30th June 2014. The first request to join a Young Enterprise team arrives, and I am asked to be the website designer for a team that plans to be formed, Apollo.
1st December 2014. The date of registration for the spkruk.com domain, and the first major reflection of my work for my Young Enterprise team, Invictus.
8th May 2015. The end of an era for my new Young Enterprise team, Proteus with the ClickBoard app.
3 teams with stupid names over almost 10 months. A long and changing journey, but how did I get where I am now?
The truth is, Apollo was quick to be knocked out. 7 potential teams quickly reduced to 5, and 5 reduced to 3 within weeks. A lack of a clear product or plan, and a somewhat unconvincing team structure quickly left Apollo as a weak link. I had a ‘backup’ team, Payara, but they were knocked out early on as well, as they had absolutely no team management structure.
Weeks pass and I consider myself no longer involved, until I am approached by one of the 3 remaining teams, Invictus, to design their website. Now, as my friend Euan constantly mocks me about, I am hardly a hard core ‘coder’. In fact, I pretty much hate any kind of coding, although I do know enough HTML and CSS to get me by. Despite this, I believe (and have shown) that I can create quality results using various tools available, and I seem to have built enough reputation surrounding computers and the Internet to be one of the first to be chosen.
From October to late November, ideas fly around the team. As time passes, I wonder how the team got through this far, but by December, we are fully formed, with specific roles for all the team members, and had deciding upon marketing and selling a Bluetooth water resistant speaker imported from a supplier in China.
Whilst I could never reveal the profit margin on these speakers, I will say is that I believe the £14.99 that we sell them online is reasonable for their quality.
Honestly, I felt that the idea was a poor one at first, but, over time, I do feel that I was somewhat wrong and that the speakers were not a bad choice from a sales and marketing perspective. They also gave me, and a few others, an excellent opportunity to showcase design skills, with the online sales aspect of the product providing much of this opportunity. Whilst I must admit that Squarespace and Stripe provide a beautiful online store and payments system, it is still difficult to ensure that your site remains well laid out and that the content is good.
As we continued over the next few months, various connections are developed by myself and others, including one with a premiership football club who took a great interest in our product as merchandise in their store, and another with a major UK online and catalogue order company. These were very promising deals, but disappointingly the team was very fragmented and tasks were completely incredibly slowly.
Whilst there were major issues with some aspects of the company, several members, particularly the ‘senior management team’ (which included myself, I must add) were committed and without which the company could never have reached the point it did.
By March, we had launched our online store, and my role had expanded from social media and the website to also include logistics. As a frequent eBay seller (and one-time ranter), dispatching products is something that I am incredibly efficient at and knowledgeable about.
Coming to the competition’s judgement stages, we made it through to the Richmond & Kingston area finals, along with the 3 other teams. However, this was where the real competition started, with 8 teams competing for 2 spots in the South London area final. Unfortunately, the team did not make it through.
However, there was one major victory, which was winning the Best Website Design & Social Media award.
Whilst this was not the determining factor for my progression into Team Proteus, it definitely helped. Joining just two weeks before the next round of the competition, the South London area finals, Team Proteus seemed a far more organised and clear operation. The team worked to promote ClickBoard, an app which turns your smartphone into a wireless mouse by using the accelerometer, with a vast array of additional functions.
I joined as Director of Online Presence, with the overall aim of improving the somewhat bland and boring website. However, in the short term there was a much greater task, which was ensuring that we had a high quality trade stand in time for the finals. I ended up providing my TV and laptop, along a great degree of IT support to ensure that the technical aspects behind the stand would function.
— ClickBoard App (@ClickBoardApp) May 8, 2015
The presentation that we delivered was great, but unfortunately there could only be one team to progress from this point, and we narrowly lost out to Team Alpha, with their security conscious rucksack. We did, however, win the Innovation award and had a judge and several other advisors approach us to mention how impressed that they were. I must also give a mention to (another) Team Invictus and their app Uni Tensil, which took a drastically different, but similarly exciting direction to ClickBoard.
So, here are my final thoughts.
I do not want to reflect on the reasons for Team Invictus and SPKR not going further, but our imported product with limited innovation, along with our lack of secured deals seemed to be major setbacks. I think this is important to note for Young Enterprise, with simple imported products unlikely to result in much success without a drastically different sales strategy.
With Proteus, I must say that I was incredibly impressed with how active the team was, with several Facebook group posts per day, and despite only being a member for a couple of weeks, I quickly felt that I was a member of the team.
I was incredibly honoured to be ‘head hunted’ following the Web Design and Social Media award, especially given the frequent problem of ‘free riders’ in teams (and Young Enterprise was no exception) and others not meeting deadlines and targets.
I must comment on organisation, with the South London event being incredibly disorganised with no proper food (appalling given that it occurred from 5-9pm), mistakes in the presentation slides and technical problems with microphones and audio.