Jamie is the CEO of The Refinery London. The Refinery is a collection of workspaces across London that focus on simplicity and connecting genuine and inspiring people. It has fixed desks, hot desks, and private office space available with no minimum contract, lightning fast internet and free use of facilities like printers and meeting rooms. Our mission is to help entrepreneurs thrive and produce their best work.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I love the process of taking something you're frustrated with and trying to solve the problem by creating a new product - and then taking that product to market. I love purpose driven business, where assets and profits exist to serve a purpose rather than act as the end in themselves.
I set up The Refinery because I was running my own start up and was keen to join a shared workspace. However, there seemed little on offer in West London that offered genuine community, in a desirable location and at an affordable price. Flexible coworking meets the practical needs of a business for office space, but I'm particularly passionate about the value of community and it's role in helping people thrive.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
It's the process of going through a frustrating experience yourself, but deciding it doesn't have to be that way and actively creating something different. It's about not accepting the status quo, but creating a product you care about and think the world would be a better place with.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
I have worked in start ups in West London for years, and the office options were either soulless, expensive or uninspired. I had worked from private offices, coffee shops or serviced offices - non of which are great options for start ups. I wanted an office space, but I wanted to be around people who were creative and would inspire me. So my aim was to create a shared workspace that had a genuinely creative and inspiring environment, at an affordable price for start ups.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
- Belief in what you're doing
- Empathy: if you're an entrepreneur you're a leader and if you're a leader you have to care about people.
- Self Awareness: you really can't do it all yourself so it's so important to know what you're good at and what you're not good at - then ask for help!
- Intellectual curiosity (Sorry that's naughty I gave four).
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
Positive feedback from customers who really enjoy what you've created. Improving their lives in even a small way feels amazing.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Simon Sinek = wrote the book 'Start With Why' on how the most inspired businesses are purpose driven and appeal to you on a deeper level.
Sara Blakely (founder of Spanx) = a very inspiring entrepreneur who is bold and confident - but humble, honest and amusing!
Julian Richer = founder of Richer Sounds (often rated the best place to work in the UK due to the company culture).
If you had 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?I
Will you come onto The Refinery board / go on holiday with me / be my best friend forever?
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
List of mistakes is expansive! But some include:
- Losing focus or spending too much time on things that just don't matter and won't contribute to your goals (also wasting time on what is urgent but not important)
- Thinking we can achieve more in 1 year than is actually possible, but less in 5 years than is actually possible
- Not just admitting straight away when you don't know or understand something
- Not investing time and effort early on in decent systems and infrastructure. This will come back to haunt you...
- Avoiding tricky conversations and conflicts and letting sub-standard situations fester
How have you funded your ideas?
We were lucky in that we were able to start with a small amount of our personal savings and grow gradually and organically. For our second venue though we are looking for debt financing from private individuals.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Oxford is an amazing environment to work and has easy access to London.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them? (Anything Oxfordshire especially!)
Books: Start with Why (Simon Sinek), The Richer Way (Julian Richer), Screw it, let's do it (Richard Branson), Let My People Go Surfing (Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia)
Podcasts: How I Built This
Any last words of advice?
Keep things as simple as possible.