Oli and Joseph - UniDosh
UniDosh is a platform for students in Manchester to buy and sell services. Students can choose their own job, their own price and their own hours, based on their own skills, to offer discounted services to other students who need a one off service. UniDosh were the recent winners of our Founders 30 competition with The Tab. In this article they tell us all about their experience so far.
Why did you decide to enter the Founders 30 competition?
When we were entering this competition we knew that if we were to win, we would receive mentorship that would be so valuable to the business. We are a start-up trying to gain traction in such a hard market, with neither Joe nor I (Oliver) having great experience in business or being business students. It’s very easy for us to get ahead of ourselves and think we know exactly what we should be doing with our investment, but really we need to take all the advice we can get our hands on, to stop us making the same mistakes that other people have already made.
Entering the Founder’s 30 competition also meant a good opportunity for us as young entrepreneurs as well as the company to gain awareness and validation from a well-known successful company, such as EY. Not only would we have the opportunity to pitch our business to a panel of very successful people in the industry, we knew that the winner would then be given one to one help from one of these judges, and that could be worth more than any monetary investment. I am glad to now say that Charlie Taylor, founder of Debut app, chose to become our mentor and we are very excited to begin working together.
How did you prepare for the pitch you delivered on the day?
As soon as we found out we were going to be pitching in the final I began to put together our slides, and write down key information that we wanted to get across from each page, making sure we covered all aspects of the business, from general concept and product to marketing, finance and achievement to date.
Once we knew what we wanted to say we divided up the slides and began to learn them to the point we felt so confident in presenting with no notes or looking at the screen. In the week leading up to the pitch we set aside at least 30 minutes a day to run through the presentation, each time presenting in front of family or friends, or even just a mirror. By the last day, we were so confident with the presentation that we were just excited to get out there and do it for real in front of the judges.
It is so important to practice your presentation again and again until you can say it word for word, slowly and clearly every time. There is nothing worse than being unconfident in what you are saying, repeating information or not explaining your concept to people who have no idea what your business is about.
Especially on the day, when you only have 8 minutes to go through your business, it is vital to get across the most important information and be confident on your facts and figures. If you haven’t mentioned them in your presentation, then the chances are that you’re going to be asked by one of the judges. So think of everything that they could possibly ask so that when they do ask you, you can fire back with a confident answer.
What advice would you give to others looking to become young-entrepreneurs?
If you’re looking to start your own business, you need to understand that it takes a lot of your time and huge amounts of perseverance. When you begin, and especially being young, you are eager to see fast results and therefore you can get put off and lose some of your passion.
The most difficult part of developing UniDosh that we didn’t quite anticipate, was the amount of time that it takes up every single day and how much of your life becomes focused around the business. 90% of your day you’re working on it, and if you’re not working on it you’re probably talking about it, or just even thinking about it - it can take over your mind! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love what I am doing and wouldn't change it for anything, but only up until this summer we were both still at University trying to balance our degrees with trying to launch UniDosh and it proved hard, as both required full-time attention. The point I am trying to make is that you need to thoroughly enjoy what you are doing and have the passion to motivate yourself and have the guts to make decisions in the times before the business is making any profit. If you’re trying to prove a new concept as with UniDosh, then you need to truly believe in the idea.
Reflecting on the future skills EY have identified (Complex Problem Solving, Creativity, Cognitive Flexibility, Emotional Intelligence and Collaboration), can you give examples of why these are important to your business growth?
Complex Problem Solving and Cognitive Flexibility
Throughout these early months of our launch especially, we are constantly facing new obstacles that need to be quickly acted upon, from simple things such as learning to manage our PR team as it grows from 3 to 30, to technical faults on the app as the amount of users grow. There are problems that arise most days which we could never have anticipated and all of them call for a solution to be made rather quickly, which links nicely to the future skill cognitive flexibility. This is so important in growing a business as you have to constantly face unexpected conditions as the product changes and as the market you are trying to tackle also changes.
With UniDosh, we often have to take a step back and think ‘are we doing this correctly?’ when it comes to marketing and developing the application itself. With cognitive flexibility you can shift your thinking and tactics and consider various other paths to take with the same end goal in sight.
Creativity is so important for us, not just in terms of designing a beautiful looking app (which I think we’ve done!) but mainly for thinking of new and exciting ways of marketing UniDosh to a market so overwhelmed with brands competing for their attention. When students go to University they are swarmed by adverts and ambassadors trying to get them to sign up to this and that. UniDosh is another brand that right now, they wouldn't have heard of until they get to Uni and so we are constantly brainstorming and putting our creative hats on to come up with new ideas and stunts to turn heads.
Emotional intelligence and Collaboration
One of the most important aspects of business we’ve found throughout the entirety of developing UniDosh is networking and creating new business relations. Joe and I consider this invaluable and so aim to create multiple new relationships every month, with businessmen and women from all industries, not just student apps.
Social effectiveness is considered one of the most vital parts of the success of entrepreneurs and therefore their businesses, your emotional intelligence improves your social effectiveness dramatically, helping provide social networks which in turn will most likely lead to new business relations.
Getting UniDosh to where it is today has required good productivity throughout day to day work, and the majority of that work has been done efficiently and effectively through working together and bouncing ideas from one another until we have a final plan. When working with other people, even just with one other person like I do, collaboration is so key to moving forward and combined efforts more often than not lead to greater work being as the outcome.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
After Christmas we plan on taking full advantage of the mentorship from Charlie and spending the prize money in the very best way possible. Currently, the app is going through a round of development where we are adding a few great features to aid user experience. Some of these include a ‘make an offer’ function whereby students can barter for the best price on goods and services. After high demand we’ve now also added ‘Clothing’ as a featured service so students have the option to sell their clothes on a hyper localised platform. This gives those students who may not have a particular skill or service they want to offer, another way of earning. Because of this new category, we’ve decided to re-structure the noticeboards, giving nearly 4x more space per listing, with room for an image, and other key info such as their location.
When the students go back to Uni after Christmas all of these updates will be ready and we’ll have another big push. The plan is keep going with it in Manchester until we’re confident enough and have the results we want, to go and raise further funding. This could be something we do over summer depending on where our business is by then. We don’t want to rush anything now, we are still adapting the product as we learn more about what our users want from a marketplace platform.
What this competition has done however is given us a boost and I’m sure will allow us to move forward at a quicker and more efficient pace. We thank EY for giving us this great opportunity.