May 17, 2022

SPICESPACE Spotlight - 3 startups to watch

This month we're shining the spotlight on 3 member companies from our SPICESPACE community. Diving into their businesses, challenges and how they see the future.

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SPICESPACE Spotlight - 3 startups to watch

In response to a lack of affordable space in Central London for early-stage startups and in order to give back to the community, we have decided to create SPICESPACE at Techspace Aldgate East.  We started this initiative in November 2021 alongside the two inspirational founders of Spice Startups (Margaret Anne Coyle and Perdie Alder)  and in a short time it quickly became a resounding success and we are thrilled to see it continue to develop.

This month we wanted to shine a spotlight on three SPICESPACERS, talk about their business, their challenges and their plans for the future. Enjoy 👇🏼. 

LinkedIn: here

Instagram: here

Twitter: here

Hena is the Founder of The Content Architects. She has ten years experience working in public relations and has freelanced across some of London’s top PR agencies working on both consumer and B2B brands. The Content Architects ‘key dates finder’ platform is designed to help brands track and discover key marketing dates across the cultural calendar so they can plan ahead their social media and marketing. 

Did you always know that working in tech was what you wanted to do?

Not at all! I am what they describe in the industry as a non-technical working in tech. 

My debut into the world of tech was at the age of 16, working at The Gadget shop sorting through SD cards, and dancing robots. Growing up, I often fixed or debugged laptops for family and friends. I geeked out on the research, as that was the bit I loved. These days, it’s quite hard to progress in a product-service based business without a technical offering. We initially started offering our service under a pdf format, but soon it became a necessity to build a platform to cater to those in the industry. 

What was the biggest challenge you had to face when entering the tech industry

The biggest challenge was sourcing technical talent, but also managing the workflow and processes efficiently. Working in tech means constant evolution, and ensuring you have a team you can communicate well with. That’s easier said than done. The tools you use, and the systems in place, are crucial for progression.

What do you wish you had known before starting out?

I wish I had started building my network earlier. For those looking to embark on a similar journey, start making connections with project managers, product managers, developers who work with your stack. Those are the best people to help grow your understanding of what is to come. If you are a founder, surround yourself with people who can act as a sounding board, so you can gain feedback on your ideas and an understanding of how they would play out in reality. A good way to do this is by joining a community like Techspace and Spice Startups. Getting stuck in has always been my approach and proved to be beneficial.  

Don’t be afraid to get out there, contact companies for work experience, or join start-up communities. Be sure to download slack - you’ll need it!

How has SPICESPACE helped you with your business? 

I joined SPICESPACE in 2021 and I absolutely love being part of the community. I've met other amazing founders, learned about their businesses and also got the opportunity to discuss any challenges. Being surrounded by other founders helps you stay motivated and helps keep the momentum going. We are based at Techspace which is an incredible venue, we have plenty of meeting rooms, the team is great and we have unlimited tea and coffee, what more could you actually need!

‍Read more about The Content Architects here

LinkedIn: here

Instagram: here

Alison is the co-founder of CityStack, a gift that allows Londoners to discover and support independent pubs whilst saving money. This unique collection pack offers ten-money saving coasters, each giving £10 off a £20 spend at one of the ten independent London pubs that are part of the collection: it’s a total of £100 worth of food & drinks offered per pack.  You save money and the independent pubs gain new customers, it’s a win-win! CityStack achieved their crowdfunding campaign successfully in December, just on time for the Christmas sales, and received brilliant feedback from pubs and users. CityStack has even been featured in TimeOut! 

Head over to their website to buy your pack of coasters!

How did you come up with this idea? 

My partner and I were concerned about the struggles the pubs were facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lockdowns, restrictions, WFH… The past 2 years have been complicated for the hospitality industry. 

We also noticed that if bigger chains had enough resources (financial or marketing) to get back on track, independent pubs were still desperately trying to tread water. Pubs are core to British culture and we knew we had to do something to help them. ‍

What are the challenges you've had to face?

