Inspiring Women: Entrepreneurship (Part 1)

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This academic year the Careers Service and the SU have been running a series of 'Inspiring Women' talks to give our students the opportunity to hear how successful female role models have managed various aspects of their careers. For the fourth and final session our theme was entrepreneurship. We were privileged to host four fantastic speakers, all recent graduates, who shared their stories of setting up and running their own businesses. We'll be summarising their stories in two blog posts, starting today with the stories of Jess Saumarez and Dana Lattouf.

Jess Saumarez - LUX Rewards

The idea for LUX Rewards came from the observing the corporate market: If corporates can earn points for flying and hotel sleeping then why not restaurant dining? On the flip side, if you are a high-quality restaurant or bar, you do not want to offer a discount as this invites price-sensitive customers to your venue and devalues your brand.

LUX is an app which works like Air-Miles: it allows people who frequently dine out in high-end restaurants to build up rewards points. These points can be spent on a range of rewards such as luxury experiences (wine tastings, spa days, helicopter rides), in-restaurant rewards (glasses of wine, starters), Avios points and charity donations.

Jess emphasised the importance of doing detailed market research to find the product-market fit: and the fact that this has to be done over and over again! Before launching into the Bristol market from Bath, she and her co-founders began with detailed analyses of current practices before taking to the streets and surveying potential users of their app. Several of our speakers noted that the skills in data analysis they had gained during their studies were invaluable for conducting market research. Jess and her co-founders discovered through their analysis that the best way to sell the app was not through the general marketing efforts that was being done in Bath, but by actually partnering directly with corporations. Today, LUX is the restaurant reward scheme for companies such as EY, Grant Thornton, Natwest, IMDb, Barclay’s, EY...

Jess emphasised the potential benefits to budding entrepreneurs of joining an accelerator programme - these are competitive programmes for start-up businesses that involve seed funding, mentoring and educational components. Some of our other speakers had also been involved in accelerator programmes, and highlighted that these could be a source of investment in your business as well as giving access to a support network. Jess emphasised the importance of finding people who believe in what you're doing and can give support and advice - ideally for free. Contacts from work experience and professional bodies can be good sources of mentors.

Dana Lattouf - Tikkito AI

Dana's idea for a live events portal came out of her personal experience. Shortly after moving to the UK she developed a taste for West End shows but realised that online ticket sites were limited in their user friendliness. Dana identified a problem and worked to find a workable solution. The resulting product, Tickitto, is an intelligent assistant, helping people discover events they love. Powered by vertical-based Artificial Intelligence technology, Tickitto learns users’ preferences and suggests tailored event recommendations. Tickitto is also a comparison engine which compares thousands of tickets to find user’s the best deal. The enhanced user experience makes it simple for anyone to discover and book tickets for events. For ticket vendors, this translates into higher conversion rates and ultimately higher profit margins.

Like Jess, Dana highlighted the importance of doing detailed user testing to test the market for and viability of your product. Dana talked about how, contrary to popular views, certain aspects of what she termed 'womanliness' can be useful traits for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is usually seen as involving risk-taking, and women are generally seen to be more 'risk-averse' than men. In Dana's view, however, the tendency to risk aversion can be positive, as it can mean that people are more likely to break their vision down into smaller chunks and test hypotheses, therefore making success more likely. Dana also felt that women's ability to be adaptable - a key skill for enterprise, to keep their cool better than men, and to be more compassionate, which is helpful in relationship building - are conducive to making them successful entrepreneurs.

Look out for the stories of our other speakers, Becky Sage and Neha Chaudhry, in another post soon.

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