Airsupply: Karin Hogsander

The recruitment platform for supply teachers that aims to offer its service "at a much lower cost than traditional agencies"

Name: Karin Hogsander
Company Name: Airsupply
Location: London
Twitter handle: @airsupplyteach
Website: www.airsupply.org.uk

Tell us what your business does:

Airsupply is not a traditional agency. We are a service that matches supply teachers with schools that need them, at a much lower cost than traditional teacher recruitment agencies.

In addition, the available jobs and candidates are completely transparent, leading to better matches between teachers and the jobs offered.

Our service is free to sign-up to and manages all the documentation applicants require.

Supply teachers pay nothing, and schools pay a much lower fee than they would to an agency – and only if they find a teacher who they actually offer a supply role to.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

The daughter of a supply teacher, growing up I witnessed first-hand the pressures which came with supply teaching.

Whether it would be turning up to schools without being ‘prepped’ beforehand, or losing out on permanent staff benefits, I always felt as though there had to be a better way.

The issue in the inadequacies of how the school/ supply teacher relationship worked struck me when I discussed with an old friend, active in the educational sector, the difficulties that schools were having in finding and recruiting supply support.

However, after having a successful career in healthcare, where I had spent time negotiating similarly strict qualification and safeguarding criteria among clinical staff, I felt ready to tackle it head on and founded Airsupply.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Many factors informed my decision to start Airsupply.

Speaking to friends who were both supply teachers and working with schools, I realised they were being massively under serviced by the recruitment agencies they were using – it was expensive, slow and outdated.

This coupled with my background in healthcare recruitment led me to conclude that this was an industry where I could really add value by bringing a new approach.

What were you doing before starting up?

I had a successful career in healthcare recruitment which gave me a huge insight into the intricacies of recruiting within an industry governed by strict regulations and candidate requirements. It helped me hugely in this regard as educational recruitment has obvious similarities.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

I’ve always wanted to add value and innovate in the industries that I’ve worked in and so in a sense it was a natural progression to found my own business.

The synergies between my career in healthcare recruitment and education really compounded my decision to press ahead and achieve change on behalf of UK schools and teachers. I also briefly taught statistics at a university.

How did you raise the money?

I raised £195,000 funding from Forward Partners, a seed stage investor which specialises in helping start-ups build and scale fast.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

Airsupply works on a straightforward commission model and charges each school on its platform a commission fee ONLY if a supply teacher is successfully placed.

As a digital business, Airsupply charges a much smaller fee than a traditional agency, operating through telephones and with high-street offices in many towns. The teachers on the platform are not charged

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Finding the most effective way of delivering a great customer experience in an industry currently operating largely off line.

Building a fully-fledged B2B system in a challenging regulatory framework without spending too much – we have built the core ourselves and then linked to external systems to avoid reinventing the wheel.

What was your first big breakthrough?

When we opened the system up for bookings, we had over 1,000 supply days posted on the system within a few days, most without us having had to do any instructions in how to post a role at all.

Shifting the habit from off-line to online can be challenging (especially in a regulated B2B environment) so the pent-up demand and hunger for a new way of working was a great surprise.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Surround yourself with brilliant, enthusiastic people. Strike the right balance between the expertise you need and willingness to challenge yourself and others.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

In five years’ time I’d love to see that Airsupply has revolutionised the way in which teachers are recruited within the UK and the talent which UK schools are able to attract.

It’s also a huge ambition of ours to scale internationally to disrupt and innovate the industry on behalf of schools outside of the UK.