How business barriers led to us creating an innovative new venture
Entrepreneurs Woody Webster and Malachy Guinness came up with their next business idea thanks to admin frustrations. Find out how they were inspired
Name: Woody Webster and Malachy Guinness
Companies: Bright Young Things and TutorCruncher
Started in: 2008 and 2013
Company Description: Bright Young Things started off specialising in high quality private tuition to students preparing for entrance into highly competitive universities courses, including Oxford and Cambridge. From this Tutorcruncher was born to fill a major gap in the market for tuition agency management software.
Describe your start-up barrier
One of the biggest hurdles we faced when developing our tuition agency was keeping on top of administration. Many tutoring start-ups don’t realise how challenging it can be to stay organised as their business takes off. It’s important to keep on top of lesson schedules, resources, timesheets and billing. Every time Bright Young Things taught a new student, our administration would literally double. This soon becomes unsustainable.
What steps did you take to overcome this industry hurdle?
- We researched the market. As soon as we realised that our administration was becoming unmanageable, we carried out market research to see how other agencies were dealing with the issue. As it turned out, they weren’t. We came to realise there was no standard tuition agency software out there. That’s when the light came on.
- We took an innovative approach. After identifying this gap in the market, we put our innovator hats on and decided that the best way forward was to develop our own software. After many brainstorming sessions we finally came up with a plan to tackle the administration barrier that so many other agencies face.
- We developed our own tutor management software. Several thousands of lines of computer code later, we developed our very own agency management software to help us keep on top of the day to day running of our tuition agency. We designed it to take care of tasks such as lesson scheduling, managing tutor and student records, payroll, billing and accounting.
- We offered our product to other tutoring businesses. After the success of our software internally we realised that we could offer our product to other independent tutoring businesses across the UK. We named it Tutorcruncher and it's now an operating system used by a large number of tutoring businesses across the UK and internationally.
What three key questions should other companies ask themselves before dealing with the issue:
- What common frustrations do people in your current industry face? Often, the best business ideas are born out frustration. All it takes is one new innovation to completely transform the way an industry operates. Watch how a business in the industry operates and see where the friction is. If you can tackle that friction you will know you will have customers.
- What one thing would add the greatest value to your niche? Creating a successful business is all about adding value to people’s lives. Making people and businesses lives easier, healthier or happier. See how your chosen business can achieve that and work backwards.
- Have you identified any gaps in other markets? Entrepreneurs have a keen eye for seeking out new business opportunities. Looking at an industry and question the workflow of the businesses and ask yourself; ‘Is there anything which could be done better’. What idea keeps coming back to you? It’s often those ideas that refuse to go away that have the most potential for development.
What one piece of advice do you think they should take on board?
It is with openness and transparency that you will achieve your goals. Especially at the beginning, do not be afraid to develop a culture of frankness and debate around your business idea and development. From this all sorts of good juicy ideas will spring to mind. Write these ideas down, does not matter how trivial and find time to discuss and debate them. Surround yourself with people who are prepared to listen and question. Then put your calculating hat on and determine whether these ideas makes financial sense. If it does, you could be on to a winner.
Is there anything you would do differently?
Looking back, we wish we had developed our software earlier. We could have sped it up by large investment but since we grew our business organically, raising capital by growing Bright Young Things we didn’t seek any investment from other sources. Although to be honest, our organic approach has served us well so far.