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Avoiding the City with your own business

Posted on 8th June 2007. No Comment

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Scared of the big wide world? Pip Bennett tells d21 how he survived and shamelessly plugs his website at the same time…

Goodnight JV
A gap year involving climbing in East Africa and exploring South America (I promise not to bore you with any details) meant that I had forgotten everything 13 years of school had beaten in to me.
Rowing took up an awful lot of time, but during the rare holidays back in London I talked with school friends about ways we could start a business and retire as quickly as possible. When I was younger I hoped to have my own business, but was not really sure what it would be, so I swayed between this goal and the Durham staple of applying for something in the City.

Student life being the best there is, I realised an MA would allow me to eke it out for a bit longer. Unfortunately, by the end of it I still had no idea what to do with my life so a few applications were dutifully filled in and sent off without wonderful results. I started some bar work and did some rowing coaching (later I turned to tutoring so that I could afford to eat) but eventually there was a big break through.

Oh you’re so naive yet so
The two friends that I had spent those holidays trying to unearth a business idea had come up with a free world travel guide plan in their final few weeks at Cambridge. Dreams of millions tended still to be directed towards the internet (ignoring the previous bubble) as it was the only type of business that could be started when you are in possession of absolutely no capital. They realised that they would need someone to head up the non-technical side of the site. We were sitting outside a pub in the middle of the afternoon – there are some benefits to getting rejected from the few places that even gave me an interview – my future as an owner of Unearth Travel was now decided.

There is just the slightest chance that we were a little naive about just how quickly we were going to become internet tycoons. A major issue about going straight into owning your business from university is that unless you did certain degrees you are likely to be found lacking in ALL sorts of knowledge. Knowing how to work out the equation associated with a knot (thank you Dr. Johnson) and the pros and cons of Kantian Ethics (thanks to Dr. Scarre) does not aid the budding entrepreneur when filling in the Annual Return at Companies House.

I have always been keen on academic knowledge (I have started a part-time PhD at Bristol) but I suggest that those that want to start their own business should devote some of their time to learning basic business law and accounting. Ignorance is not an excuse when it comes to the Inland Revenue, but not knowing you do not know something can leave you in a rather sticky situation.

Here it comes
Initially we spent time data gathering and designing the database and site architecture. We realised, too late, that is very difficult to classify every destination in the world. We worked around the problem with limitations in our database system and in the end rebuilt the back end so that any future developments could be easily added. Another area of difficulty was when to publicise the site. We should have been doing so as soon as we started rather than waiting for the system to be ‘finished’ – community based projects take time to gain traction.

Over the last two years we have learnt a great deal. Ideally, not having to do paid work alongside your business will make a huge difference as you will then be able to put the necessary hours in. So, check out the site Unearth Travel a free world travel guide with planning tools and advice amongst other things and let me know what you think.

Good luck with any ventures you embark on – just after university is the safest time to take the risk!

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  • Louise said:

    Very nice. This should improve your google rank a bit :) Whats the site written in?

  • Louise said:

    Very nice. This should improve your google rank a bit :) Whats the site written in?

  • Louise said:

    Very nice. This should improve your google rank a bit :) Whats the site written in?

  • Pip Bennett said:

    The fun stuff is php, actionscript and javascript  – are you keen to get involved?

  • Pip Bennett said:

    The fun stuff is php, actionscript and javascript  – are you keen to get involved?

  • Pip Bennett said:

    The fun stuff is php, actionscript and javascript  – are you keen to get involved?