University is a great place to get a business off the ground and onto its feet. Toby Cannon, the founder of digital design and development agency Blue Gecko Media certainly found this to be true. He founded Blue Gecko Media whilst in his first year at the University of York.
WHAT WAS THE IDEA BEHIND Blue Gecko Media?
I’ve always had a passion for web design and development. I started this as a freelance hobby in my early teens, developing websites for family and friends. Basically, I was ‘that kid that made websites’. As I began gaining more clients and the workload became heavier, the natural progression was to move from a freelance hobby to a business. I now have other designers and developers who work with me, it’s great watching it scale up.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO FIT RUNNING A BUSINESS AROUND YOUR UNIVERSITY DEGREE?
Task prioritization is key here. Finding out the day or the weeks most important tasks and ensuring they are complete is essential. I also run a clothing brand Blurred Edge Apparel so it can get quite hectic at times. Using holiday time well is a great way to keep up with the business and academic side of life.
WHICH TOOLS DO YOU USE TO HELP MAINTAIN A HIGH LEVEL OF PRODUCTIVITY?
I love to keep tabs on everything I’m doing, so the main tool I use is simply Google Calendar. I sync all my external calendars to this so I can clearly see what I have on for each day. A tool which I use which get’s overlooked by my generation frequently is the actual phone feature on my phone. I find it much faster and more efficient to call a client or a coursemate rather than have a back and forth text or email conversation.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ITEMS IN YOUR ROUTINE THAT HELPS YOU TO FOCUS?
I find waking up early really helps with this one. I normally wake up at around 5am and get some things done before the rest of my friends wake up. Fitness is also important, I find after a week or so off the gym it is much harder to focus and concentrate on tasks.
WHAT’S THE HARDEST THING ABOUT MANAGING A BUSINESS WHILST STUDYING?
The answer to this is twofold really. The social side is a hard balancing act. Make friends who are like-minded and also potentially run businesses. This may not stop you from going out most nights, but at least you can ponder your poor life choices from the night before together. Money is also a difficult one. University isn’t cheap and neither is launching and growing a business or two. Managing your finances well is crucial.
ANY ADVICE YOU’D GIVE to someone thinking of starting a business at university?
Go for it. University is a great place to start. Try to get in touch with other student business owners at your University and see how you can work together and help each other. Also reach out to your university’s careers department. I did this in York and it was a brilliant decision to do so. They can normally assist you with growing your business.
There’s no time like the present.