In September Jo Little and Alfie Mullan launched a mission to deliver high-quality advice to young entrepreneurs. Ian Horne visited them at their London offices to find out more.
It is early days for the two co-founders of Eelah. They have two clients. But with 15 prospects set to sign up in the coming months, they hope the Eelah dream will quickly become a reality.
The chartered financial planners, who as I arrive have just completed a high intensity interval training class, seem ready for the task.
Flash of inspiration
What inspired Little and Mullan to start the business? A lunch seminar organised by venture capital trust Octopus Titan, and a story told by a senior fund manager about two entrepreneurs who had sold a new business idea for millions.
‘It was a light bulb moment,’ reflects Mullan. Who was their adviser? ‘I didn’t sleep that night. I wanted to find out who these people were, and what their problems might be.’
Little and Mullan then spent countless hours speaking to entrepreneurs and getting acquainted with the challenges and financial scenarios they encounter. ‘Some of these people are looking to change the world,’ says Mullan. ‘Hopefully, if we can remove their financial anxieties, we can help them do that.’
They encountered a steep learning curve. ‘Having structure has been so important,’ observes Little, who has found Gino Wickman’s book Traction particular useful. ‘We’ve built our business through the practices in that book,’ says Mullan. ‘We follow it to the letter.’
Marketing has also been a new experience, not that you would know from looking at the slick Eelah website. Inspired by Carl Richards, the American financial planner who founded the Behavior Gap website, Mullan is writing a blog to publicise the firm.
The ingredients for a powerful brand are present, but as the bearded and t-shirted Mullan muses, ‘nobody knows we’re different until we’re sat in front of them.’ When I mention the dress code, Mullan clarifies. ‘I don’t feel comfortable wearing a suit all the time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know when to wear one,’ he says.
They credit those who have offered time and dispensed wisdom to help them improve. These include former Bloomsbury Wealth principal Jason Butler, Maven Adviser founder Andy Hart, SK Financial client director Kunle Olafare, and Capital Asset Management chief executive Alan Smith.
They also mention Gavin Francis, of positive impact consultancy Worthstone, who has influenced Eelah’s investment proposition. ‘Positive impact investing is where we’re seeing most interest,’ says Mullan. ‘It needs to be seen as more mainstream,’ Little chips in. ‘People have thought the returns are lower, but that’s a myth.’
Eelah is an appointed representative of Hertfordshire-based Emery Little Wealth Management, a firm owned by Little’s father, Andy Little. The pair agrees that, of all people, Little Senior deserves praise for allowing them to grow as professionals and chase their dream.
Mullan has been with Emery Little for 11 years, while Little has been there for eight. Both split their time between the two firms. Mullan began as an administrator, and rose through the ranks. Little followed a similar path and is now the chief executive.
Little says: ‘I’d like to build Eelah and Emery Little as self-sustaining businesses we’re proud of. If you go about things the right way, with ethics and authenticity, you’d hope financial success would come off the back of it.’
Mullan concurs: ‘You have to be who you are. If we’re both leaders of two separate fantastic advice firms in 10 years’ time, we’re living the dream.’
‘I support the World Wildlife Foundation, and specifically their work for orangutans in Borneo,’ says Little.
‘At 14 I worked at a fish and chip shop in Hemel Hempstead,’ says Mullan. ‘The money was terrible but the boss was great.’
‘We want to be well-known enough that people want to work for us. We want people working towards the same culture to create a community,’ says Little.