Imaginify: Sarah Francis

Looking to rally against the gender gap, read how Imaginify plan to empower and inspire the next generation of females in the tech and digital sector

Name: Sarah Francis
Company Name: Imaginify
Location: West Midlands
Date Launched: 03/10/17
Twitter handle: @ImaginifyLtd

Tell us what your business does:

We inspire and empower the next generation of women in tech and digital to be brave and be brilliant. We do this through workshops, bootcamps and university widening access events.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

Jo (co-founder) and I have worked in technology and digital for our whole careers. Jo as a senior business intelligence specialist and me (Sarah) as a software product lead and digital marketer.

We started Imaginify to address the gender gap we’ve experienced in a positive way – women make up 46% of the UK workforce and less than one in five of the technology workforce.

With the current digital skills crisis, this has to change. It’s our belief that a combination of commercial skills training, tailored career guidance and confidence and creativity building will empower the next generation of women.

How did you know there was a market for it?

There is a £300m annual market for “student success” in the UK, mostly within the higher education sector, but graduates are still finishing university unprepared for life in the commercial world – and certainly for life in technology, often with no understanding of the basics.

University careers advice is completely inadequate for the way business works today. We want to fill this gap.

What were you doing before starting up?

I was head of product for a software company, leading an innovation team and delivering award-winning products to market. Jo has worked for some of the UK’s biggest insurance and engineering companies on business intelligence, big data and analysis.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Since I was a little girl, yes.

How did you raise the money?

Bootstrapping for now!

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We’re in the research and development phase at the moment. In the past weeks we’ve worked with 60 girls in years seven to nine delivering workshops and taster sessions to help hone our offer. We’ve learnt a lot! Once we’ve nailed this, our plan is to digitise and scale, rolling out across the UK.

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

Everything’s happened so quickly. Less than three months ago this was just a “one day” dream, and now we’re immersed in it.

Our biggest challenge has been meeting tight deadlines for opportunities that have come our way – getting a full workshop plan, materials, marketing resources, and a website up and running in less than a month has been tricky at times.

We’ve had a lot of positive feedback and interest though, which has motivated us.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Being accepted to run workshops for girls at a regional Innovation Festival, and then delivering them with 99% positive feedback to double the number of girls we expected.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Have a big goal and find a co-founder who’s as passionate about it as you, with complementary skills. Jo and I fight like a couple sometimes, but we know we’re both absolutes committed to the same outcomes and impact.

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

Scaled up, with digital bootcamps running in universities across the UK, reaching at least 5,000 young women per year.