Continuing with our series of Member Spotlights, we welcome Charlie Spokes from Rbbl. We hear how Charlie raised £86k in funding, took inspiration from her dating company and turned it into the Rbbl that we have today – networking and events for startups. With a ‘say yes and figure it out later’ mindset, Charlie is infectiously motivated and resilient when it comes to business. Enjoy this Q&A as we get to know her and Rbbl better…
Tell us about yourself and your company…when were you founded? Where did you get the idea for your company?
I’m Charlie Spokes, 36 and founder of Rbbl (pronounced rabble). Rbbl was originally founded in 2017 as a dating company; My Friend Charlie – Great Events, just for Singles!
The idea came when I spotted a gap in the market for really fun events which just happened to be for singles. I organised everything from wine tasting to paddleboarding, axe throwing to dinner parties!
I spent years successfully connecting people through singles events and found I kept revisiting the similarities between dating & networking!
I raised an £86k seed round and built my MVP, SEB (Singles Event Booker) in 2019 to streamline the MFC community, events and matching/networking offering and doubled in size over the following 9 months.
Lockdown turned the business on its head and we lost 100% of revenue overnight, however, it gave us the chance to work on our tech! V1 launched in Feb 2020 as Hellosolo, a marketplace for dating events. Our timing wasn’t right though with the pandemic still causing trouble for events and hospitality!
From this testbed we quickly discovered the value of our offering wasn’t limited to the dating industry, so we pivoted to V2; Rbbl and we launched this January!
Describe your lightbulb moment at which point you knew your venture might actually become a success.
As I expect most founders do, I flip-flop from being 110% certain that my idea is the best idea since sliced bread, to feeling completely defeated; that it’s utter rubbish! Rarely are there moments in that happy middle ground…
Having said that, I knew pretty early on that there would be an audience for Rbbl given all our testing and market research as well as my personal experience trying to find good startup events to go to!
It helps that recently we got Virgin Startups and Dream Factory signed up to list their events, so we’ve obviously got something right!
What are you most passionate about in business? How do you continue to challenge yourself?
Learning new things and helping other people. We took on a few employees through the Kickstart Scheme and I’ve loved helping them find their feet at the start of their careers.
I don’t actively look for challenges within my business life as there are already plenty but I find I need to challenge myself personally to give myself a break from work. This week, for example, I’ve been replacing our bathroom door and it involved removing half the door frame and a lot of YouTube videos. We live in a really old, pretty wonky cottage so nothing is completely square which adds to the fun!
What or who inspired you to establish your company?
It’s always been something I wanted to do. I get bored and fidgety really easily and have never found working for someone else very fulfilling. This is my 4th business (6th if you count all the pandemic pivots!)
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you, and did you follow it?
I think it was Richard Branson who said “Say yes and figure it out later”. I pretty much live by that.
Who do you most admire and why?
Anyone who succeeds in business but is still a decent human!