profitably on the first sale.” Stephen discusses the challenges he faced immediately after the Brexit vote “even before the legislation was passed, but literally the next day, two things happened. Firstly, the cost of acquiring customers went through the roof because people started to get very nervous about spending money” he explains that this cost the business 40% more to acquire a customer than it cost the previous week.
This wasn’t the only problem that Stephen faced following Brexit as the cost of acquiring products increased “we were acquiring products in dollars and the exchange rate slumped so, literally overnight, we went from a position of being able to acquire a customer profitably on the first sale to not.” Stephen concludes that whilst this night and day switch ultimately led to the failure of the furniture business, his resilience and ability to learn from this experience led Stephen to start up Funding Nav “we literally didn't have the funding in place to be able to manage that transition and that's what ultimately led to the issues around the failure of that business and why I started Funding Nav.”