When you get your cofounder set up right, you become so much more than the sum of your parts. The challenge is the work it takes to craft that relationship.
In this series, we interview some of the best cofounding teams we know and ask them how they get the best from each other.
Next up is Sam Hornsby and Mae Yip from ERIC.
Mae (L) and Sam (R)
RF: What is ERIC?
SH: It's Spotify for career advice - we collect all the best career education podcasts, videos, articles & events from across the internet and bring them into one place, so young people can easily find amazing career advice whenever they need it. We're mainly focused on career advice for the creative & tech industries. And it's free to use!!
RF: and how long has ERIC been going?
MY: We've been making the app for a year. But before that, we ran the UK's biggest creative industry career fairs (called ERIC Festivals) - so we were still working on ERIC, just in a different capacity pre-covid.
RF: How did you meet?
SH: We met at school when we were 8 years old - we've been best friends for 22 years now! Still going strong. We bonded over our love of creative things and we were always doing arts & crafts stuff at school and in our free time together. Mae was definitely very cool at school and if it wasn't for our shared love of creativity she probably would never have been friends with me, haha! We remained best friends, even though we took very different paths after education (Mae studied at Newcastle became a chartered accountant at PWC, whereas I didn't go to uni and jumped around the startup world with no clear career path). We eventually decided to quit our jobs and solve the problem we'd experienced - making good career advice easier to access. And we've never looked back!
RF: Who Does What at ERIC?
MY: You might be able to tell from our backgrounds, we have very different skillsets! I'm a very logical and considered thinker, which means I gravitated towards COO. Plus my finance background is helpful for operations! I'm good at keeping us on track for our short term goals. I'm also obsessed with design - I created the ERIC logo & branding. 🎨
SH: My role is long term thinking, so I have more of a CEO position. My area is investment, government relationships and wider strategy. I'm also obsessed with marketing psychology, so I am very into anything to do with our user data.
RF: How would you describe your cofounder, and what makes them great to work with?
SH: I honestly can't fault her - Mae is super ambitious but very understated about it. She's so funny and charms everyone she meets, so she's incredible at winning clients. She's incredibly creative. Mae is also so laid back she's horizontal. I can be quite hectic and I get overexcited and Mae's relaxed attitude is not just what I need, it's what the whole team needs to keep a level head.
MY: Sam is the world's best hype person - it's impossible to be around her and not get excited about a big vision. Our business is so focused on helping young people get access to something we never had access to, so having someone who has so much passion and excitement for what we do is exactly what a business like ours needs to be successful.
RF: If you could change one thing about them, what would it be?
SH: We live in different cities, which can be hard! So I'd move Mae to Brighton with me.
MY: Haha, and I'd move Sam to London!
RF: What has been the secret of maintaining a good relationship through the ups and downs?
SH: I am a big personality, so sometimes that can be hard for Mae to deal with. If I have a big idea, I focus on it and it's hard to get me to do anything else. When I realised this was the case, I had a bit of a 'self-awareness' epiphany and came to the conclusion that if I didn't fix my own behaviour, Mae would eventually find me impossible to work with. So we both went on a massive self-awareness journey and learnt to observe our own behaviours and deal with the causes.
MY: Absolutely, that was a game-changer for us. And it wasn't just Sam who was working on herself, I absolutely recognised that if I never address something as an issue or run away from conflict, then I'll constantly be miserable. What's less effort, damage control after you've hurt someone or preventing that behaviour, to begin with? I think that's why we work so well together now - we broke that communication barrier and we are always talking about our feelings and thoughts in calm, open conversation. I think we both fully understand now that if anyone wants to talk about something that isn't working for them, it's not a personal attack and we all just want to help each other and have the best working relationship possible.
RF: What is the most challenging moment you have shared, and how did you get through it?
SH: Toughest moment has probably been raising investment. It's such a weird mindset you have to get into and you have to mentally detach from your everyday tasks. No matter how thick your armour is (and mine is pretty thick!), the no's will get to you eventually. But that's the benefit of having a business partner - you can pick each other up when times are tough!
MY: Yeah, the investment stuff can be so hard. We've had some yeses, which is great but every business who has raised will know that a yes doesn't come immediately. And rejection is hard, in any situation. It's been so incredibly helpful to have each other and we always send over uplifting stories to each other on WhatsApp or Slack, like Peleton getting rejected by investors for 4 years, or Airbnb's founder sharing some of the rejection emails they were given at the beginning of their journey. Sam and I love lifting each other up with things like that.
RF: Finally, what advice can you give cofounders starting out together?
MY: Definitely start your own journey of self-awareness. If you recognise your own positive and negative traits and analyse why you do things or react in a certain way, you will be easier to work with. And you need to make yourself as easy to work with as possible because you're going to be spending a lot of time together! Highly recommend starting with free personality tests online (whether you believe in them or not, it's still fun to do!), look into the 8 different intelligences so you can open your mind to different natural skillsets, look into the 12 steps of EQ and investigate how to observe your behaviours and reactions.
SH: 100%. The thing that's been the most helpful to us is actually understanding what introspection is. Also, it makes it so much easier to have fun - Mae and I have a policy that we have to be able to laugh at everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Nothing is too serious for us not to be able to enjoy the luxury of being able to run a business with our best friend. If we stop being able to enjoy that then we've completely forgotten our priorities! Working with Mae is the most fun I know I could ever have in a job - I've hit the best friend and business partner jackpot! 🎉
Visit ERIC for free on-point careers advice, particularly if you are looking for a job in the creative industries, retail or tech. ERIC also provides job posting opportunities and advice for companies that are trying to attract the best talent.