Interview with Kairen Skelley

Interview with Kairen Skelley, Start-up Business Advisor, SPARK, University of Leeds 

by Oana Nenciulescu

How do you think that an entrepreneurship programme like Start-Up Your Idea should be structured in order to make a real impact on the participants?

After much discussion at Leeds University  and experience we find that attending workshops first  of all to look at a broad range of aspects of starting a business have a real  impact  on the  knowledge and experience that participants need to have and on the research that they need to do. Once they have a very focused idea then this is followed by one to one business advice to discuss the idea and complete a business plan( they need to do it themselves really, but we help with advice along the way) And then we can  point them in the right direction to look at whether it’s a viable business idea or not.

What are your top tips on a successful start-up?

The top tips would be a business that does lots and lots of research, market research. A good business plan should probably have 75-80% market research in it to make sure they’ve got a customer. Also, make sure they have the financials in place, that they’ve got  cash  within the business, that they’ve got the right products, that they’re marketing them correctly and that everything is legal;  that   Tax and VAT are adhered to and that the right people are managing the business. .

Come you please give us some examples of start-up businesses that you like and why?

I like the start-up businesses that have got a real passion for what they’re doing. An example would be Think Pacific who are a social enterprise business based out in Fiji which came from traveling experience and a passion for being out there and for putting something back into the environment. It’s a good partnership that works really really well with one person being in Fiji and one partner being in England. It’s one of the best partnerships I’ve ever seen. Another one would be a film production company where somebody came in with an idea and wasn’t even sure that he wanted to have his own business but 5 years later he is employing 18 people, he’s enthusiastic about it, he’s learnt from the mistakes he’s made and he feeds back into pre-start businesses helping and advising the  new ones. The Leeds Enterprise Network that we helped set up brings together start-up and pre-start up businesses , having Ambassadors who come back and advise the  new businesses

What is your final message for the start-up idea programme and the organisers?

It would be to make sure that you’re consistent and that what you’re offering improves and doesn’t go away, that people are aware of you, that you help them on a consistent basis so that they can return. That’s how you get the programme to come back in a circle, not hit and miss.