Student Money Saver do deals, free stuff and ways to make money quickly, doing our utmost to dust down all the boring bits of student finance & budgeting and brighten it all up. We let our followers know the best deals in real time, constantly updating our site and our Facebook and Twitter. We put up funny, useful articles too.
Who is your startup aimed at?
Any student in the UK, though a lot of our deals work well for any 18 – 25 year old.
How does your startup stand out against its competitors?
We approach things a little differently from those around us: maybe it sounds a little corny, but our aim is just to do what’s best for students, rather than chasing revenue – I guess that stems from being so frustrated when I was a student at what was already out there. We also offer exclusive discounts and write about the trials and tribulations of uni life.
Where did the idea for the startup come from?
I was sat at uni, feeling a little hard up and looking for some financial help. I ended up on Money Saving Expert – which is absolutely great, but its target audience isn’t students. I thought there was a gap in the market for a website which helped out students and did it well. I got up a blog up and running, friends seemed to like it, and I just took it one step further.
Did you have any concerns when starting your business, if so what were they?
It was obviously very risky. Financially it was very difficult and there’s no doubt it’s difficult to start something without any experience – but I was passionate about the concept and really believed in it.
What is your business background, and what got you interested in startups?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial and interested in business. I had a jeans business at school and arranged football tournaments. I always wanted to be doing something, organising something – even if it was just the school leaving party – so once I got to university, I knew I needed to use that spirit to take things further. In that regard, I suppose Student Money Saver was a natural step forward for me.
How did you initially raise funding for your company?
We got up and running with the help from some friends and family (cheers all!) and then persevered off our own backs. Sure, we had to work out of a tiny basement with no natural light for a while, but hey, that’s how it goes.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
I suppose the fact that we’ve had over 6.5 million hits on the website since our launch around 18 months ago. Considering there are only around 1.8 million students in higher education in the UK, this figure makes me especially proud.
How do you keep your business relevant, and engaged with your audience over the last 3 years?
We do a lot of research. In particular we pay a lot of attention to our analytics so we can see which deals are the most popular and carry out regular market research to find out what our users really want. As I say, it’s all focussed around them.
How long has the your startup been in the making, and who is the team behind the business?
We started as a tiny blog back in 2011 but after a year or so of that, I decided to put all my efforts into it and now run with a team of ten, and are taking on a few more people in the coming months. Things really started, though, when we re-launched as a proper website in October 2012, hiring our editor, journalist David Ellis and first salesman, Anthony Goldman. But SMS probably wouldn’t have made it to that point if it hadn’t been for my co-founders James Bentley and Ben Wakeham (who is also the founder of VidaFx.co.uk).
What has been your biggest challenge so far as a startup owner?
The biggest challenge was, quite simply, the beginning. After 6 months we weren’t getting much traction and had a lot of financial pressure. We contemplated stopping but decided to persevere and luckily things have progressed a lot since – but that was a tough time, questioning everything.
In the coming year, what would you like to achieve with your business?
To be used and trusted by every UK student and still growing. We’re also building up exclusive discounts with retailers across the UK, so it’d be fab to see people using those.
What has been your most valuable lesson so far since starting your business?
The importance of having a great team of people around you. No one achieves anything on their own.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
Well, if it were an online start-up, I’d say that risks are there to be taken, but it’s vital to always pay attention to the analytics, because cold hard figures don’t lie.