The Business Owner: Anthony Adeloye
The co-founder explains why companies should never lose sight of the bigger picture and the importance of "seeking continuous improvement"
Founders: Anthony Adeloye, Jay Gujral and Ben Alfrey
Location: London, UK
Proposition: Gradlancer is an online platform that connects paid freelance work opportunities with skilled students. We match reputable employers with students for short-term projects, thus increasing their employability and leveling the playing field.
Size: Five employees
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
Gradlancer is the only company in the UK that offers paid freelance work exclusively for students. Although there is a number of firms that provide freelance opportunities for students, they are not their key target group and thus compete with adults and graduates for positions.
Furthermore, with Gradlancer, students are able to gain experience in areas related to their studies and can learn crucial/essential skills needed to secure permanent employment. We currently have 30 projects in fifteen categories live on the website, ranging from healthcare to law and arts and design.
How did you finance your business?
We are funded through Chris Phillips of investment firm Just Develop It. We completed our second round of funding in August 2015 and now have the resources to scale the business as outlined in our original strategic plan.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
The biggest thing I’d say is to never lose sight of the big picture, which means your business purpose and aims. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the small things. Keeping a sharp focus on your end goal, be it the month, a year, or five years, ensures that your team works towards the same objectives.
It’s also essential to keep on top of your cashflow. As you experience considerable growth in the short-term, it’s easy to fall into the trap of allowing your costs to act as a stumbling block before you’ve fully scaled your business.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
It’s naturally difficult for any small business to, firstly, get into the face of their target market and, secondly, convince them that they are the best proposal without any credibility to build on.
Client acquisition is exceptionally tough, but attaining that first big client is a fantastic way to snowball your business into the faces of others. Providing them with that exceptional service gives them a platform to connect you with further clients through networking as they feel more positively about endorsing your brand.
What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?
We cater to two very different audiences, one being students and the other one being employers. So we need to adjust our marketing approach accordingly in order to engage both in the best possible way.
This can be through social media, graduate fairs, partnerships, advertising and open days or informative research and advice in the business press. The most important thing is to show both our target audiences that we know which issues matter to them and highlight how Gradlancer can help find a solution.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
It depends on the nature of the business in question. At Gradlancer, we feel that one of our key strengths is our customer service on both our client and candidate side of the business.
Outsourcing this would be a fundamental error as we feel that we’d lose that personal edge that we’re so keen to provide both of our target markets. On the flip side, a small business that is lacking in a particular skill-set may benefit from outsourcing this area to others of which have that particular expertise.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
Considering we have offices in both London and Whiteley, we find that Slack is an exceptional app for streamlining communication between parties.
Describe your company’s culture in three words:
Ambitious, innovative and service-orientated.
What would you like the government to do for small business?
Enable policies that relax tax laws on National Insurance when seeking to put staff on basic salaries. We’ve plans to grow our team substantially over the next 12 months although the added costs on top of an annual salary naturally mean that this is difficult.
Furthermore, opening up more cost-effective ways of attaining funding with relaxed interest rates and better payment terms would likely encourage more entrepreneurial individuals to start a business.
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
Gym Shark is one company we look up to in regards to the owner being a university student just a few years ago and tapping into his entrepreneurial spirit to start operating in the crowded clothing market.
In regards to a more digital outlook, Uber have shown the power and potential of how intangible, service-based organisations have dramatically risen in value over the last five years.
Where do you want the business to be in three years?
In three years, we’d like to become a marketplace leader in the UK and beyond. Our aim is to make Gradlancer the go-to portal for freelance work for students and employers alike.
We’d like businesses to come to us first when they search for talented skilled freelancers, as well as more employable graduates. Equally, we want to be the trusted choice for students who are looking for relevant work experience.
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making a profit?
Being self-critical and seeking continuous improvement is a good way to ensure that every expense you spare is vital in growing your business.
Not resting on your practices too much or becoming too comfortable in your processes but seeking ways in which you can always improve is a good habit to get into.
Investing in your key value proposition ensures that you stand out from your competition and gives your target consumer a clear idea of your position within this market.
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