Startup Diaries: Anisah Osman Britton, a Rockstar Youth
My name is Anisah and I run PocketMUni.com (pronounced pocket money). It is an online platform which matches students who are looking to earn some extra cash with individuals, businesses and charities that are looking for one off/short term assistance.
I left college in May 2011 after doing a crazy two year course, also known as the International Baccalaureate. During the entire course I was decided on being an RAF pilot, an actor, a director, a translator for the UN, a CEO and an Oxford/Cambridge graduate. In short, I had no idea what I wanted to do! I was sure that I would either go to University or Drama school, but it began to appeal less and less. Don’t get me wrong, University is a great institution, but it was not the right path for me. Instead, I decided to take a gap year and travel.
I “enterned” at Chalston hotel in Goa under the guidance of one of the most INSPIRATIONAL women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting- Maria D’Souza. She taught me an incredible amount (I could write a book on it…and maybe will do one day!). Most importantly, I learnt not to be afraid of hard work. Doing the menial stuff in a business does not make you any less credible but more believable, as you know how the company works from the ground, up. During the rest of my travels I did some crazy things like climb Mount Kilimanjaro, drive a 4 x 4 in the outback of Kenya and visit the grandparents’ hometown in the middle of nowhere in Tanzania.
I came back with a much clearer mind, buzzing with ideas, raring to go…but I didn’t know what with.
It was not until my 19th birthday, when I had a bit of a middle-middle aged crisis, that I worked out that I was going to put all my efforts into what is now PocketMUni.com:
I wanted a week’s break away but none of my friends at University could afford it. Light bulb. I sat down the day after my 19th and wrote the business plan (and I also ended up going to Italy with one of my best friends!)
Since then, I’ve been working hard on the site and have employed a great web designer, Haydn Bowley. I also won the Young Entrepreneur Festival and was one of the 10 finalists of the Start Up Games at Tech City which lead to me visiting Number 10!
I reached a point where I wanted to make the site more automated to be able to scale faster. Like most hindrances in business, the lack of finance did not permit me to do this as it required another developer. Cue Start Up Loans and Rockstar Youth*. In all honesty, I was not sure what I thought about it all when the idea was first mentioned to me. I have never been in debt. A student loan was something I heard my friends talk about, not something that I had experienced. So, I was a bit dubious about it all. But, then again, it was the closest thing to bootstrapping; it would still be my own money. I slowly convinced myself that it was a good idea. More importantly, a feasible idea. It meant I could still work on my own terms and at the pace I chose whilst giving me the freedom to hire that other developer.
I have a great way of looking at it which I think is the way it should be perceived by everyone eligible: It is your money and the interest added over the loan term is to help those entrepreneurs that will be in your shoes in the future.
It sounds clichéd BUT…what goes around, comes around.
A great introduction event by Rockstar Youth and a loan approval later, I am in a situation where I can shop around for a developer in time for January. I am also quite excited to have another mentor on board. Fresh perspective and ideas can do nothing but good!
So that’s my business story in a nutshell :-)
*Rockstar Youth is driving the success of the UK Government’s Youth Start Up Loans Programme. The Start-up Loans offer between £2,500 and £4,500 and free business training for young people aged between 18 and 30 who have a viable business plan.
In the three months that the scheme has been live, over £1.5 million worth of loans have been approved, helping over 460 new businesses get off the ground. The next incubator session for applicants is January 19th in London.
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