Why I’m starting an entrepreneur’s breakfast club

Freddie Fforde, founder of ‘work near home’ startup Patch, reveals his new idea
Freddie Fforde
The Patch team
The Patch team. Freddie far side in the white shirt

My entrepreneurial journey began with the recognition that our city-centric working culture was no longer fit for purpose.

Each day, millions of people were leaving their homes early in the morning and making lengthy commutes into city offices, even though everything they needed to make life work – schools, nurseries, shops, gyms, myriad other amenities – already existed in their local community.

The pandemic exposed the folly of this culture and helped city commuters realise that a different approach to life and work was possible. However, it also highlighted the significant challenges many people face when working from home – loneliness, low motivation, lack of social connectivity and balance.

We created Patch to address this problem and breathe new life into UK towns by allowing people to ‘work near home’ and participate in local community life as they worked. Our spaces are designed for everyone – regardless of profession, background, goals or aspirations.

But as we’ve engaged with our members, it has become clear just how much the prevailing city-centric business culture of recent decades has stifled and inhibited entrepreneurialism.

Entrepreneurs exist everywhere – not just in our cities

We’ve been conditioned to think of entrepreneurialism solely in the context of high-growth, ‘move fast and break things’ startups pursuing industry domination and relying on capital from the big financial centres to achieve billion-dollar valuations.

Yet, in reality, entrepreneurship means different things to different people. For us, it simply means working on your ambition – within your existing organisation, starting your own business, or creating a new venture to serve your local society.

Most of the entrepreneurs we meet are focused on solving real problems they’ve experienced in their day-to-day lives. They’re practical, driven, committed to their endeavours, and desperate to get on with the job. Working in a city office does nothing to further their community-oriented goals.

While these entrepreneurs crave the opportunity to connect with like-minded peers, to share experiences, receive mentoring and reaffirm their passions, these opportunities are heavily focussed in major city centres. Early morning seminars held in city centre hotel lobbies. After-work networking events in big corporate headquarters. It’s an approach that discourages them away from where they need to be, from where they’ll make the biggest difference

Extending local support to community-minded entrepreneur

We need to change our collective thinking about how to support entrepreneurs and create more accessible means of bringing passionate change-makers together. It’s why I’m starting an entrepreneur’s breakfast club at Patch. And it’s why I’m calling on other entrepreneur-driven organisations to follow suit and extend their reach into the hundreds of UK towns where entrepreneurialism is already buzzing with energy.

Our breakfast club aims to bring together the extraordinary range of talented people we are meeting at every Patch location. There is nothing revolutionary about our approach – we’ll use informal monthly gatherings, supported by ongoing online conversations, to cover the most pertinent issues facing any and every budding entrepreneur, from how to start a new venture to good housekeeping, from fundraising to building resilience and preserving mental wellbeing.

The difference is that we’re engaging people where they already are – in their local communities where they live and work – and connecting them to like-minded entrepreneurs in other communities so that they can see first-hand how different people have approached similar real-world problems in their own neighbourhoods.

Enabling talent to flourish across the UK

There is no escaping the economic reality of the past 18-24 months. It has been brutally difficult for budding entrepreneurs to get new ideas off the ground or keep their existing ventures from floundering as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.

Being an entrepreneur involves making huge sacrifices – working tirelessly for long hours, going above and beyond to make things happen, and being mentally ‘always on’ regardless of everything else that life throws up. But I firmly believe that being an entrepreneur shouldn’t come at the expense of being a parent, maintaining relationships and friendships or pursuing outside interests and passions.

There are so many talented entrepreneurs juggling multiple priorities and commitments who find a long commute into the city utterly distracting from what they’re trying to achieve. Talent is equally distributed across the UK. The same cannot be said for opportunity.

It is incumbent upon us to make entrepreneurialism easier by championing a life of less commuting and more community, and ensuring that those who choose to live and work locally can access the same support and advice as their city-based peers.

Written by
Freddie Fforde
Written by
October 30, 2023