As with many business ideas, the idea evolved from its conception. Originally I had the idea to develop a magazine in the same vein as The Big Issue which would be a social enterprise promoting entertainment in the Birmingham area, being written by, and then giving all proceeds to, students with disabilities, available as both a hard copy magazine and electronic.
At this time, I was working as a sabbatical officer at Aston Students’ Union, and took full advantage of the business expertise available within the University. I met with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Business Partnerships and Knowledge Transfer, Dr Phil Extance, who very kindly gave me 30 minutes of his time. He gave me a good insight into current trends in the magazine industry, and how advertising revenue (which would be the main stream of income) was diminishing and that I was also massively restricting my market of writers. However, he liked some aspects, and thought that there could be some value in it. He also gave me the contact details of Alison Sharpe, a lady who ran the entrepreneur programme at Aston Science Park.
I went away, developed the idea and saw how I could add value and create a USP. By the time I met Alison, I had the beginnings of business plan – although basic. She was a tremendous help, alerting me to the possibility of the BSeen scheme they offer at Aston, which provides an ‘incubator’ programme, giving access to mentors and support. She gave me a few tips to evolve the idea. The business then became a lot less about the costly matter of printing hard copies of magazines, and more about interactive online features, meaning there was less risk.
A friend of mine, Dom Smith (who runs a music magazine in York called Soundsphere, and has since been awarded an Entrepreneurial Excellence Award in the Disability category in the National Diversity Awards, so I figured knew a thing or two!), then gave me some input. He told me that I should definitely find at least one business partner, as setting it up on my own would be exhausting and isolating.
Earlier that year (2011) I had received a University award which brought with it £1000 – something I decided to use as seed capital. I then set about finding some business partners. Two friends of mine who I’d come across through the Students’ Union, Prab and James, leapt out as ideal candidates – one with design experience, the other with website construction experience, both of which were things that I couldn’t do on my own successfully.
Through links I had made through networking, mainly thanks to the Science Park, I met with a copyright specialist, who gave me a good idea of how to protect the business’ intellectual property.
Networking and asking for as much help as possible was definitely a defining moment, at which point I want to thank Phil, Alison and Dom.