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Louis Barnett – “If you can’t understand you’re an idiot, don’t start a business.”

Evolve’s webinar on September 17 saw Louis Barnett talk about his fascinating entrepreneurial journey. Born with dyslexia and other learning difficulties, Louis was home schooled and started a chocolate business from his parents’ kitchen aged 12. When he was 14, he became the youngest ever supplier to both Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. His revolutionary product was an edible dark chocolate box filled with hand made chocolates.

The chocolate company—first named Chokolit then renamed Louis Barnett Chocolates—went on to distribute to over 17 countries. In 2015, Louis sold the business and now focuses his attentions on business development and mentoring. He has worked in over 30 countries.

Here are some highlights from the webinar:

  • What I say to all young people, whether it’s school, college or university, is that your naivety is your best weapon; as we get older we tend to second guess ourselves and thinking about what could go wrong. The older we get, experience can sometimes teach you not to reach for those big goals. Because I had that sense of naivety, probably for the first five years of running my business I had absolutely no preconception about what was going to happen.”
  • I was called an ‘entrepreneur’ in a news article. I didn’t know what the word meant. I had to Google it.”
  • It’s important to have a mission. If you’re on a mission to achieve something, it makes everything easier. But also from a consumer psychology point of view, I think Simon Sinek said it best, ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’”
  • Taking on an investor is a bit like getting married—it’s a very, very big decision, and if I was going to give anyone advice it would be that you have to really trust and like the person. You have to do your due diligence at every single level.”
  • I had a really bad work-life balance for many years. One of the problems I saw when I was in that young entrepreneurial community was that we had this ‘hustle and grind’ thing going on. If you said to somebody, ‘Oh, I’ve done a 60-hour week,’ somebody would pat you on the back and go, ‘Yes! Great! You’re going to go far.’ Yes—far and faster into the grave maybe…”
  • In the past five or six years I’ve noticed this push for everyone to become an entrepreneur, and I absolutely think that isn’t the right way to go about it. There is a lot of risk associated with becoming an entrepreneur and running your own business—there’s also great rewards and I wouldn’t change my journey for the world—but I think we need to have more honest and open discussions about what it really takes to be successful as an entrepreneur.”
  • If I was to put down one or two things that I think really made the difference for me in my own business, it would be mentors and humility. I think if you cannot honestly say that you understand that you’re an idiot, don’t start a business. You need to take away the ego and understand that you haven’t got all the answers.”

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