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Feeling the fear and doing it anyway - Four entrepreneurs share their tips for success

The fourth and final AIB Start-up Academy Summit of 2017 took place in Belfast, with four of the region’s leading business minds taking to the stage to share their wisdom with a room packed with start-ups, all eager to learn from the best.

Brexit, government support, funding and skills were the hot topics of the night as audience members posed questions to leading business personalities Bill Wolsey, the entrepreneur behind the successful Merchant and Bullitt Hotels in Belfast, Diane Roberts from Xcell Partners and Colman Equity, Eleanor McEvoy, founder of Budget Energy and Caroline Wilson, Founder of Belfast Food Tour. Belfast attendees also got to avail of practical advice from industry experts at Google, Grant Thornton and Invest NI while networking and enjoying refreshments provided by local start-up companies; Copeland Gin, Prohibition Drinks and Bubbacue.


With decades of experience and success between them, Bill Wolsey, Eleanor McEvoy, Caroline Wilson and Diane Roberts shared the following advice:

Important traits for Entrepreneurs

I think the key traits needed for success are honesty, tenacity, stamina and luck. Lots of entrepreneurs want to be the best at what they do. When international hoteliers come to Belfast, I think I can compete with them and beat them, I don’t fear them. I started out with one pub, and now we’re one of the biggest hospitality groups in the 32 counties. I never thought that would have happened, but when you get good people working for you, they drive you on.

Bill Wolsey, Hotelier and Founder of the Beannchor Group


Learning Lessons and Facing Fears

I’ve built and sold two businesses and I’m on to my third now. Every day is like a school day and that never changes. The day you think you know everything is the day you’re going to sink. The bad days will help you survive. You have to look at them, learn from them and then put them to one side and move on. ‘Fear the fear and do it anyway’, because we all get scared in business, but we ignore it.

Eleanor McEvoy, CEO, Budget Energy


Driving Yourself On

I’ve had to compare myself with myself! There wasn’t a Food Tour in Belfast before I started out, so there was nobody to compare myself with. If you wanted an easy life, you wouldn’t start a business. There’s something to be said for achieving something every day for yourself and also being the master of your own destiny. For me, it’s not about money, it’s about growing something special.

Caroline Wilson, Founder, Belfast Food Tour

Mentorship and Encouragement

I think mentors have incredible power. I always encourage start-ups to get in touch with me. It’s always nice to get an email! When I was growing up, I was told, ‘get a good degree and you’ll get a good job’. Then I was told, ‘get a good suit and you’ll get a better job’. I don’t think anyone ever said to me, ‘you could be an entrepreneur’. Nowadays, when I speak to young people, I say, ‘why don’t you create your own business?’

Diane Roberts, Managing Partner, Xcell Partners


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