Posted: Fri 5th May 2023
Enterprise Nation partnered with Mastercard and Strive to deliver an online 'One Stop Shop' for entrepreneurs.
An initiative of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Strive will give 650,000 British micro and small enterprises the support they need to thrive in the digital economy over the next three years and beyond.
We're catching up with some of the business owners who have been using the initiative's Make a Plan discovery tool to find out about how it's benefited them so far.
Here, we talk to Phuong Skovgaard, founder of Invest4Energy, a decentralised financing platform for renewable energy.
When and how did you make the move into owning a business?
After the recession in 2008 and a few redundancies, I started to look into building a business of my own. The transition period was long and painful, as I never thought that I could be made redundant.
I was going through the process of being divorced as well as having a brain tumour and being parent to a very young son. I had to look for an alternative, which was to create my own job.
It all came to fruition in 2016, when I built my renewable energy business with a partner in Vietnam, where I was born. My role is to raise funds for my partner to install projects.
As the finance got harder to find, we started a new venture Invest4Energy around the same time. It's a crowdfunding marketplace to bring new technology, finance and ESG projects together.
People can raise funds for their solar projects or lend money and earn interest. It also allows investors to access ESG initiatives to finance a portfolio of projects at significantly high rates but with low risk.
What support, if any, did you seek when setting up your new business?
None! I didn't know of any and didn't think that this kind of thing existed.
In the early weeks and months, what went well? What didn't? How did you overcome any problems?
It was detective work to find what I needed to support what I wanted to do. It was extremely time-consuming and I had no income while this was happening.
The good thing was that there were people who were willing to share their experience, and happy to help when they saw that I followed their advice. I just kept searching and things became clearer and clearer. I'm still trying to make things clearer as they evolve.
You used the Make a Plan tool. What specifically has it helped with?
The Make a Plan tool helps me see things in the right order.
Now you're established and looking to grow, what do you see as the next steps for your business?
Now we're raising £50,000 for the Kingston pilot project to prove that our platform works. We're also starting a community energy journey with local businesses.
I've never met so many extremely hardworking and collaborative business owners as I do now. They want to make Kingston upon Thames a solar energy town. We'll build many projects in Kingston.
We'd like to do the same in Lewisham, where I live, then the rest of the UK. The platform is built to handle the high number of participants. My aim is to present our project at COP28 in Expo City in Dubai in November this year.
What are your more longer-term plans?
We want to implement the solution worldwide. We also want to contribute to the 7.7 TW that needs to be constructed to meet the 1.5 degree goal by 2030 according to IRENA's report on huge untapped renewable energy potential.
What are the most important lessons you've learned from going into business for yourself?
Not everyone wants to work at the same pace as me, even though they indicate that they want to. I have to respect that.
Communication is very important – you have to find a way to say things as they really are in the most objective way to avoid misunderstanding, which can hurt your partners, clients and your own reputation.
Reputation seems like a big word, but in business people trust you to deliver. Your clients need your products or solutions for their own clients directly or indirectly, and they rely on you as much as you rely on them.
I just love it when we make it happen together with our clients. The feeling is very unique when it's your products and solutions.
About Strive Make a Plan
Create an account, answer some quick questions about your business, get personalised feedback, then build an action plan that will help accelerate your business's growth. Take the Make a Plan tool today