20 QUESTIONS: Emma Jones, Enterprise Nation

The Spare Room Start-up author on why she couldn't have a normal job.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 08 Nov 2013

1. If you had done something else, what would it have been?

Having studied law and Japanese at university, I was heading towards law but soon realised I'd be miserable overseeing deals in a skyscraper.

2. What else would you have named your business?

[Start-up support club] Enterprise Nation couldn't really be called anything else, but o satiate my desire for coming up with names I've since used them on our books: Spare Room StartUp, Working 5 to 9 etc.

3. If you could be based in another city, where would it be?

New York. I would like Enterprise Nation to expand into the US and I’d also like to return to Tokyo.

4. How did you raise money at the beginning?

I’m a big believer in starting and growing a business through making sales as opposed to borrowing or taking investment. If you borrow, you have to pay it back at some point and if you secure an investor too early in the business, you bring in partners without yet knowing the direction.

5. What has been your most important decision?

The decision to focus on what I do best and outsource the rest ie build a team who run the aspects of the business I shouldn’t be running. Ask me again in a couple of years if it’s worked.

6. What has been your biggest mistake?

Thinking I could do it all on my own.

7. What idea do you wish you had come up with?

A micro-blogging platform called Twitter - it’s such a good fit with what we do because it’s revolutionised the way small businesses get to market, communicate with customers, meet suppliers etc.

8. How do you cope with stress?

Head to the gym and literally work it out of body and mind. I’m going to the gym a lot at the moment…

9. What was your first job?

Working for my mum in her restaurant from the age of 14. Growing up with a restaurateur was a good lesson in managing people and money. I may not have liked working weekends back then, but I do give credit to Mum now that working over the weekend (and every week day) is the most natural thing in the world to me.

10. What was your worst job?

Strawberry picking for a summer. I needed the money but after the first few days of enjoying soft fruit on tap, it just became one long blur of red.

11. What was your best job?

Setting up a small school in Tokyo teaching English. It gave me my first glimpse of what life would look like without a job.

12. If you were on the Apprentice, what would your team name be?

The UpStarts. Even though I don't rate this programme at all: it gives entrepreneurs the impression they need to give up equity and find finance as one of the first things on the list. I say it’s much more important to get the model right and grow organically without this kind of artificial intervention.

13. Which company would you invest in right now?

There are lots. Every month I deliver an event called StartUp Saturday around the UK where we form 40 businesses in the space of a day. At every event, there are a couple of businesses when I think ‘this is brilliant, I’d so love to jump in here’.

14. Apart from property, what is the most expensive thing you’ve bought?

A limited edition piece by Dali of the melting clock which is a constant reminder time is our most precious asset.

15. Suits or jeans?

Either, depending on the day and meetings in the diary. Mostly though, I’m in black trousers, shirt, scarf and a leather jacket.

16. Flexible working or office hours?

Most definitely flexible. I’ll be there as long as it takes to get the job done. And I’m too busy to dwell for the sake of it.

17. What is the best thing about your office?

The fact it’s in my home. It’s just a desk and a laptop.

18. What app can’t you live without?

Citymapper. I walk and travel round London a lot and this app tells me the best routes and means.

19. Who is your business idol?

Martha Stewart. People think this is an odd choice as she recently did a stint in jail. But when you look at the company this lady has built, it’s quite a feat.

20. If you were Prime Minister for the day, what would you change?

Quite a bit - I would create new models of business ownership for companies growing by hiring freelancers, encourage big companies to open up their supply chains to small ones, work on business rates for retailers, introduce enterprise training for every school student and simplify the tax system. I could go on but it would take longer than a day...

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