Monthly Archives: October 2013
Posted on October 30, 2013 by Catherine Howard
Something of a Serial Entrepreneur, this month’s Hot Seat candidate is Ashford based Christine Campbell, founder of Anyone for Science. With it being half-term at the moment, what better time is there to start planning what to do with the kids during their next school holiday! Christine started Anyone 4 Science in 2005, and now runs Science Camps, workshops, parties, after school clubs and demonstrations in Dublin, Wicklow and beyond. Christine puts FUN into engineering and science! We’d like to thank her very much for taking the time to sit down with us, especially when Science Week is coming up next month! Thank you Christine.
What led you to starting your business?My main reason for starting my own business was to improve my work life balance. My children were small at the time and I really wanted more flexibility. My children don’t believe this – they would tell you that I work 24/7 but the difference for me is that because I work from home I am there if they need me and not off at work.
How did you raise the start-up funds you needed?I am not a risk taker so I tend to go for businesses where a minimum amount of capital is required and the business is knowledge based. This business needs a lot of interesting, age appropriate experiments and activities. I invested a lot of time into this research then and I continue that research investment every week. To get the equipment I needed I used some savings. I sourced a lot of second hand equipment from commercial labs who were replacing old equipment. Bartering is something I use extensively. This gives me an opportunity to try ideas outside my comfort zone or just ideas that I just don’t know if I will get the return on.
What was the most significant lesson you learned in starting your business?The most significant lesson I learned was learning the difference between a customer and a prospective customer. There is a big difference between a person saying they would buy my product or service to a person actually buying.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read, business or non-business?Probably the World of Work by Charles Handy. Written in the recession in the 1980s it looks at work from a different perspective.
Who is the entrepreneur you admire the most?I think it would have to be Richard Branson. He has a finger in so many pies and still has time to try out whacky ideas and do mad things.
What have been the biggest challenges in your business to date?Adapting to the post crash business environment has been a great challenge. We had been pushing the business out across the country and suddenly we had to stop in our tracks and take a hard look at everything we did. Another challenge is making sure that expanding doesn’t jeopardise the business. There are lots of challenges maintaining quality, customer service and the whole culture of the business as it expands.
What has been the proudest moment in your business so far?I have lots of proud moments in my business. I still remember my first customer. I had spent the morning putting up posters for our first summer camp. That afternoon the phone rang and a mum, Helen, booked her 3 children onto the camp. Over the years I have had lots of other proud moments. Winning the Primary Times Star Award in 2012 for being one of the top 5 national camps was a huge surprise and made me very proud, not just of the camps but of the great team of leaders we have working together. Without their support and hard work this would not have been possible. Winning in 2012 was fantastic; but the pressure to maintain our high standard in 2013 was immense. The team came up trumps and I was absolutely delighted to win the award for a second year.
What was the best piece of business advice you ever got?Strive to be effective, not busy. It is so easy to be busy, but being busy is a waste of time unless you are getting the right things done. You have to regularly stop and ask yourself, “Is what I am doing now adding value?”
Can you recommend a good time management technique for other entrepreneurs out there?Grade tasks in terms of urgency and importance. Kill the urgent items first and ignore the non urgent, non important ones.
What magazine do you never miss each month?Most of the magazines I read regularly are online magazines or newsletters with information about what is happening in the world of science and also those with ideas for new science experiments.
What is your favourite film?“The Queen” with Helen Mirren. I think Helen Mirren is a great actress.
What is your favourite ad?Probably the Vodafone ad from a few Christmases ago when the girl’s boyfriend organised her garden to be full of snow. Very romantic.[Ed - we couldn't find the ad you're referring to here Christine, we're very sorry! Here's the Festive Vodafone ad from last year instead...our apologies!]
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of starting a business?Go for it, work hard and have fun.
What do you like to do when you’re not running your business?When relaxing I enjoy walking, playing music, doing puzzles and cooking
Have you found the self-employed formula for a work/life balance?In a word – no! Self employment gives me the opportunity to have some personal time during the day but that often means working late at night. It is easy to be busy all the time, either working with customers or looking for customers when things get a bit quiet. Setting realistic targets and learning to say ‘No’ both help!
What’s your website?www.anyone4science.com
Do you have a Facebook page?www.facebook.com\anyone4science We are heading for 1000 likes – please help!
Are you on Twitter?Yes we are on twitter. You will find us @anyone4science
How has Wicklow CEB helped you and/or your business?Over the years Wicklow CEB has help me in various ways. At the start of my journey into self employment I did a Start Your Own Business Course. That set me off on the right road. A few years on I made one of the best decisions for my business by enrolling on the Management Development Programme. It was that course, more than anything else, which helped me diversify and grow the business. I can really say it made me think differently. A grant aided feasibility study enabled me to develop a new business idea and in this seasonal business I now employ up to 20 people at our busiest times.
If you could start up all over again, would you do anything differently?I hadn’t really thought about this before because I think you have to make your decisions, learn from them and move on. When I do think about it I can’t think of anything I would do differently. I am happy with what I have done to date and look forward to growing the business into the future.
Further details on Christine’s School Tours, workshops, parties and Science & Summer Camps for children from 4 years old to teens of 15, can be found on her website.