Skip to main content

We had decided we wanted to set up a co-operative, we had agreed on the kind of school we wanted to be, what we wanted to teach and how we wanted to teach it.  That was the easy part.  Now we needed to do all the ‘business’ stuff and although we felt like we were doing pretty well, we knew some additional support wouldn’t go amiss.

So earlier this year, when a contact from the local co-operative network (big shout out to S!) encouraged us to apply for the <Un-Found> accelerator programme, delivered by Co-operatives UK in partnership with Stir to Action and supported by The Co-operative Bank, we decided to give it a go.

We were unsure we had the appropriate experience to be accepted on the programme but felt we had nothing to lose.  So we worked on and completed the application form but weren’t confident about making it to the interview stage.  We made it to the interview, then worried we hadn’t performed well enough to be accepted onto the programme, but we had. I think you might see a pattern developing here(!).

On the first day, we had to give a three minute presentation pitching our business idea to the CEO of Co-operatives UK, Rose Marley;  the Director from Stir to Action, Jonathan Gordon-Farleigh; the Managing Director of SME at the Co-operative Bank, Catherine Douglas; the programme lead, Ludovica Rogers; Marketing & PR expert, Iain McCallum; and the other five ‘start-up’ teams.  We had decided three minutes was not long enough for a formal slide presentation and instead just relied on our speech.  As we watched our peers produce slick looking pitch decks, we wondered how we must have come across.

Thanks to the wonderful team at Co-operatives UK and the other trainers, as the weeks  went on we learnt about co-operative structures and legal governance, website development and user experience, marketing and branding, financing and crowdfunding and pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone, repeatedly!

The biggest challenge, of course, came last.  The programme culminated in a live pitch event on the 21st of July.  As the date of the pitch quickly approached, we looked into the best way to produce a pitch deck and started writing our 5 minute pitch.  Luckily, in addition to everything we had learnt on the <Unfound> Programme, Bernie had also spent a lot of time researching how to create and deliver an effective presentation for her Business Presentation Workshop.  We wrote our speech following the techniques and tips from her workshop and practised the pitch, again and again and again.

The week of the pitch was the hottest of the year in the UK with temperatures almost at 30 degrees, so fever pitch was well and truly being reached!  On the day of the pitch we found out the running order and were relieved that we weren’t going first or last.  When our turn came, we both took a deep breath, launched into our well-rehearsed pitch, Bernie fielded questions from the panelists expertly and then it was all done.  The last 12 weeks of hard work all over.  All we had to do was watch the remaining pitches and wait for the voting to take place and for the results to come in.

Then the results came.  I had been nominated as the person on the screen, Oscars style.  I was already thinking about how to practise thegracious loser’ face.  But, on this occasion, it wasn’t necessary as we won the pitch with almost 28% of the vote!  When they asked me to say a few words, I think it was apparent that I hadn’t practised this particular part of the speech!

My face when they announced that we were the winners!

So from application to winners acceptance speech, all we can say is that, you never know what you are capable of until you try!  And of course, you have to be in it, to win it.

If you are thinking about making that change and you think we could help you progress drop us an email or get in touch through our contact form.

If you know a cooperative start-up (at least partly based in the UK) who might be interested in taking part in the next <UnFound> Accelerator programme, you can visit the website here

Some vocabulary you may not have known:

  • wouldn’t go amiss = would be useful.  E.g., a thank you card wouldn’t have gone amiss
  • decided to give it a go = decided to try.  E.g., I decided to give knitting a go during the first lockdown.
  • wondered how we must have come across = wondered what kind of impression we made, what they thought of us.  E.g., I wondered how I must have come across during our first date.
  • pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone = to be in a unfamiliar situation which is challenging for you.  E.g.  I was out of my comfort zone in my new job.
  • they asked me to say a few words = they asked me to give a short speech (often without preparation).  E.g., I said a few words after accepting the award.
  • practise the ‘gracious loser’ face = practise looking like I don’t mind losing.  E.g., She was a gracious loser and congratulated her opponent.
  • you have to be in it, to win it = you have to participate if you want a chance of winning.  E.g., You have to be in it, to win it, there’s no point in dreaming of winning the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket!


Leave a Reply