Kate is an extremely ambitious, driven and entrepreneurial individual. She is currently founding a start-up, BackApper, which is a social media app designed to help solo-travellers meet others when abroad. The company has won £3,000 of investment from Oxford Brookes University, and have been shortlisted to pitch at the semi-finals of the National Santander Entrepreneurship Awards. The next stages of the business are to seek further investment, to test the market and eventually expand.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I have always been very entrepreneurial - at the age of 15 I was buying products in bulk from China and selling them online for a profit.
My ambition and drive led me to want to start my own successful business. So, I went back to school, did my A-Levels, and came to Oxford to do a business degree.
During university, I started an events company, founded the Brookes Business Society, and developed an app, which I'm now looking to do full time.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Someone who believes that they can change the world. An entrepreneur is someone who is fearless, persistent, and unstoppable.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
In 2017, I went solo-traveling to California. It had always been my dream to go there, but the idea of going on my own (especially as a woman) was daunting! I remember thinking, how do I meet people? I ended up actually meeting my good travel buddies in an Uber Pool, by chance. To me, that sparked a great idea, to create an app that helps solo-travellers to meet people. I began to talk to potential customers and found that there was a huge gap in the market for an app like this.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Confidence - You have to have the confidence to network and present yourself and your idea to the world, without fear of being rejected.
Persistence - To keep going, through multiple setbacks and hurdles. You have to keep the end goal in mind.
Willingness to Learn - When you start out, you know very little, and make a lot of mistakes. But that's the whole fun of it, you need to be enthusiastic to learn new things. The more I learn, the more I earn!
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
Being my own boss - Working on my own time, and not being restricted to what someone else says I must do, or when I must do it. I am responsible for my own success, and my own failure.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Sophia Amoruso - The Girl Boss! Female entrepreneurs are a huge inspiration to me. Her story empowers me to be powerful, ambitious, and fearless.
If you had 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
I would ask her what her major setbacks were, and how she overcame them.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
The main mistakes I have made are spending money and time on things that haven't worked out. The lessons I've learned from that are to bootstrap as much as possible. If you can do something for free, or if you can test your product cheaply - do it.
I also think that you mustn't take things too seriously. In business, you will always make mistakes, especially as a young entrepreneur. You need to learn to say, hey - what did I learn from that? Mistakes are so valuable because they teach you things that no degree or MBA ever could. Sometimes, you have to learn the hard way!
How have you funded your ideas?
I have invested £4,000 of my own savings into the app, and we now have an additional £4,000 equity-free funding from Oxford Brookes University.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
Oxford Brookes Enterprise Support Awards and Santander Universities Enterprise Awards.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Oxford has so much going on for entrepreneurs - it's so easy to find events to learn new skills, network, or even just get inspired! It's been a fantastic city for me to fuel my entrepreneurial drive.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them? (Anything Oxfordshire especially!)
If they were a student, I'd definitely recommend they take advantage of the opportunities both Oxford and Oxford Brookes have for enterprising students. I would also recommend they follow things like Oxford Inspires and Oxford Entrepreneurs.
Any last words of advice?
Don't let anybody ever tell that you can't do something. I left school being told that I wasn't smart enough to even do my A-Levels, and that I would struggle to find a job. If you to do something, just do it. No excuses. Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire!