This month, we are celebrating 2 years of SkillSeeder, and what a journey it has been so far. It seems like only yesterday that I dialled into a zoom call with fellow co-founders Dave, Simon and Jimmy, to discuss possible ideas to put forward for a Scottish Government The CivTech Programme. This would ultimately become the springboard in forming a business, shaping our futures and that of Scotland’s training sector.
When I started in marketing, I never had grand plans to become an entrepreneur, nor did I envisage that one day I’d be the co-founder of a tech business. I wasn’t 100% sure which direction my career would take.
I’ve always been one to follow my gut though, to embrace change, and go with what makes me happy. I’ve worked in a variety of exciting roles, primarily within the drinks and tourism industry, but having the confidence to try something new, that would balance with my biggest role of all – being a mum of two, helped me pluck up the courage in 2020 and step into the unknown. I placed my career on a different path. It’s a path that has more uncertainty, requires spinning numerous plates, but one that feels rewarding and has great potential.
SkillSeeder is a skill sharing platform and trainer management system, which aims to improve access to training.
With the company’s 2-year anniversary upon us, it feels like the perfect opportunity to look back on our journey so far, some of the highlights, and the support network that has helped the business along the way.
We’ve created a new solution
Since launching the business in 2020 we have developed a platform which was awarded a UK Enterprise Award in 2022 and was a finalist in The Herald's Digital Transformation Awards 2021. Through actively reaching out and working with a diverse range of organisations, we now offer over 6,500 online and in-person courses from colleges, independent training providers and skilled experts.
Our team have also built a purpose made funding portal, to manage The Scottish Government training funds more efficiently and so far, this year we have helped award funded training to 1,000 people in Scotland. We are proud to have been appointed to manage the Scottish Government’s Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Practical Training Fund, which enables people to improve the sustainability of their business; and The Women in Agriculture Practical Training Fund, delivering diverse skills training to women within the sector. Today, we continue to build partnerships with new training providers and are also developing Captis, a trainer management system, that will help join the dots and streamline the delivery of training for course providers, both nationally and internationally!
We’ve embraced programmes to help our business flourish
There are lots of great initiatives out there for start-up businesses, especially within the technology sector, and the ones that we have benefited from, include the CivTech programme and EIE through the University of Edinburgh.
If you’re not familiar with CivTech, it’s the Scottish Government programme that brings people from the public, private and third-party sectors together, to build solutions that make the world a better place. CivTech takes real problems faced by government departments, public sector organisations and charities, and invites anyone with a great idea to work together to create the solution. The organisation was fundamental in helping progress our solution and has provided us with a solid base, from which to grow.
Our idea, SkillSeeder, addressed the challenge surrounding skill sharing in rural communities, and how technology can be used to help people upskill. SkillSeeder was selected for the CivTech 5 cohort. We engaged in an intense 15-week Accelerator programme and within a short space of time, we’d created an Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Following on from this success, we secured additional funding, and through the continuous support and guidance from our steering group (Scottish Government and LantraScotland) we have been able to build the solution further. This has ultimately allowed us to commence with our team expansion and growth strategy.
No two days are the same, and there have been a few obstacles to circum-navigate around during the past two years, but as I’m learning, that’s part of the journey, and joy, of being an entrepreneur. The little wins make the effort worthwhile.
We’re building a business with the future in mind
20% of new businesses fail within the first 12 months.
We needed to build a forward thinking and agile company, that can quickly respond and evolve. This agile approach has remained the focus of our business ethos and has enabled us to embrace new opportunities and respond quickly to change.
It has also been a priority to offset.
We have a remote working policy, so our carbon emissions are lower than a regular office-based business. Taking it one step further, we have personally planted over 600 trees to help offset our team’s carbon footprint.
We’re advocates of Women's Enterprise Scotland
SkillSeeder has had the pleasure of working with Carolyn Currie, Chief Executive of Women's Enterprise Scotland. It was inspiring to hear the success stories of other women in business and to learn that there was a supportive network in place. This inspired me to become a Women's Enterprise Scotland Ambassador. Through my experiences of juggling work with family life, navigating the world of marketing and starting a business, I felt it was a great opportunity to inspire other women in their career journey.
The stats are quite eye opening. 51% of start-ups in Scotland are now women-led, yet majority women-owned businesses are just 20% of SMEs in Scotland and just 14% of SME employer businesses.
Women owned businesses contribute £8.8bn Gross Value Add into the Scottish economy and have created over 230,000 jobs.
However, women have fundamentally different experiences to men in business. Outcomes are worst for Black and Asian and Other Ethnic Minority women. 37% of black women entrepreneurs did not make a profit last year compared to 16% of white male entrepreneurs (Alone, together: Entrepreneurship and Diversity in the UK, British Business Bank 2020) Challenges faced by women include access to finance, disproportionate caring responsibilities and access to networks, mentoring and role models.
It’s reassuring to know though, that as I go through my journey as a woman in business, that there is a support network available. The Women's Business Centre, run by Women's Enterprise Scotland helps women flourish as business owners.
The Women’s Business Centre website has been designed to share knowledge, practical tips and experiences, to help more women and girls start up and succeed.
If you’re starting up in business, look at their Start-up checklist for helpful tips and advice: https://womensbusinesscentre.com/start-up-checklist/
Also, their free membership is a great opportunity to join the Women’s Business Centre community access lots of benefits including the Forum, Business Directory listing and invitations to their webinars and events.
For me, being a co-founder of a business and creating a product that is now actively making a difference has been very rewarding. It’s exciting to see SkillSeeder grow and embrace new opportunities along the way, and with new members of the team starting very soon, we’re looking forward to the journey ahead and the next chapter in our story.