This week, Mercedes and Rocio talk about starting their own business – the online platform ResearcherSkills, and offer some helpful tips for students who are interested in staring their own business. They reflect on their entrepreneurial journey, and explain how the University’s start up service SPARK has helped them. If you’re interested in start-up, stay tuned – the ‘How I started my own business’ series will feature blog posts from different UoL start-up businesses throughout the year.
We are the team behind ResearcherSkills, the online platform that allows scientists from any discipline to connect, collaborate and outsource research-related services.
The idea for creating ResearcherSkills came from our own experiences as researchers. During our PhDs we realised how difficult is to find the person with the expertise you need for that specific part of a project. It might be that you don’t know anyone with the specific set of skills, or that you are entering a completely new field and you desperately need to get in touch with experts beyond your network. The problem is that expanding your professional network is neither easy nor quick, and even more difficult is to find the person that can actually collaborate with you and provide you that specific technique or equipment you are looking for. That is what ResearcherSkills is about, it allows researchers to offer their expertise for others to find them. Our platform also allows researchers to share under-used equipment, saving money to institutions and researchers.
So we had the idea but as researchers we didn’t really know much about setting up a business. What we did know was how to communicate efficiently an idea – this is essential to get people involved and engaged with your business. If you have an idea in mind for a potential business but don’t know where to start, discuss your ideas with close friends, family and colleagues, they will give you an insight on how your business idea is seen by others and will help you to refine the original idea into something more robust.
How SPARK has helped us:
Also, get professional help when is available! The Spark team at the University has been of great help to us. We went to Spark looking for advice when our business was just an idea and they helped us to make it happen. As Enterprise Scholars, we got access to funding which allowed us to design and build our website. Moreover, we were able to meet successful entrepreneurs in online businesses, university staff, lawyers and accountants that gave us excellent advice. During the year we participated in many events where we met mentors, entrepreneurs and investors that shared details of their careers and experiences with us. Starts are never easy and sometimes you feel that your effort is not paying off, but these events were so encouraging and motivating that we always left with a big smile, lots of new ideas and filled with energy to keep moving. They were great fun too, we got to meet new people and share our experience with other students like us trying to start their own business.
Networking is key for your business at any stage, but even more so at the start. One of the most difficult things when networking is to present your idea clearly. Sometimes it seems that you are repeating yourself endlessly but you must think that the other person has never heard of your business before and, therefore, it is essential that you are able to convey what your business is about in a clear and efficient way. You need to work hard on how you present your business to others and modify your pitch depending on the situation such as who you are talking to and what you are looking for.
Starting your own business is very exciting, you work for something you really believe in and this is very motivating. For us it has been an amazing journey and, although very challenging at times, we learnt from every situation and moved forward.
Our ‘take-home’ message would definitively be: get help! Seek advice and test your idea, engage with others and let them help you, it will take you longer and will be much harder if you try to do it all by yourself.
Facebook: @researcherskills https://www.facebook.com/researcherskills/
Twitter: @researchersk https://twitter.com/researchersk
If you’re interested in starting your own business, don’t forget to check out the Leeds University Start up Service page on our website for more information, or book an appointment at the Careers Centre for additional advice and guidance.