Startup Diaries from the UK: Risking Everything For One Bright Idea
Krissy Charles-Jones explains how her unwavering belief in her business idea paid off: her rapidly growing assessor training business hired four new staff and moved into a new office last year.
I was a bit of rebel and left school with two GCSE’s. Luckily these were in the core subjects English and Maths! I then went on to get a job as a care assistant and went to college. I worked my way up in this role and trained as a social worker.
Eventually, at age 21, I became a home manager for people with learning disabilities. In this job, even though managers worked over 60 hours a week, I was made to become an NVQ assessor by my manager, as all managers had to do it.
Reluctantly I did it, but didn’t have much time to complete the course. The day before all my assignments were due in I was talking to my manager about throwing in the towel and he said “Just get it done tonight because if you don’t you will regret it, NVQ’s are getting big business and this could open new doors for you”. I really respected his advice and he turned out to be right!
My deputy manager at the care home was doing a teaching course and encouraged me to get into teaching. I trained as an Internal Verifier, which is someone who managers assessors, and then did a Certificate in Education teaching qualification whilst working full time. I was then offered a job teaching, assessing and verifying in health and social care with the local university.
I worked my way up in the Further Education sector and got a job as a Training Manager for a care business.
I would say that this was the time when my entrepreneurial skills started to come out as I quickly identified an opportunity to help the owner set up a training business specialising in health and social care.
I was then approached to do the same again for another business owner where I become a Training Director. Unfortunately I then found myself redundant from my job role.
At that time, the Labour Government’s ‘Train to Gain’ scheme meant assessors were in demand. However, when the new Coalition Government came into power it announced plans to scrap the scheme in 2010. Whilst this could have proved disastrous for a new business specialising in training provision, the Coalition quickly outlined its intention to encourage apprenticeships.
Straight away I predicted there would be renewed demand for assessors as a result. As I had not long been made redundant I was looking for a new challenge.
I commissioned independent research that revealed a significant gap in the market for ‘online’ assessor training that also provides the candidates and work experience required to qualify. My vision for Bright Assessing was clear; I wanted to create the first online training provider ever to offer Assessor and IQA courses whilst also providing the real learners required to complete the qualification.
I was the breadwinner of the household and also had 2 small children. I received very little redundancy money but not to be deterred I borrowed £2000 from a friend in return for 2% share and set up Bright. The loan paid for the first website, and I converted my spare room into an office. I worked very long hours, persuaded my husband to also help and spent several sleepless nights worrying about how we would survive.
For several months we didn’t pay our mortgage and I had many arguments with my husband about putting everything we had on the line.
However I really believed in my business and had a strong instinct that kept me going.
The business grew slowly and gradually with sales going up by 2-5 a month, Rachel who was my first customer came and worked for me and I also took on a part time admin assistant. Rachel has since been promoted 4 times and is now the company Sales Director.
Although the company was growing steadily it needed a big cash injection to employ more staff, move into offices and increase its marketing.
In 2011 Gordon, a family friend, saw potential in my business idea and helped get investment from potential investors.
In June 2011, Gordon became a non-exec director with Simon who invested £100k into the business. This meant we could move into offices in Alcester, Warwickshire and take on 4 more staff to help increase our sales and marketing. But all of this is really only the very start to the Bright adventure…
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