Skip to main content

Blog Innovate UK

Innovate UK
Innovate UK

How to grow your business and attract talent - Carmen Cummiskey

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Funding, Support

Growing a team and attracting talent are some of the most difficult challenges that entrepreneurs face. This is something that was no different for me and my business.

woman in front of a chalkboard showing a drawing of an apple tree, with apple image bouncing off her head

I don’t have enough money to do that, becomes a resounding thought at the start of the journey. However, attracting talent to an early stage business doesn’t have to be costly.

I’ve put together some tips on how to get the right people around you and keep them there.

Finding the right chair

The Institute of Directors says that a chair’s role is to ensure that the board is effective in setting tasks and implementing strategy.

When you are an early-stage start-up, it can be easy to live day-to-day, firefighting and pushing to get your product or service to market.

The best thing I’ve done to date is asking my chair to be my chair. It was one of those light-bulb moments.

chalk board image with 'Find the right one' wording next to three boxes two of which contain red X's and one containing a green tick

Having people in your business that have been there, done it and worn the t-shirt (although it’s probably more like earned the battle scars) can have such a positive effect on your planning, outlook and focus.

Having the correct board structure from the beginning shows credibility but also can stop you from making mistakes, and allow you to think clearly about your next move.

Anyone that wants to see you and your business be successful shouldn’t charge you an arm and a leg when you are pre-trading unless you have secured substantial investment.

My chair is a great sounding board and has previous experience in starting three companies and has amazing contacts in the sports sector. We meet once or twice a month to discuss strategy, progress or any problems that have arisen.

Check out potential advisors

When you are an early-stage start-up, turning a profit can seem a million miles away.

There are so many people out there offering help, which is a great thing, but when it comes to advisors my top tip would make sure you do your due diligence on them. Are they really in a position to be advising you and are they in your sector?

Companies House is great for checking people’s history and seeing the companies that they have been associated with.

Having someone as an advisor is a fantastic way to build your team and help strategise the best way to push the business forward.


In my business, I have a couple of key advisors each bring something different to the table.  One is the managing director of a much larger company in a similar sector. The other’s strengths come in the form of financial advice, planning and retail.

They both have a wealth of experience and knowledge when it comes to sales and growing a business internationally.

Incentivising employees

It’s not always about the salary – and in fact, being an early stage company often means you can’t afford to pay people a huge salary. Incentivising in other ways can be key to encouraging people to join your company.

Employee share schemes are one great way to incentivise.

A nice working environment is something that many tech giants are now famous for – think of the Google offices for example! Sadly, start-up budgets don’t stretch to in-office gondolas, but encouraging people to be creative with their workspace can create an innovative environment for creative thinking.

Chalkboard showing words creative, effective, innovative, communicative with the word 'team' circled

Giving people that opportunity to innovate, have a say and influence the progress and route an early-stage company takes can also effectively empower your staff, and is worth more to some than a high salary.

It’s individuals that yearn for this more than the money that I personally love working with.

Flexible working is another great way to cater to employees needs and whilst many of the larger corporates now offer, this it still isn’t the norm for many.

It’s not just about the product

Growing your team, attracting talent and getting the right people around you doesn’t always mean large salaries and quickly depleting resources. Money at an early stage will be tight for quite some time.

Instead, set in place goals and a plan for attracting the right advisors, board members and eventually a ground team because investors, funders and even customers aren’t just looking for a good idea or product but an exceptional team that can deliver on what they say.

Chalk board stick people being pulled up to a higher level

About me and my company

My name is Carmen Cummiskey and I’m the Founder and Chief Executive of TEQNOX.  At TEQNOX we are inventors of innovative protection solutions with our initial focus being body protection for horse riders.

The concept for the business originated whilst I was completing my degree in sports engineering at the University of Strathclyde. I started the business just before my master’s year and spent that trying to raise funding and refine the concept before going full time after graduation.

Registering as a limited company back in 2016 it’s been a long road getting our initial product offering right, but we will be launching our first product Spring of this year.


You can contact Carmen on Twitter and LinkedIn

Contact Innovate UK on:

Sharing and comments

Share this page