StartUs Presents: Broke in London

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We interviewed Manolis Zografakis, founder of Broke in London, to talk about his vision to make living in London possible on a tight budget - for everyone!

Describe Broke in London in 50 or less words.

Broke in London is a fun one-stop survival guide for Londoners living on a budget. It compiles a comprehensive list of all the best websites for jobs, budget accommodation, cheap food & shopping, bargain transportation and entertainment.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

I love project management, as I am also a creative strategist and digital marketing consultant. I like having responsibilities and facing challenges as well as to be independent. I enjoy working on my projects, just like a kid likes to play with his toys. I can be so passionate that people see me as a workaholic. That’s why I think that entrepreneurship was a natural path in my life.

From the age of 6, I would say to my parents that one day I would become an entrepreneur. I always had business ideas (most of the time they were a bit crazy), but I never made the step to implement any of them until I founded Broke in London. Some of those crazy ideas became reality for other companies or individuals around the world. When I came up with the idea of Broke in London I felt that I was mature enough and ready to make my idea come true as I strongly believed in it and it was also kind of doable. I came up with the idea after finishing my Master’s degree in London. It was during that period that I began to look for a job and permanent accommodation. I realized that looking for these two things can be a full time job, especially for a recent graduate or a new expat who doesn’t know where to look and where to start. I found out that there weren’t any easy pointers or websites that showcase and review job boards, accommodation sites and room vacancies. Hence I decided to take this leap of faith and create my own ‘business’ Broke in London.

In 7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

Broke in London has played an important role in the lives of Londoners from day one. We receive emails on a frequent basis by users who just want to give a thumbs up, let us know that they love the site and to keep up the great work. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world and Broke in London’s purpose is to help Londoners survive on the cheap. The idea came in the beginning of the economic crisis and it was obvious that more and more expats or students like me would arrive in the capital looking for a better future. So, the site was built for all these people to help them save time, money and effort and I was certain that it would be successful because the idea came out of a need. My goal is to build several ‘Broke in…’ around the world. Until this point I have I have been focusing to grow Broke in London but my plan still remains to launch similar sites in other big cities.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

I measure my success according to the impact that Broke in London has to Londoners’ lives. As long as we receive positive feedback from our users, our traffic and fans increase, and people are sharing our story we know that we are doing things right.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

Most of the time we work from our home, a cozy cafe or a co-working space. I normally wake up around 8:00am and do my morning rituals. I take some time (before even turning on my laptop) to write down the plan for the day and the plan for the week (if it’s Monday morning). This helps me stay focused on my daily tasks and goals and stops me losing track. I clean my working space and start working – normally around 9:00am. Depending on my schedule and whether I have a meeting or not, I sometimes work at a local cafe. On a sunny day I go to work for some hours at the park as I love working in nature. In the middle of the day, when I feel tired, I take a 15 minute break to meditate and do some relaxation – this helps me to recharge and continue working at a high pace. I then work until I have my entire to-do list cleared.

Already pivoted? Did customers use the service like you imagined it in the beginning?

Nope. Until now we have stuck to our initial business model and mission. There are some big changes to come in the future but they are based on the plan.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

Until this point Broke in London is bootstrapped but we are open to funding opportunities. The first years were super difficult and hectic for me as I had to work on several jobs at the same time whilst working and developing Broke in London. This was so I could earn money to invest in the platform.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

We always try to be 100% focused on our plan and our goals. Broke in London has no competitors, only allies. We don’t compete with the rest of the London guides, but instead we feature them and we review them in our categories. There is no other site that has the same mission, model or aim so we compete only with ourselves. We only try to become better and better every day.

What do you look for in team members?

They should be reliable, honest and straightforward, flexible, adaptable, creative, independent and have a positive attitude.

Why would a talent join your team?

Because they like what we do, they believe in the idea and share the same vision and values as us.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

During these first years there were several important good and bad moments. The first one was the moment that we reached the first 30,000 unique users in a month.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

I would suggest you find trustworthy, skilled and hardworking partners to pair up with. It took me more than a year to realize that doing everything by yourself is almost impossible so it’s essential to share the partnership of your startup with 1 or 2 more skilled partners who you trust, respect and value. Try to find people with different skill-sets so that everyone brings a unique value to the startup. Moreover, it’s always good to ask for feedback from friends, family and users and listen carefully what they have to say. Try to be objective and analyze the comments you receive about your project and think how this comment can help your idea become even better. Finally, you should learn how to work hard, love what you do and not give up easily.



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