As CityStack is a brand new concept, the biggest challenge at the beginning was to shape the message perfectly to make sure pubs users would understand the added value of our product. We had to make sure it would be understandable at a glance. We've noticed a high conversion rate and when we explain the concept people get very enthusiastic, so I guess it's worked!

Now, our main focus is to reach as many Londoners as possible and make them aware of our product, that’s another challenge!

What are your next steps or plans for the future?

Our main goal remains the same at the moment:  make more people aware of the amazing hidden gems that are part of our programme. To do so we keep focusing on selling as many packs as possible to drive as much traffic as possible to our independent pubs.

Some of the key channels we work on are the following:

- Corporate offer: We developed a personalised pack offer to allow companies to offer CityStack as a gift to their employees and partners. These packs are personalised with their brand logo and it’s a good way for companies to share their involvement with local businesses.

- Retail shops: More and more retail shops are selling CityStack and this is something we want to pursue in the future. It is a good way to raise awareness.

- Developing a new product dedicated to London’s boroughs: Londoners enjoy discovering new pubs, especially in their borough. We are going to launch new packs with 10 pubs per borough, probably starting with East London.

Stay tuned :)

How has SPICESPACE helped you with your business? 

I joined SPICESPACE because I wanted to find a nice space to work, leave the house and have a good excuse to get some fresh air everyday. It’s a great space, very comfortable but what I appreciate the most is the possibility of meeting other entrepreneurs who live the same experience. It’s great to be able to share our challenges and success together.

Ru is the founder and CEO of Hydra, a solid bathroom amenities business for hotels and rentals. The hair and body bars are an environmentally-friendly alternative to existing liquid products that reduce carbon emissions, transports & waste removal costs, contain no harsh chemicals and are 100% plastic-free. Before Hydra she worked in the public sector.

How did you come up with this idea? 

Shampoo bars are becoming increasingly popular in the consumer space and although it’s great that people are choosing to shop more sustainably. I think that working with hospitality businesses can have a much bigger impact. 

I always hated seeing plastic bottles in hotels and rentals whenever I traveled and I know I’m not alone. I started looking into it and it turns out that 85% of bottled shampoo and body wash in hotels is wasted and up to 95% of the plastic ends up in landfill. The top 300 hotel groups alone send around 5.5 billion plastic bottle caps to landfill every year. Plastic never breaks down it just breaks up into microplastics which are absorbed by animals (humans included), plants, seagrass and even corals. 

I knew I couldn’t be the only one who resonated with this problem and about a year ago I was introduced to my now advisor Tom, who runs a hospitality company. Tom realised that as a small business they wasted over 1 million plastic bottle/year and there were no suitable alternatives on the market. So we made one! 

What are the challenges you’ve had to face when launching your company? 

Being  a solo founder has definitely been a challenge. Luckily someone from a leading bank is interested in joining me as my co-founder, which is very exciting! 

In terms of the business, changing consumer habits is always hard, especially with a practice like plastic amenities that have been around for so long. Our products are more expensive than pastic-packaged products but we believe that consumer mindset is changing and regulations banning single plastic-use products are coming in more and more, so businesses will have to adapt. So it’s about finding the right price that works for hotels and rentals., while still making it a profitable business. Ultimately though, our priority is reducing plastic waste, not profit. 

I also wish I had felt more comfortable with making mistakes, because that’s the only way you can build a startup - by making countless mistakes and learning from them. Our society isn’t very good at teaching us to be comfortable with failure - from a very young age we are told what we did wrong in essays and exams rather than what we did well. And later in life, we see success stories all over social media and LinkedIn, but not all the ups and downs that led there. It’s been hard, but a really valuable lesson. 

What are your next steps or plans for the future?

Other than changing the world and saving our oceans? Next steps are testing our products with as many businesses as possible and to keep getting great customer feedback. We will be looking to hire in the next 12 months.

How has SPICESPACE helped you with your business? 

SPICESPACE have been amazing. They’ve supported me from the start and having this space has been so valuable. It’s a truly unique environment where you are surrounded with other founders who know what the startup process is like. There is always someone you can ask questions, bounce ideas off and support each other through this insane (but amazing) choice we’ve all made to start our own businesses!

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