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The pros and cons of going solo

Wednesday, 26 September 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

feature-rocket-man-thumbDeciding to go solo in business might be a no-brainer for some entrepreneurs, but for others the decision is not so easy.


If you can’t decide whether to go it alone or find a co-founder, it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons.


StartupSmart spoke to three entrepreneurs to determine the pluses and minuses of going it alone in business.



The pros


More freedom


“Being a sole founder has meant I have had freedom in doing things how I have wanted to do them, says Naomi Davis, founder of Treats à la Bark, a home-based organic dog treat company.  



“Things like deciding how I wanted my packaging to look, how the website should look, what flavours I would do, other products I want to stock and how I would market my brand has been great.”


“I can follow through on all the visions I see for Treats à la Bark.”  


Less drama


According to Ryan Wardell, who founded his former start-up Project PowerUp as a one-man show, going solo can eliminate a lot of the risk and drama that comes with having a co-founder.


“Disagreements between founders can fuel resentment and slow everything down,” Wardell says.


“If you pick the wrong co-founder, it can be disastrous to the business, especially if they walk away with half the company, leaving you less equity to offer a new co-founder or investors.”


Davis, meanwhile, says there’s nothing worse than feeling as if things are out of your control, which can happen when you have a co-founder.


“At least if something is your own fault, you can work out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again. You can trust yourself to make sure of it,” she says.


“Being on my own has meant that I have not had any risk in someone else’s negligence.”


More learning


Davis points out you learn a lot when you’re on your own, not only about yourself but about business.


“Things that you never thought you could do seem to come to you… You realise the power of passion and how it can drive you into things you never would’ve seen yourself doing,” she says.


“Things I have learnt have included basic Photoshop skills, basic coding for my website and marketing. It’s been an incredible time for my own personal growth and I love it.”


“Nothing beats looking at your successes and realising you’ve done it all on your own. It’s one of the most liberating feelings.”



The cons


Fewer resources


“Everyone knows it’s easier when you have two sources of income, and this is no different when starting up a business,” Davis says.


“It has been challenging using only the leftovers from my own salary to fund my venture. I had to be really careful with my spending [and] try to break up payments into instalments.”


In addition to having less money, Wardell says sole traders are more pressed for time because, unlike co-founders, they can’t be in two places at once.


“This is especially important when you’re raising capital – that’s basically a full-time job in itself. And if you’re raising capital, who is focusing on building the business?” he says.


Sole founders also have a smaller network of contacts and fewer skills to draw on.


Melbourne mum Nikki Horovitz, who founded lifestyle brand Tonic with fellow mumpreneur Toni Joel, believes two heads are always better than one.


“We have very different strengths. She’s the salesperson and I’m the product developer… I don’t know if I would have got this far without Toni,” Horovitz says.


More responsibility


“You’ve got to share the money but when times are tough, there are two of you to share the burden,” Horovitz says.


“Also, when I had my second child, knowing I wasn’t the only one in the business, and not everything was falling on my shoulders, was comforting.”


Less sharing


“It can be a bit lonely at times when you’re on your own. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to bounce ideas off people,” Davis admits.


Horovitz says the sharing of ideas – and values – is one of the best aspects of being in business.


“Having someone else who felt the same way you did – wanting the same things out of the business, so sharing the same values – [was an advantage],” she says.


“And also the fun aspect – we travel at least once a year and we have a lot of fun when we do it.”