Fishburners had a catch up with the Co-founder of Spur Projects, William Stubbs, to talk about his start up journey, overcoming life obstacles and sharing some advice he got from his father when starting up.
What is Spur Projects?
We started in 2011 as a non-profit grass roots awareness campaign. We started with a campaign called soften the f*ck up aimed at younger men who are at risk of depression and suicide.
We were born out of the fact that in Australia suicide was the number 1 killer of men aged 14 – 44, so more than road accidents, cancer, heart disease, drugs and alcohol. We kill ourselves more than what the world throws at us. We wanted to do something about that.
We started an online campaigns and over the past 6 years, we have evolved into doing more digital and online campaigns. Combining with our biggest campaign last year, which was how is the world feeling? That was a world wide campaign, real time mental survey with smart phone apps.
How did it all start?
So I met my co founder Lee Crockford who had heard about the statistics back in 2011 and it really was just a chance with one of my best mates knew one of the co-founders and said hey you should talk to Will. He knew that I’d been through depression, I nearly had killed myself when I was a teenager and that I had something to share in that area.
I rocked up thinking that I would help with behind the scenes organisation, project management or writing some content, but they asked me to be the poster boy for it. So the first campaign I was in the video talking about my own experiences and I think that it was a fairly unique way to start our own startup. It’s something that even when it’s been really tough, it’s something that is close to my heart.
Who is your startup for?
So we initially started aimed at 14-44 men. That was based on statistics, that if you’re a man around this age in Australia then suicide is the number 1 killer. Over time we actually found out that while our campaigns are aimed at these men and younger men, we are very careful with our language. We don’t say things like ‘man issues’ or things like instead of tissues it’s ‘man rags’ , we talk about it quite frankly using normal language.
What has happened with that is that all genders have kind of aligned with that. We get followers that with from all demographics. Over time we have focused on areas of no demographics such as how is the world feeling? As well as this year which is old mate, which is focused on older men. If you actually remove the natural causes of death for men in Australia, the pure data shows suicide actually increases as you get older.
We have a general issue that we are attacking which is suicide and mental health, but every campaign that we launch actually has a slightly different demographic.
How do you stay motivated?
We have day time jobs, a ‘attempt’ at a social life and have other projects that we get invited along to work on or that we want to do something about.
Spur Projects has always been that we have to balance and motivation that is quite tough. We have valid excitement and pain, from moments of ‘this is exciting, this is amazing’ to ‘this is the worst idea possible why did I think of that’ and you have to bring it back to balance.
It is close our heart and that if you are working in a space that is about helping other people, that constant motivation is that people need it and they rely on you.
When we started the first youtube video, we had a anonymous user said that months prior they were looking at killing themselves and then they saw our video and said that maybe they shouldn’t do that and that things haven’t changed they were still going through a touch time but they thought things might get better. We still don’t know who that is unfortunately but it comes to show that there may have been a few people that we might’ve helped and that maybe would have a rethink about killing themselves but because of a message of what we were putting out there.
It is certainly a project that is hard to remove yourself or to indulge in laziness when you know their are people out their that need more of it.
Biggest Mistake you learnt from?
We have one campaign called ‘F*ck up night* that is based on the idea that we worry about failure way too much. We live in a world where we have around 5 social media accounts and every one of them is basically based on a curated version of your life, no warts or wrinkles it is just perfect. The problem with that is that we all think that everyone else is living their own life exactly as they mean to as the best possible way and you’re the only one that f*cks up.
So this campaign is where we brought everyone to an evening and they have 2 rules. They have to meet someone new and they have to share a mistake they’ve made. It could be somethings really huge or it could be something tiny. One of my favourites was a guy was deported, fired and dumped by the same woman in the same week. He later was laughing at the experience.
We have done things like one day deleting the whole website and then had to rebuild it from scratch. Through to when we launched, we had high expectations and we were quite below that but that meant we knew what to do better next time. We had relaunched and had a much better outcome and made sure to avoid our previous mistakes.
Mistakes are learning opportunities and we don’t worry about them too much.
Any advice to anyone starting a startup?
Best piece advice I was ever given was from my Dad who said that there is never a good time for anything. There is no point in waiting to start something. Things are never going to get any better environmentally for you to do that idea or for you to try that out and I think that is something I have held to my heart. If you have an idea or need to do something, do it now.
Worry less about perfection. Rarely will you have an idea that is perfect, that is fully formed and it is great. Anyone looking to start a startup, should just start. Make something shit, and make it that little bit better until it is okay, and then once it is okay, then make it into something that is great. It’s as simple as that.
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