I’m not your typical entrepreneur. As a 38-year-old business owner with a handful of successful marketing agencies under my belt, I’ve never been one to follow any sort of blueprint or rulebook when it comes to launching or running businesses. I’m what you might call a bit of an alternative entrepreneur. Not in a ‘soak your feet in toilet water to relieve stress’ Steve Jobs kind of way; but an adrenaline junkie with a strong passion for motorbikes and taking risks – which is true on both a personal and business level. 

So you can only guess what happened when, back in March 2020, the local pub on the doorstep of our Crowdify HQ between Old Street and Angel, went under. My business partner Fergus Harrington and I were gutted to see that, like so many other businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors, it was shutting its doors for good. Buying a pub was something we’d always talked about and following months of talks with the owner and a bright idea to bring it back to life, by July, a deal was done and the pub was ours. 

Bearing in mind, these talks started around the time that coronavirus had really just started infiltrating all corners of the world, when none of us knew the massive impact it would have, and before our social lives, as we once knew it, were about to be turned upside down. Was it a smart move? That’s the difference between being an entrepreneur and being a business leader, the difference between having a vision and taking a risk, or sticking to the rulebook; a rulebook that has been completely ripped up and in the process of being rewritten again. 

There’s no denying that the past 12 months have been tough for every business owner and I take my hat off to those who have survived and thrived – either been built on a business model that poised to react and adapt to unexpected change or those who have been agile enough to weather the storm of unexpected circumstances that we all found ourselves in. 

During this time, some of us will have got some things right and others some things wrong – but overall, it has been a time to jump into the deep end, test some new waters, learn from any mistakes made along the way and keep moving on. With many of my own businesses operating in industries that thrive on face to face interactions and live activations, all of a sudden my events business had ground to a halt, so we had no choice but to broaden our horizons. As a passionate advocate for the hospitality industry, I wasn’t going to let a good opportunity pass me by. I believe the industry will come back just as strong – if not stronger – than before and saw an opportunity for us to invent something new and exciting. 

Where are you going? Knowhere Special

We teamed up with an exceptional operational partner – a family run business headed up by a chap called Ash Clarke, who we’ve always been a fan of. His business wanted to step up and go to the next level so by joining forces we came up with a really cool concept to bring a new lease of life to a tired venue with the Crowdify touch. Knowhere Special is the epitome of our vision to build a modern day neighbourhood pub and create an environment that we ourselves would want to attend and hang out both during and after work, serving our famous cocktails, coffee and small plates. What’s more, it’s got a number of bookable private rooms for functions and meetings, giving us a new string to our bow when dealing with clients (when face-to-face meetings are a thing again, of course). The term ‘meet you at the pub’ will take on a completely different meaning!

For me as a business owner, there’s two things that really tick and get my engine running. One of them is going into an industry and creating a business, creating an idea and creating a product or service that people want and is better than what’s already out there. The second thing is finding people who are extremely talented and being the motivation and the platform for them to build their own companies and go on to succeed. 

When we launched Crowdify, back in 2019 long before Covid-19 turned the whole world upside down, we had a vision to disrupt the industry by offering a new kind of full-service technical marketing agency, designing digital assets for clients with the future of marketing in mind. Being agile, adaptive, responsive, forward thinking and highly analytical in our approach has always been the winning formula to help businesses grow and thrive. 

Great media and communications today are all about social networks. Over the last 12 months those networks have of course been digital but we must not forget that social is face to face as well. And after a year of being confined to the four walls of our homes, consumers are craving social interaction like never before. Enter Knowhere Special.  

Has buying a pub during a global pandemic been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career? As we reopen our doors this week (after only a short stint pre-Christmas), only time will tell, but one thing’s for sure: you’ll never know until you try. And that’s entrepreneurial spirit right there. 

By James Rix, Founder and CEO of Crowdify

Originally published Just Entrepreneurs | 19 April 2021