Jemma and James started School Space (was 2JEvents) while still in high school, after running events as part of the head girl and head boy team. School Space aims to support local schools and communities by facilitating school lettings after hours, helping schools to earn money and local community groups to have safe and affordable venues.
So what would you say are the top skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Jemma: To be an entrepreneur you should have a good amount of drive and enthusiasm, self-belief or stubbornness (when everyone around you says no, you have to trust in yourself), and inspiration.
James: Resilience for sure, and of course the ability to have fun. If you are having a bad time and not getting paid, it’s really difficult, but if you are passionate and believe in it, you will be able to keep your sense of humour. Entrepreneurs also need to be engaged; they need the ability to get out there and talk to people.
Jemma: The fun! Everything you do you see the outcome of. . . it’s all up to and for you. You choose the direction.
James: What isn’t? I really loving what we are doing, and seeing how we make a difference is so rewarding. It’s hard not to be enthusiastic and engaged.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most?
Both: Zelga Anderson, at the Entrepreneurship Centre at SBS. She is kind, caring, and always willing to help. She is genuinely interested in what we are doing and not afraid to tell us if we are going the wrong direction. She has been with us from the start!
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Everyday there are new achievements for us. We recently signed 3 contracts in one day, after 6 months hard work. We had our best sales month in May so far. We are meeting with and discussing contracts with some of the biggest schools around Oxfordshire, so things are going up!
Sometimes it’s hard to keep going and keep trusting those around you. When you have a co-founder it is essential to be able to trust them and believe in them as well. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. . . there are plenty of opportunities out there for those who go after them. Sometimes all you need is a bit of help or a steer in the right direction.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxford? Bad?
There are many great co-working spaces (the Launchpad, Hatch) available to anyone just starting out, plus fantastic resources due to having great universities so close. For us, having such amazing schools to be able to let out is a big draw. However, Oxford has terrible traffic and high cost of living. It’s also difficult to get people to be more engaged and realise that Oxford is so much more than research and academics!
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for information or resources in Oxford, where would you send them?
We would tell them to find a mentor as soon as possible, someone who can connect them to others in the area. This was so vital for us in the early days.
Any other advice?
Take every opportunity, help others and don’t be afraid to ask for help yourself! Give back to causes you believe in. . .and of course, engage with young people!
EnSpire Oxford is a University of Oxford initiative to help connect people to the entrepreneurship resources they need, and to promote entrepreneurship across Oxfordshire.
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