Ones to Watch: Nurseries, schools and universities review site

Christopher Goodfellow
Sift Media
Share this content allows you to search for and review nurseries, schools and universities across England, in a transparent and straightforward way. The startup is our pick for this week's Ones to Watch.

Name: Upkar, Harmil, and Eamon Pardesi
Established: March 2015
1. Describe your business in one sentence allows you to search for and review nurseries, schools and universities across England, in a transparent and straightforward way.

2. How did you come up with the idea for your business?

Our backgrounds have always been in higher education, enterprise development, marketing, and communications, so the proposition behind was a natural fit for us.

Before we developed, we thought that parents who were searching for and identifying the ‘right’ school or nursery for their child had a difficult process to follow. They would have to scour the internet for official data such as Ofsted report findings and combine it with word-of-mouth recommendations in order to develop a full picture of what a school or nursery has to offer.

MyEd brings all the relevant information onto one page and the platform combines both official data from Ofsted, alongside first-hand reviews from parents. This introduces a new level of transparency to the search and evaluation process, and we feel it’s a real help for users.

3. What have been your key challenges and how have you overcome them?

By far the greatest challenges have been related to IT and web programming.  By background, we are not web programmers or IT specialists and consequently had to outsource the building of our site.  This has proved to be both costly and difficult in terms of communication.

Furthermore, as most start-ups can probably confirm, a major challenge has been raising financial investment to develop our highly ambitious business.  We have now changed our approach in order to focus on raising up to £500,000 from business angels.

4. How have you funded your startup?

So far, we have each made an initial investment so that we can set up operations in the family home in Birmingham. This included a large personal contribution from Upkar’s savings to pay for the early phases of the research and development. To stay afloat during these early stages we also took on multiple education consultancy contracts, which helped pay for the first version of the website development.
5. How do you market your business?

We firmly believe in applying the principles of formal marketing practice – focusing on the needs of our target market groups by providing the solutions to their problems.  We have two distinct groups in mind: the users of the services and institutions that list their services on MyEd. The branding of MyEd and the focus on maximising user experience, as well as the comprehensiveness of the content, are the most important aspects of our marketing strategy.

So that people know that MyEd exists, we are implementing integrated marketing communications, investing in a public relations campaign by one of the top agencies in the UK, Diffusion PR, and we intend to introduce some mass media advertising in the near future.
To encourage institutions to list their education services and for advertisers to place display advertisements on the site we have devised a high volume, low price market penetration strategy.

6. What are your plans for the future?

In terms of the immediate future, we already have plans for brand new services that we will launch over the next 12 months, adding to our promise to guide users throughout the education journey, as well as offering an alternative to the traditional education route.  As we work on getting our model just right in the UK over the next few years, we will be looking to secure venture capital investment so that in five years’ time we can launch overseas, to English-speaking countries first and then to India.

Looking further into the future, we envisage floating the business on the stock exchange to raise funding for global expansion and to establish as a household brand.

7. If you started again, is there anything you’d do differently?

With the benefit of hindsight, we would do a lot differently.  First and foremost, we would strengthen the founding team with the appointment of a senior technologist with the potential to become our chief technology officer. Another core skill we would add to the team is a senior sales manager to complement our strategic marketing skills.  The technologist and the sales person would then work together to continuously develop the site and the services to meet the evolving needs of our target groups. There is little point in having a wonderful website if it is not attracting users and earning income to cover operating and other costs.

8. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs based on your business experience so far?

Since starting, we have followed closely Tony Buzan’s first four criteria for achieving success: vision, desire, faith in oneself and commitment.
If we were to give advice to other entrepreneurs, we would say that having a bold and ambitious vision of what the future may hold is key.  Furthermore, you must have absolute faith in yourself in order to inspire your team to have the same.  If this full commitment of time, energy and resources is not made, then we believe that there can be little chance of success.


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