Recently graduated from Royal Holloway University of London with a degree in Management with Accounting and Finance, Raspinder Singh discovered that his passion lies in business, and ensuring others realise what their true capabilities are. With this in mind, he created Gradpreneur and hopes that many will find it useful and see entrepreneurship as a viable career path. He is passionate about technology and all things online. He is proud of his Sikh heritage and strong family unity, which have given him the support to do what he loves.
Q: What inspired you to set up your business, Gradpreneur?
A: When I left university I wanted to start a business. When searching for guidance and support online regarding my business ideas, I discovered there was very little information and knowledge for graduates that wanted to pursue an alternative career path (entrepreneurship), and hearing the daily news alerts about the number of young, talented and skilled individuals struggling to find employment, I wanted to make a change. Hence the idea for Gradpreneur came to me. Gradpreneur is a new E2E (Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur) support platform, where students/graduates and any aspiring entrepreneurs can learn more about entrepreneurship and find the people and knowledge to take their business ideas from vision to venture. Gradpreneur leverages social media to provide an interactive learning experience and encourages collaboration between like minded individuals.
Q: What makes Gradpreneur different from other social networking sites?
A: When incorporating social networking into the website, I had one thought. “Why is it that we use Facebook every day to connect with people, some we don’t even know? Why can’t we leverage social networking in a way that allows us to connect with people that can help us learn and pursue our entrepreneurial passion, and help limit the pain?”
In terms of features and functionality, it remains relatively similar to other social networking sites, the real difference lies in the way that people use social networking. In the case of Gradpreneur, instead of connecting with 100 friends like you would on Facebook, you connect with like minded individuals whose skills can complement yours and mentors who can help you facilitate the growth of an existing business or a new idea.
New businesses form every day, but very few survive. Gradpreneur is here to help them do so and we will soon be providing offline events and workshops to provide guidance to those who are unsure about what they want to do after graduating and those considering starting their own business. My motto is “less talk and more action”, and that’s exactly what I intend to do in the upcoming year.
Q: Has starting your own business always been one of your goals?
A: I wouldn’t say it has always been a goal, but it's most definitely been a passion of mine. Like many other young adults, I pay attention to business news and love hearing start up and success stories. During my third year of university I was applying for the traditional finance and accounting based schemes, because it’s the norm and within my community many follow the traditional path. Along the way and after many assessment centres, I knew this path wasn’t for me, so I started exploring alternatives and constantly researching new ideas and new businesses, trying to understand more about real life business experiences rather than the theory we were taught at university.
Since the launch of Gradpreneur (1 month ago), I have been presented with some amazing opportunities and learning experiences as a result, and I hope to keep learning, helping others and also exploring opportunities in different fields.
Q: What challenges have you faced in your entrepreneurial experience so far?
A: The biggest challenge has to be the first step (getting started). Overwhelmed with the fear of failure, lack of support and knowledge there are many deterrents to stop a young entrepreneur. Through Gradpreneur, I have had the opportunity to ask this same question to many others, and these seem to be common challenges, and I hope I can alleviate some of these fears for others, via Gradpreneur.
I have my ups and downs, every day is a new day and with every day you learn something new, you meet someone new and you are presented with new opportunities.
I have learnt to accept failure as a learning curve and I think this is something that should be advocated among our youth.
Q: What’s next for you? Do you have any other business ventures up your sleeve?
A: I am very early stage with Gradpreneur, with it only being a month since its launch. I have received some great feedback and I will continue to make developments towards it, to ensure students and graduates get the sound advice, support and opportunities they truly deserve, and continue to showcase some of the great talent we have across the world.
As a result of Gradpreneur, I have been given the opportunity to take things offline, and host some events and workshops to help others with their business queries and promote entrepreneurship. I have also had the opportunity to meet with some great guys from the IT HUB of India (Bangalore) and will be exploring the opportunity of a new IT start up, in the upcoming year.
Q: You studied at Royal Holloway. Do you think higher education is an important factor in the success of an entrepreneur?
