After selling one of his projects for 6 figures last year, Manchester University graduate Adam Grunwerg will be hoping his latest project Studentmoney is a success and if it achieves anywhere near the level of past projects or even more, then Adam can only look forward to a more successful year.
Hi Adam, Thanks for doing this. How are you doing today?
Hi Joseph, I’m great thanks. I’m excited about this interview!
[Laughs] That's great to hear, so can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
Sure, my name’s Adam, I’m 23 and I run a digital media agency and consultancy in London, UK. I graduated from Manchester University in 2010 and since then I've been working on developing my own websites and projects in the student, gaming and finance niche.
My main skill sets are in SEO, affiliate marketing, brand development and domain trading. In 2012, I also set up an Internet marketing consultancy at Searchable.co.uk to provide some diversified income and added experience on my CV.
Tell me how you initially got into business?
It was quite random really. I started out as a writer for a poker and sports news website. I ended up making a lot of money for a summer job. Towards the beginning of my 3rd year of University my boss encouraged and helped me to my start my own website in the gaming niche. After graduating, I was then making a little bit of money from my website (i.e. $500-$1,000 per month) so I decided to spend a gap year working on my websites and see what else I could achieve. 12 months later, I was earning a decent income from my sites ($5,000 per month) so I decided to continue for another year and here we are now.
I have since started working on some big projects in the student, graduates and finance niche and have also started working with a partner on something in the trading industry.
How did the idea for Studentmoney come about?
Most of the sites I had previously developed were fairly low in quality and just making a lot of money purely from SEO and affiliate marketing.
I realised that these were inevitably short-term projects and I needed to start creating long-term brands for my business. In 2011, I started developing StudentBanking.co.uk, however I decided I needed a more brandable domain once I started adding broadband, insurance and other products to the site. I decided to buy the domain StudentMoney.co.uk and launched a big student money advice, comparison site and daily deals on the site. Essentially I wanted to create something like MoneySavingExpert.com or GoCompare.com but focused on students (who incidentally end up graduating £50,000 in debt anyway).
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
For me, the hardest part was justifying to others, notably my family, why I’m spending all of my time working on my websites instead of getting a job. Everyone seems to just expect you to get a job after University, like it’s the “normal” thing to do. As such, starting your own business in this environment creates a lot of external pressure. In addition, I’ve learned from my own experiences and others that starting a business requires a lot of patience and hard work – businesses don’t grow overnight.
What is Studentmoney? And what are you trying to solve with it?
StudentMoney.co.uk is a student money advice, deals and comparison site. I think it’s probably one of the first comparison sites just for students. The aim of the site is to help students to learn how to budget their money, party through money saving guides and deals, but also through useful tools live on the site (this includes a student loans repayment calculator and a weekly budget planner). The other part is to provide a useful comparison site for students where they can find and select the best deals and offers.
We’re also putting together a make money section (explaining to students how they can start their own business) as well as a student jobs directory for finding work placements, part-time jobs, internships, holiday work and graduate jobs.
How have you been able to fund it?
Thankfully, I’ve been able to secure the funding from the revenues and income generated form my previous websites, one of which I managed to sell for six figures last year.
That being said, a fair amount of money is being ploughed into the project and I’m hoping it can become self-sustainable and making money as soon as possible! We’ve got some marketing and PR campaigns lined up this year, so we’re hopeful we can achieve it.
How excited were you during the first few weeks of launching the website?
The first weeks of launching the site are always interesting, however from my point of view the best part is when you have enough money, traffic and advertiser to really do something special. For example, with enough recognition and traction, we could launch our own student money conferences, work with key partners and organisations across the UK, or even expand the range of services we offer.
What kind of techniques are you hoping to implement in the coming months to accelerate growth?
I feel we have the experience and knowledge of a good SEO and SMO campaign, plus we have great writers, the necessary resources for a PR and media campaign, and some great ideas and tools for the site. With other projects in development as well, we’re continuing to make new contacts plus we have the patience and finance to focus on building a great resource for the end-user first.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
I know this is boring and hawkish, but the highlight for me was selling one of my projects for six figures towards the end of last year. It took a lot of weight off my shoulders, justified what I’d been doing over the years, and overall it’s just made me more relaxed going forward. Other highlights include writing an article for the Guardian and being selected as a judge at the IGB Affiliate Awards 2013.
What should we be expecting from yourself and the Studentmoney team for 2013?
Hopefully a great website, some loyal partners and a strong social media campaign. I’m also currently developing a graduate careers site at Graduates.co.uk and an investment comparison site on Investing.co.uk. The graduate site seemed like a no brainer to me because it’s the next logical step after a student site.
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer budding entrepreneurs thinking about starting a business?
1. Focus on providing value. If you’re creating a website, aim to make the best website in the industry and give people a reason to visit your site, share your content or link to you. By providing value, you’re essentially investing in an asset, which you’ll also be able to sell down the line.
2. Constantly focus on improving your own skill set and CV. One of my biggest regrets has been focusing too much on my own projects and not investing in myself as a person. I think it’s equally as important to invest in yourself as a brand, add credibility to future employers or investors, and also constantly teach yourself new skills. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been contributing to business magazines and newspapers recently, as well as starting a consultancy. You’re never done learning as an entrepreneur, there’s always something you could improve on.
3. Make as many useful contacts as possible. I’ve learned so much from my own contacts, I’ve had numerous mentors and people that helped me in the past, and I think your contacts are part of what makes you an asset.