I am glad to introduce Stuart and Tom, the founders of Gradseeker. They studied Sport Management and Marketing and together have a passion for web programming and business. They started working on Gradseeker after discovering a major opportunity to make the job application process easier for students. This discovery is designed to help employers to easily find the best graduate for their businesses. Here is Tom and Stuart’s view on networking, market research and useful advice for young start-ups. Read more about their journey and Be Inspired!
I graduated Loughborough University in July with a 2:1 in BSc Sport Management. My two passions in life are sport (particularly racket sports) and business. This is what led me to study at Loughborough University. I always knew of the sport reputation at Loughborough and their interest in supporting enterprise. When I finished my degree in June, I knew I wanted to start a career in business, whether that was my own or working for another company. My business partner and close friend Tom came to me with an idea and I loved it.
Tom has been starting and running his own businesses since he was 12 years old. He taught himself how to build computers, design anti-virus software and how to code his own websites. He is currently in his final year studying Marketing at Liverpool John Moores University, where alongside his academic studies, he runs ‘TY Creative’, his own web development company.
Like any business, our primary goal is to become profitable and a well-known brand. However, our motivation behind starting Gradseeker is based upon our own negative experiences.
Can you tell us about your new business venture, Gradseeker?
As students we have experienced first hand how difficult it can be to find a job. In my final year, I found a misconception about the graduate job market and this was the over emphasis on securing a graduate scheme with one of the Times top 100 employers. However, it is important that graduates realise there are hundreds of companies across the UK who are looking and searching for graduate talent. Our business Gradseeker aims to serve this market and provide companies the opportunity to find the best graduate talent.
Gradseeker is a platform for connecting companies with high calibre graduates and also for graduates to demonstrate their expertise and ambitions to employers & recruiters. Our website allows students to create a free online profile which will showcase their degree, work preferences, CV and previous experience. Employers and recruiters can then search our database to find graduates who they feel suit one of their particular roles.
Our experience of applying for graduate jobs has been useful in creating a system that meets the requirements of graduates. Gradseeker only requires one, quick and easy profile and therefore students don’t need to complete multiple job applications!
What initial steps did you take to convert your vision for Gradseeker to reality?
Don’t get me wrong, starting your own business is hard work and it requires continuous motivation, tenacity and dedication. However, you will find that this hard work is irrelevant because the business is your own. You want to see your business succeed more than anything and in order to do this you have to research, research some more and contact person after person.
Our first steps were to research what graduates wanted from such a website and what they expected from us. Once we summarized what was wanted, the next steps were to design and code the face of the website. Tom is the genius behind the programming and I am responsible for writing the content of the site. We held several focus groups with students to ascertain what were the best brand names, designs, colours and imagery.
When starting any business it is essential that you seek advice and guidance from people that have been there and done what your about to go through. In the opening weeks of our idea, I sent hundreds of emails to business advisors, newspapers, universities, careers centres and recruitment agencies looking for advice, publicity and affiliations. From those emails, we probably heard back from around 5%. However, that 5% helped with editing the website, free Facebook and Twitter promotion and generating university connections. It’s important to continue contacting people, no matter how monotonous, as one reply can help push your business forward.
What have been your major challenges so far?
No business start-up is free from challenges and we’ve had our fair share so far. For our business model to succeed it requires a high number of graduate sign-ups, without these sign-ups our service is non-existent. However, in order to gain sign-ups, graduates need to hear about our service, something that so far has proven to be difficult. Promotion and publicity is very difficult if you have a limited budget, such as ourselves. Universities are willing to inform their students of a business, but this promotion service comes at a significant price. Consequently, our promotion has been dominated by social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. In order for our business to grow to the level we want, we need to gain a presence on university campuses across the country.
Another challenge we have faced is the increasing pressure from competition and the rise in start-ups in the graduate recruitment industry. Many businesses are forming within this sector and therefore in order to succeed our service needs to be more student related, promoted heavier and produce a higher graduate job turnover.
However, the biggest challenge to-date has been organizing and tracking the business whilst we both have other commitments such as part-time jobs and university life. The business is only in it’s pre-launch stage and therefore we have time to update the system and have it prepared for the next influx of graduates in 2014. Until then, it’s important that we have a plan, a clear direction and the motivation to continue and make the service as good as it can be!
What about the lessons you have learnt?
Probably the biggest skill I have developed is the ability to put theory into practice. Running your own business develops your ability to think on your feet and analyse a situation in greater detail. You gain greater understanding in managing finance, contacting and meeting with clients and how to segment your market.
However, the biggest lesson and behavior I have learnt is the importance in networking. Going to events and meeting people is key for pushing your business forward. If I could give one piece of advice it would be that when you are networking, be yourself, have a laugh, have a drink and try to relax.
Schools are advised to teach pupils how to code, what's your view on this?
There is no doubt that coding is becoming more and more popular amongst young people. Coding will continue to dominate more aspects of life, however in terms of needing it for a career it’s not crucial. Everyone has a speciality and companies recognise this. For example, a company will always need an accountant, a lawyer and a sales and marketing team. If a company needs a coder, they will employ a specialist in this field, they will not rely on their existing staff to do their complex coding.
In the next 3 to 5 years, what impact do you expect Gradseeker to have achieved in the jobs market?
This is a difficult question to answer, as the market is becoming increasingly competitive and ever changing. However, from our perspective we would like to achieve:
Short term: Our main goal for the next year is two-fold: perfect the system to meet the requirements of both graduates and employers. Secondly, we would like to maximize promotion and publicity, generating a significant level of sign-ups, Facebook likes and Twitter followers.
Long term: Our main goal beyond one year is to build a campus presence around the UK, making our website the number one recruitment platform for graduates and employers. Additionally, we intend to specialize our service so that we can place greater emphasis on particular industries, therefore making it a more personalized service.
Where would you advise aspiring tech startups to begin from, especially if they have little coding knowledge?
The most important factor is to come up with an idea. Remember this idea doesn’t have to be completely original, a lot of successful businesses have made millions by taking an idea and making it better. However, remember an idea is worthless, everyone has an idea, it’s how you implement this idea which determines success. It is important to realize that coding experience will not determine the success of your idea. You can outsource your coding!
As an experienced start up in the technology industry, what healthy mentalities and habits would you recommend for up and coming startups?
The best advice I can give and I can’t stress this enough is to network, network and network! Surround yourself with positive, entrepreneurial people and build a network of contacts that you can email for mentoring and advice. Tom and me attended the 2013 Global Graduates Entrepreneurs Festival in Manchester and met people from all over the world. We made friends, mentors and contacts that are invaluable for our development! People who have been through a start-up can make things happen twice as fast as you can on your own.
Contact for Gradseeker.co.uk
1. Website – www.gradseeker.co.uk
2. Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Gradseeker
3. Twitter - https://twitter.com/GradSeeker