Thanks to Scott Gulliver, Founder of Fluff Digital, for this guest blog on building better peer support.

As a founder of a Swindon-based software agency, I’ve personally been through the rocky ups and downs of business ownership. Founders of startups, in particular, often have to navigate learning a lot of new concepts, and make quick decisions, whilst introducing a new product to the world. In my experience, it’s a road that’s far better when traveled with others.

Looking for help and support

Around 380,000 small businesses open each year in the UK, but entering this new environment for the first time can be both daunting and confusing.

In early-2021, during a difficult time with the pandemic, my co-founder decided to step away from the business. This left me feeling overwhelmed, overworked and with few places to turn for support.

There are some options out there at the moment, such as one-on-one coaching and structured groups, but I personally found them to be intimidating or unsuitable. This also seems to be the case with many others that we’ve spoken to in our research since.

The thing that actively helps and supports founders, particularly in the early stages, is having a close-knit support network that can offer lots of useful guidance and advice.

Small tribes

To solve this problem, we’re creating Peer, an app designed to empower business owners to grow together. Finding great peer support should be easy, and fit into our modern busy lives. We believe that all entrepreneurs should have access to a great support network, and that’s what we’re working towards.

Peer is built around power of small tribes. By approaching business support with a different mindset, we aim to help people help each other, unlocking another rich source of support for founders – their peers.

Peer Support

With a close-knit group of Peers of those on a similar journey to yourself, it brings about:

  1. Accountability
  2. Emotional support, from people who truly “understand” what you’re going through
  3. A place to share ideas, and get feedback
  4. A group that’s constantly rooting for you, and always keen to celebrate your successes

Solving real problems

So why this? Why now, especially when we have many platforms out there which can help people communicate and “get together” virtually? Haven’t we all communicated by technology enough over the past few years?

With Peer, we’re using technology to solve real issues, not replace the human interaction that makes building a support network work. Our main focus is on solving these key elements:

  • It’s hard to find others who are going through similar journeys
  • It’s hard to find the time to reach out and build relationships with others
  • It’s difficult to build relationships with people to a point where you can lean on them

At the core of the solution is utilising technology to match people into small groups (of around 6 people) who will act as an ongoing support group for each other. They’re matched based on a variety of factors, and will be at similar points in their business, so that they are able to tackle the same problems together.

By providing intuitive tools always in reach, it allows for problems to be discussed as they arise, rather than having to deal with this alone.

All of this comes together to give entrepreneurs an environment where they can have a safe space to discuss thoughts, emotions and struggles with others, and get input and ideas from others for their business development.

Built with others

We’ve been building Peer with input from a wide range of people, who have been so helpful in getting Peer off to a great start.

Lucy Paine, from TechSPARK Swindon & Wiltshire, has been a fantastic source of positivity and support over the past year. She has been pivotal to getting Peer to where it is now, by providing us with her knowledge and advice to ensure that we solve the problem in the best way. She’s always a fountain of inspiration and really understands what makes businesses and their owners work.

We’re talking to some great business support organisations to help ensure that we build this with them, and help to solve a problem that exists as much for them as for the founders that they assist.

Finally, we’re always keen to speak to, and work with, more people about Peer, and help to make a service which truly helps people to build amazing companies.