How I co-founded IMPACT and landed myself in the midst of Manchester's startup community
Back in about March 2014 Tom (my hall mate) and myself were sat in our halls of residence talking about how we both wanted to achieve more during our time at uni. After chatting and bouncing ideas off each other, we came up with a very simple and basic concept: we could sell colour coded products, each colour signifying a particular charity, where half of the profits are donated to. Our idea was set, and we decided to start off with iPhone cases.
Because we were both holding iPhone's at the time and had absolutely no other product idea. Little did we know our conversation that night was going to fuel a social enterprise startup.
Being university students, nothing really happened between that night until the end of July. We kept talking about how we were going to start "working on it tomorrow", and invest a little of our own money in to kickstart our idea "next week". University was in the way! Exams, essays, society commitments and, well, partying kept drawing us away from actually starting our idea. We through leaving it until summer would be a good idea - we foolishly forget to take into account the fact that we're both international students are were going back home for summer. I'm from Bangkok, Thailand and Tom was from Bratislava, Slovakia. The possibility of kickstarting our idea became even lower as we never got the time and place to go over the idea and actually start planning.
Towards the end of July, I received a message from Tom introducing me to the Manchester Entrepreneurs Accelerate ME scheme that he found advertised on Facebook. The Manchester Entrepreneurs Accelerate ME scheme is a pre-seed accelerator to connect student startups with the resources, networks and funds to accelerate their business. We both thought that this would be a great opportunity for us, as we needed the ignition to push our ideas forward and help us to take the next step. We send a very detailed, information and last minute application to the Manchester Entrepreneurs Society for the Accelerate ME scheme and that turned out to be the best decision we've made. This resulted in a 2am phone call interview with the director of the Accelerator Tom McCan as I was in Thailand and the time difference was not in my favour, however I managed to pull myself together and half an hour later we were accepted!
Being part of the accelerator has opened us up to great opportunities and resources. We received £2000 of funding, a co-working office space, mentors and constant contact with other startups on the scheme that we could turn to for feedback and advice. Every fortnight there was a guest speaker who came to talk to us about their business and gave us some valuable advice. We were greatly motivated by these speakers, including Jamil Khalil from Wakelet, Max Lines from Uber Manchester, River Tam from Dot-Forge (now HackPartners) and Tamsin from HireSpace (now head of Manchester at Clearly So). We were also introduced to the Manchester Silicon Drinkabout and that's how I was introduced to the buzzing SpacePortX which connected me with several startups in Manchester which in turn vastly grew my network.
This scheme however didn't just end with the provision of valuable resources, inspirational mentors and funding. This scheme ended with a Demo Day, where every startup in the scheme had to pitch their idea to venture capitalists, press, angel investors and other entrepreneurs in the hope of securing further investment and networks. We've managed to film our pitch for you to watch!
Today, IMPACT has partnered up with four hardworking charities that are register in the UK and operate all around the world including Village Water, Plant a Tree Today Foundation, Aids Orphan and Poverty Release. We launched our online store nowimpact.co.uk towards the end of February 2015 and have already raised close to £200 for our partnered charities. We've been lucky to be featured in several publications and blogs that helped us receive the exposure we needed. As I move forward into my third year of my Marketing degree at the University of Manchester, IMPACT has progressed so much and now we're looking to expand our product range and we would really low you suggestions! We're very active on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook so please give us a shout and connect with us!
If you're a student at Manchester and have a cool startup idea, I would definitely recommend joining the Manchester Entrepreneurs Society at the university of Manchester and keep an eye out on the Accelerate ME scheme application dates. Drop by SpacePortX and dive into the Manchester tech startup community! The opportunities are endless here - I love it!