The second of our posts on our Inspiring Women: Entrepreneurship event, outlining the stories of Becky Sage from Interactive Scientific and Neha Chaudhry from Walk the Beat.
Becky Sage - Interactive Scientific
Becky, a PhD graduate in Chemical Physics from the University of Bristol, developed Interactive Scientific with two co-founders. Interactive Scientific designs immersive digital tools for scientific education and research. Towards the end of her PhD Becky wasn't sure which direction to take. She had, however, been involved in lots of scientific outreach activities during her PhD, and had come across children and adults who had lost confidence in science, which inspired her to find interactive ways to engage children in science. Becky's co-founders were already exploring how to use digital tools to make science accessible to children, with danceroom Spectroscopy and Interactive Scientific has grown out of their shared interests. Initially, Interactive Scientific developed digital tools for use in the classroom to engage children with science, which led to academics and industrial chemists becoming interested in how they could use the tools to make visual representations of their scientific research, and Becky's work expanded into this area. Becky described the purpose of her products as 'making the invisible visible'.
Becky and her team of 15, which includes some freelancers, have been piloting their project with 30 schools from the UK and internationally and are now ready to launch their product, Nano Simbox to the International school market.
Becky highlighted that CEOs have to wear many hats; her current responsibilities include overall management of the team, overseeing data security for the business, conducting investor pitches, and still occasionally venturing into classrooms though her team now do much of this. Becky felt that because of this juggling act, running a start-up can feel like it encompasses your whole life, and she stressed how important it is to maintain balance and find ways to relieve stress and look after your physical and emotional health- this was a recurring theme for all the panellists. For Becky the key challenges she had encountered were around inclusivity - she feels it's important to create an inclusive culture in her business - and time. In terms of using time effectively Becky's top tips were:
- plan - set both short- and long-term goals, and don't be distracted from them by your email inbox. Include others in the planning!
- delegate - Becky talked about how she had shifted from thinking that she had to do everything herself and working completely independently to realising that she needed to take others with her in what she was trying to achieve, and delegate tasks to her team. In her view entrepreneurs need to be both independent and interdependent.
- patience - Becky learned that she couldn't achieve everything she wanted to straight away, but that that didn't mean she had failed. In fact taking time to develop your product and brand helps to develop credibility.
- Finally Becky emphasied the need to 'build the story' around her business, and advised using your network, including those who fund and support your business to help you tell the story of your business.
Neha Chaudhry - Walk the Beat
Neha's inspiration for Walk the Beat, which designs smart living products to aid an ageing population, was inspired by her grandfather who had Parkinson's. She saw first hand the difficulties he experienced with walking and wanted to put her engineering expertise to use to design a product that could help. People with Parkinson's can experience 'freezing' of movement when they walk, so Neha has designed a walking stick that detects walking patterns and alerts users when their walking pattern is slowing to remind them to keep moving. Like our other panellists, Neha conducted detailed user research to help her come up with the most effective solution to the problem she had identified. She did extensive research amongst patients with Parkinson's and clinicians, and was particularly motivated by users who said that they would benefit from a product like hers. Neha admitted that developing her start-up had been a lonely experience at times, and stressed the need for a support network as well as resilience and perseverance to keep going when problems arose. She also stressed the importance of developing 'soft' skills such as time-management, planning and adaptability as well as using technical knowledge. These skills can be developed during your degree through taking part in work experience and extra curricular activities.