Jack Tang is a business student currently studying at Kings College, University of London as well as the director and founder of thestudentjob.com, a London-based start-up that helps young people aged 16-24 find casual work in their local area.
Tang was an entrepreneur from a young age, starting his first business at the age of 12, selling customer designed computers. He went onto found web design company, Interwebs which he now runs alongside thestudentjob.com.
Q: What inspired you to set up thestudentjob.com?
A: Last year, when I was just beginning university, I became aware of the impact that upcoming tuition fee hikes and higher costs of living were having on fellow students. Many of these issues can be addressed by providing young people with casual work that fits around their studies and still allows them to pay their rent, transport and avoid crippling student debt.
Without any source of income, the typical university student will graduate with £36,000 or more worth of debt. At the same time, lack of work experience makes it harder for new graduates to possess the relevant experience required in today’s highly competitive job market. Our website, was built 'for students by students', and is a solution to both of these problems.
Q: How easy was it to transform your initial idea into a business?
A: It was all about determination. Many people have ideas, even some really good ones, only to go home and not make the effort to execute them. I was determined to implement my idea, which meant working long hours, being willing to take many risks and gradually getting a good team behind my efforts. While daunting at first, the effort has paid off hugely.
Q: How did you fund the venture?
A: I initially funded it with a combination of my own savings and profits made from my other venture, Interwebs. It’s a digital marketing agency that I founded a few years ago and is still successful today. The trick is to keep day-to-day spending to a minimum and invest as much money into the product itself as possible.
We have since raised capital, which has allowed us to move to offices in Holborn and hire a small full-time crew, but the bulk of our expenses will continue to go towards making our product better.
Q: You founded your first start-up, a digital marketing agency, aged just 14. Do you believe that an entrepreneurial venture of this kind at such a young age is indicative of the current generation of tech-savvy, young entrepreneurs?
A: One of the greatest aspects of entrepreneurship is curiosity and risk taking: that’s what’s driven me to create my first business. I believe that most current entrepreneurs have had aspirations since they were very young.
Q: When you first started the business, where did you turn when you needed advice on areas outside of your expertise?
A: I have some entrepreneurial relatives who I have occasionally turned to for practical advice. Most of the people I’ve relied on, however, have been those I’ve met through networking. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions: I’ve found that most fellow entrepreneurs are really friendly and always willing to lend a helping hand.
Be nice and people will be nice to you.
Q: How have you set about marketing the site?
A: As a part of the student community, I have always had a very deep understanding of the student market, which is more complicated that it may originally seem. The key is to be where students are: university halls, jobs fairs, sixth form schools and, of course, Facebook and Twitter.
We didn’t and still don’t have a large marketing budget: word of mouth is the most effective tool, why would you want anything else?
Q: How have you integrated social media into the site?
A: Social media isn’t only deeply integrated into our service, it’s part of our business, given how popular social networks are among young people. We manage a high-traffic Twitter profile which we use to interact with our users live, as well numerous Facebook pages targeted at different areas all across the UK, all in the name of making our job vacancies accessible to as many people as possible.
We also develop and maintain tailor-made Facebook pages for some of our biggest partners, such as London 2012, creating great brand engagement among young people while allowing them to snap up a job at the Games more quickly than ever. The success of social networks is forcing companies to change the way they do business: thankfully we’re ahead of the curve and help our partners do the same.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about being an entrepreneur in your chosen industry?
A: It’s definitely the ability to have a real influence over the lives of young people who would likely be out of work otherwise. We’re more than just a provider of jobs: we maintain a blog, where student writers discuss their experiences in the job market and lawyers from local law firms provide legal advice, all in the name of making students more commercially and legally aware.
Q: How difficult has it been to juggle your undergraduate studies with running thestudentjob.com?
A: It’s always possible to find time, but it requires sacrifice. I had to squeeze out every bit out of my day as possible: this meant replying to emails during my train commute to university and staying up late most of the time. I have also hired good team members who have helped me steer the ship.
Given our exponential growth, I’m going to be taking a year out of University to focus on my venture on a full-time basis.
Q: What would you describe as the three most important characteristics that an entrepreneur should possess?
A: Risk taking, creativity and discipline. It’s all about being very responsible and cool-headed and still being willing to take risks at the same time; that’s what defines a good entrepreneur, in my opinion.
Q: What are the biggest challenges start-ups and entrepreneurs face when starting a business in the current climate?
A: Thestudentjob.com was in fact created to address a new gap in the market opened by the economic recession and its aftermath. With higher tuition fees and costs of living, there has been an increasing demand for temporary and one-off jobs by students and young people.
At the same time, businesses need a cost-effective way to recruit temporary staff quickly despite slashed HR and marketing budgets. We provide an answer to both of these problems.
Q: What advice would you offer to other, young entrepreneurs?
A: Work hard and don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t try to predict the future too much, just make sure you enjoy what you do, everything else will generally work itself out. If it doesn’t, learn to embrace failure as a natural part of your learning curve – better do it when you’re still young and have nothing to lose.
Q: What are your plans for the business moving forward?
A: We’ve spent the last few weeks getting ready to expand our services nationwide. As part of this effort, we’re designing a white label solution for education establishments allowing them to display our database of jobs right on their websites, allowing even more students to get work.