A: I can’t say it’s the most important factor, as we have come to know some of the world’s most inspiring and successful entrepreneurs, who did not get the chance to explore higher education. What I would say, is that obtaining a degree is a lot more than a piece of paper you can show your family and friends to make them proud. Being a part of the university experience, teaches you a tremendous amount, about yourself and others around you. It helps to shape you as an individual and opens you up to a world of opportunity. Had I known earlier, that I wanted to start my own business, I think I would have taken more from the experience in terms of networking and meeting other entrepreneurs. With growing support from enterprise societies at universities and graduates now having to think about alternative career paths, I think we will be seeing a lot more start ups from universities around the world.
Q: Did you have any concerns/doubts when starting up your business?
A: From the outset, I knew it would be tough. My biggest concern, like many others had to be the fear of failure, and disappointing those dearest to me. Luckily my family and friends have been supportive and I have come to realise that failure is a natural process. Like Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work”
If I find in the future that I haven’t achieved what I set out to achieve, at least I can say I have met some great people and have been given the opportunity to do some great things in the future.
Q: What unique challenges do you think graduates face with regards to starting a business?
- A lack of practical know-how: When at university we are given plenty of theory to learn, but there is no practical application. If you study a business degree, that doesn’t make you a business person, far from it, if you have never been taught to apply the theory.
- Fear: Fear overcomes everyone, especially students. Differentiating yourself from the norm is a big step, and many people are overwhelmed with the thought of doing something different.
- Support: Whether this be finance-related or general advice. I think many are afraid of seeking support, and many do not know that is available.
Q: What is the best thing about being young entrepreneur?
A: The world is your oyster. Leaving university opens you up to a world of opportunity. You have very few commitments, no everyday pressures of looking after a family or having to pay the mortgage. Every opportunity that comes your way is a learning curve and a story to tell. In the past few months, I have learnt more about myself than I ever would have imagined. Starting now, will help you to learn what you are good at, and what skills sets you lack, setting you up for a bright future.
Q: What is the worst thing about being an entrepreneur?
A: At the moment I am having to depend on my family to support me, and will continue to do so until I start generating revenue. I am not particular fond of this, and feel like a burden. Really I should be supporting them, in fact one of the reasons I want to be in business is to able to support them.
Q: Have you ever been so frustrated you considered giving up on your business? If so what drives you to go on?
A: There are times when I have been frustrated, but not enough to make me want to give up. Being frustrated has been due to the lack of man power behind me, but with time I have been able to outsource some of the day-to-day tasks. This has given me time to concentrate on tasks that are more suited to my skill sets. So I would say to everyone, stick with the things you are good at and add value by outsourcing or bringing on a team member when you need it.
Q: What advice would you give to businesses that may be struggling in the recession?
A: Learn how to become a leaner business. Figure out where there are inefficiencies and learn from these to make your business more productive. Don’t spend unnecessarily, but keep your employees incentivised, at the end of the day they add the most value to your company and without them you’d be nothing. Showing employees you care will in return favour you massively, especially when salaries and bonuses are being capped now. Sometimes for employees it’s not always about the money, but more so the personal value they bring to the company. Stay positive, regardless of how gloomy the weather looks.
Q: How do you balance your business and your social life?
A: That’s a good question. Being an online platform, there’s no real set hours, but I like to make sure that users and readers are informed of our activity throughout the whole day, so usually if I am out, my mobile is handy and I can still keep everyone informed. Regardless of wanting to work as many hours as I can, I do try and a few hours out in the evening, away from the computer, usually at the gym or spending time with my family. This gives me a chance to collect my thoughts and be fresh when I return. Sometimes, having a balance can make you a lot more productive.
Q: If you could give future young entrepreneurs three pieces of advice what would they be?
- Learn to take risks, don’t be risk adverse. Life’s too short
- Realise that not everyone is going to support, what you are doing. So have the self belief and determination to go with what you believe and make it a success. "Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life" - Steve Jobs
- Don’t try and conquer the world on your own, there are people out that can help you, just network and find them. Things will end up being a lot more productive as a result.