Student Gems: Joanna Ward and Sue Harrison
Joanna Ward and Sue Harrison on the site that's connecting business to the student talent-pool
Company name : www.studentgems.comFounders: Joanna Ward and Sue Harrison
Ages: 47 and 48
Based: High Wycombe
Staff Numbers: 2 plus one contracted web developer
Date started: September 2007
Tell us what your business does.
Studentgems.com is a website where businesses and private individuals can find students for one-off jobs and project work at cost effective rates. Businesses save money, have no commitment to ongoing employment and have easy access to a pool of talent. And it helps students earn money, gain experience and build up their portfolio for their future. There are over 1600 services available through the site, with everything from website design to bridal hairdressing, photography, catering and translation services. Where did the idea for your business come from?
We were working on a project that needed some photography, and we couldn’t afford the commercial costs and had the idea of using a student. Finding her was not easy but we persevered. The photographs were stunning, we saved hundreds of pounds and she earned considerably more than she would have done that day in her part-time job as a waitress. We realised we had spotted a gap in the market.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We carried out extensive research and found there was nothing else that focused directly on matching business needs with student skills.
What planning did you do before you started up?
We have recently been granted a £30k loan from the Commercialisation Fund financed by SEEDA. The Enterprise Hub Network have helped us to write a detailed business plan and put us through their investment readiness programme; to prepare fundraising presentations and critiqued several dry runs; as well as providing us with a mentor.
Where is your business based?
We work both from home and have use of the offices through the Enterprise Hub network. Being flexible eases the guilt of spending so much time working but you can also allow yourself the time to run a family and run errands as and when required.
How much do you charge?
We spent a lot of time researching our charging model and decided that a results based model would be the best. It means that those looking for a student can register, search for the skill or service they are looking for, look through the matched profiles and post the job for free. It is at the point of contact that users are asked to pay £19.95 for one month’s access to the messaging system. During the month you can contact as many students as you like and get as many jobs done as you like.
What has your growth been like?
Our publicity has been great for our business growth. We are where we planned to be in terms of numbers and will be profitable by mid 2009.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Some great publicity on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Breakfast resulted in over 45,000 visitors to the site.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Use your network: people you already know in business are a great resource. And allow for everything to take 10 times longer than you expect!