Each week, we'll be hosting an interview with one of Launch22's many brilliant and inspiring members. We'll be asking them about their business, their ideas, their philosophies and we'll be focusing on the theme of entrepreneurship. Without further ado...
Hui is currently working part-time as a software engineer, while spending four days a week working to found her own business, Koala. Here is the story of Koala, how it came to be, what lessons Hui has learned since starting Koala, and her advice for those with their own business ideas.
So Hui, what does Koala do?
Koala is a travel-tech startup. We organise spontaneous trips for small groups of like-minded people. What’s unique about us is we want to encourage more people to travel by ensuring they make connections with everyone else on the trip. Check out our website at http://www.koalago.co and our Instagram at @koala.go!
Love it! Why did you create Koala?
We believe travel should be for everyone. Not just for Sarah with her 1000 Instagram followers or Billy from next door who has 20 friends to go on holiday with. Who has that many friends?
Although lots of people love solo travel and understand how amazing the experience can be, there are also many others who want to go travelling but are slightly scared. The prospect of meeting people when travelling can be scary, and you’re never sure you’re going to get along with those who you explore new places with. But it doesn’t mean you have to, for example, beg your childhood best friend to come on holiday with you when she is more interested in her surfer boyfriend than spending time with you. Not that I’m speaking from experience!
Awesome. And what were you doing before starting Koala?
Before Koala (and what I’m still doing part time!), I was working as Software Engineer, more specifically an automation tester. I test software designed by my developers, and have over 7 years experience with companies like John Lewis, Rightmove and presently Net-A-Porter.
What made you decide to start Koala? Why did you ‘take the leap’ into the start-up world?
So I’d had the idea in my mind for a few years, but it was my experience of solo travel last year, when I quit my job and went travelling by myself to Australia & New Zealand, that really inspired me to take the leap and launch Koala as a business.
Let’s talk entrepreneurship. What is the most exciting part of running your own business? And what is the biggest challenge of running a business for you personally?
Let’s start with the positives! I love working for myself and I think it’s something everyone should try at least once in their life. It’s an amazing experience bringing an idea to life and doing something to make other people’s lives better. But the thing I love the most is the learning that has come from running my own business, it’s like attending the Open University but studying 10 courses at once!
For me the biggest challenge is finding the time, as I’m dedicating pretty much all my free time to Koala. I do love it though! Another big challenge is remaining patient and having persistence, as it takes time to build a business and it can be hard to stay motivated every day.
Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about starting a business?
It always helps to stay motivated in whatever way works for you. For me, this was watching Legally Blonde. It is such a great film! Another option would be doing some reading around entrepreneurship.
Secondly, you should surround yourself in a positive environment. It can be lonely being an entrepreneur, so working in the right environment and being surrounded by others who are doing the same thing can help you to develop the patience and persistence you need to make your business a success!
How has working with Launch22 helped you?
Launch22 is a hugely positive environment and the people are so friendly. Before I started I was a bit hesitant about joining a co-working space as I was worried that everyone would look down on me for not having a product yet! But after meeting Tom, Fede and the rest of the team I realised that everyone is really nice, and full of encouragement despite my business being so early stage. It’s great to get guidance from a personal mentor (thank you Stuart!) who has lots of experience. He’s helped me to develop my business plan and provided lots of brilliant advice and support in general.
Inspired to start your own business? Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply stop by our space to say hello!