Overcoming obstacles as an Internet Start Up
WikiJob.co.uk was started in 2007 by two young entrepreneurs, Chris Muktar and Ed Mellett. They began the business in reaction to what they perceived as a lack of reliable information about graduate schemes in the corporate world.
At the time, both Chris and Ed were stuck in unfulfilling graduate jobs which they felt did not suit them personally or professionally. They wanted to know more about the possibilities that were open to graduates but found that the information out there was mainly employer driven and did not offer a graduate perspective.
Ed and Chris saw a gap in the market that they felt they could fill. WikiJob was thus created to offer both a reliable source of careers information and a forum in which graduates could discuss their personal trials and tribulations in their hunt for a job. The Wiki concept, in which content is user generated, was perfect for a website purposefully designed for graduates, and run by graduates. They started with no capital and very little business knowledge; yet now sit at the helm of a thriving online business which serves 500,000 visitors a month. These are some of the lessons they learnt along the way.
1. Persistence: Starting a business from scratch requires a puritanical belief in your product and a steadfast dedication to both promoting and improving it. When WikiJob began both Chris and Ed had little in the way of business contacts or acumen. They used their own initiative to build up contacts and attract clients, initiating hundreds of phone calls and meetings to eventually win their first client.
2. Find a niche and ruthlessly exploit it: Having experienced difficulties in finding a suitable graduate career themselves, Ed and Chris knew that there was a market for their product. They tapped into it by figuring out the ways in which they themselves needed help; by solving their own problem they were able to help the graduates in a similar position. They also offered a platform through which graduates could voice their own concern thus encouraging the creation of an online community.
3. Wherever possible get things for cheap: WikiJob’s early success was based on maintaining a lean and efficient business model and finding innovative ways to get things for free. They managed to get free hosting, free promotion in newspapers and magazines and free access to events. This was due to not only their eye for a bargain but also their commitment to networking and self-promotion.
4. Market yourself relentlessly: WikiJob generate their own marketing through a mixture of online, social media and face to face promotion. Generating an audience of young people online through social media was combined with a commitment to generating a network of professional contacts through face to face meetings and telephone conversations. They decided to conduct their marketing themselves both because of the cost of PR companies and because they felt that they would like to liaise directly with journalists and media professionals and thus control their message. They have so far been very successful and WikiJob has been asked to comment on news stories on a variety of BBC programs and in many of the national newspapers.
5. Develop your skills: When WikiJob was first started Chris and Ed were forced by circumstances to become masters of various trades which they had no previous experience of. They slowly became self taught experts in web design and web marketing whilst simultaneously learning the ins and outs of the graduate labour market. This expertise allowed them to offer a highly personalised service which they could tailor to meet their clients demands. They have allowed themselves space to innovate by not expanding too quickly and maintaining their control over the company.
The future for WikiJob is currently very bright; having expanded incrementally to become one of the largest graduate careers website in the UK they are now taking the next step and expanding overseas with a US website currently in the works. They credit their success to a obdurate commitment to their product and a self belief which allowed them to overcome the numerous difficulties they encountered along the way.
So far in 2011, WikiJob has received two awards acknowledging their achievements in the graduate recruitment industry. In March, WikiJob were announced winners of the Management Today Business Heroes award for ‘New Kid on the Block’. The award praised WikiJob as a ‘career site with a difference’, commending its innovative hybrid style of job board/social network, where users ‘are encouraged to contribute, collaborate and share their experiences with their peers (albeit on a website instead of a student pub)’. WikiJob were also awarded the ‘Niche Job Board’ award at the onrec Industry Awards in March.
Starting up your own small enterprise can thus be a highly rewarding experience both personally and professionally. It demands that business owners develop their skills in a wide variety of different industry areas; it also allows them to develop their own business and marketing strategy, innovate and incorporate their own beliefs into the company ethos. Ultimately, as with WikiJob, hard work will be rewarded and recognized.