Getting to know you: Sarah De’Lacy

What do you currently do?
I currently manage the University of Surrey’s Technology and Space Business Incubators. We support, nurture and help to grow early stage technology and space related businesses by providing bespoke business support to each entrepreneur and business through our in-house Entrepreneurs in Residence, a Mentor Pool of industry experts and experienced business professionals to maximise chances of success. Also, as part of my role as Head of Incubation at The University of Surrey, I run the Surrey 100 Club, an investment club for business angels looking to invest from £100k to £750k in early-stage businesses. We work with each business to help develop and refine their investable opportunity and shape the pitch for our network of investors.

What is your inspiration in the business?
People inspire me – the entrepreneurs who are starting their businesses and the journeys they go through, as well as the entrepreneurs, who have been on that journey a few times, got the scars and want to come back and help others with their journey. Lastly, the investors who understand the important role they play in funding start-up and early-stage businesses and the value they provide to help them succeed. Everything I do is about people and the support network we build around them. We have an ethos of never a failure, always a lesson. This is your world, shape it or someone else will!

Who do you admire?
The person I most admire is Alan Sugar – being a born and bred Londoner I’ve always admired the journey he went on to get where he is today. He was entrepreneurial at a young age, selling electronic goods out of the back of a van with his savings. I know some people love it and others hate it, but I’m a big fan of The Apprentice and Alan has tried to ensure the show be more business-like and less focused on entertainment. However it never ceases to amaze me how badly people will act when you ask them to work alongside each other! His work is admirable and something many can aspire to in today’s modern society.

Looking back are there things you would have done differently? 
I think everyone can look back and criticise oneself at certain times and say – ‘I could have done that better’ but hindsight is a wonderful thing! I’d like to think I always act in the best interest of those who I’m supporting or working with/for. Being a natural ‘fixer’ and ‘operator’, I’m at my best when I’m solving problems or stopping them from occurring in the first place. Valuing people above all else in business, to me, is the way to define my way of working, by putting colleagues/partners at the centre of everything I do.

What advice would you give someone starting out?
Be certain! It’s what you want to do and that you have the discipline, self-confidence and motivation to do it. It’s tough out there, so be sure to plan, plan and then plan again, know what your concept, product or service is and what problem it’s solving, that will make people or businesses want to buy it from you. Have somewhere you can focus 100% on building the business. Get help, there are plenty of good business support programmes out there available for start-ups. Be sure to do your research and pick the right one for you. Having the support of seasoned Entrepreneurs, Industry Experts and professionals will be invaluable to you.