This Global Entrepreneurship Week we connected with Myles to hear more about his journey and advice to other young people.
Tell us about the business and the inspiration behind it?
The idea for the scholarship platform came to me after passing up my university offers because I was concerned about graduating with a large student loan debt. I realised that other students would find themselves in a similar position, many of them from disadvantaged backgrounds, and it didn’t sit right with me that they might be prevented from pursuing their dreams because they couldn’t afford a university education.
I researched scholarships and I discovered there was a lot of information available but it was very scattered, it was largely out of date, and that made it difficult to find any suitable opportunities. What I was looking for was a scholarship matching service but there wasn’t one, so I decided to build my own.
Over next three years I built in additional features, many of them as a direct result of feedback from our users, so it has been a very collaborative process in that respect. And what started life as a relatively simple idea – to help students find scholarships – has now become a fully-fledged university application platform with detailed course information, university profiles and accommodation booking facilities, and which supports student recruitment agents around the world to help students process their university applications.
How did you build an entrepreneurial spirit at such a young age?
Honestly, I didn’t set out to start a business. Initially I was just trying to find a solution to a problem I had encountered and it started very simply with “wouldn’t it be good if…?”
I think that’s probably a common thing with most first-time entrepreneurs, but then you move on to “what if…?” and that’s where the magic happens. You just let your imagination take over and there’s no stopping you.
Once the ideas started to take shape for the scholarship platform, I realised there was potential for it to help other people and that’s when it became real.
From that point it became all-consuming, working morning, noon and night to build the system and try to promote it. There’s a lot to learn when you’re just starting out, and a great deal of it is learning about yourself, about how you cope under pressure, and about how to communicate effectively with your team to get the best results.
What role do you think mindset plays in helping young people to succeed?
Positivity and mindset are vital. There are times when it’s easy to lose perspective because you are so consumed by what you’re doing that nothing else seems to matter. And as up-beat as I try to make it all sound, sometimes it’s tough trying to overcome the obstacles in your way when your dreams are on the line. There are times you’ll be on a high because you’ve had a breakthrough with a part of the system you’re building or because you’ve spoken to a satisfied customer, but there will undoubtedly be others where you’re tearing your hair out in frustration wondering why you can’t seem to catch a break.
So perspective is key, and it’s important to take stock from time to time, to celebrate the wins (however small), to look at where you are now in relation to where you’ve come from, and to imagine where you’re going to be 6 months from now. It’s easy to beat yourself up for not being successful, but you have to understand that it’s a journey and it takes time to reach your goal.
Young people are increasingly playing a part in building solutions to the challenges they face. How can we support more of that?
I am a big fan of encouraging entrepreneurship from an early age. Some people say it can’t be taught but that’s just rubbish. The only difference between someone who has a go and someone who sits on the sidelines is an idea and a bit of motivation – given the right circumstances, we’re all entrepreneurs.
And there are so many ways we can provide that motivation and help provide young people with a can-do attitude: after-school clubs, online resources, mentorship apps, coding boot-camps, business competitions… so many ways to encourage young people to dream, to follow their ambitions and to get stuck in.
What’s the best advice you could give to a young person wanting to start their own business or pursue an idea?
Firstly, if building a successful business and making money were easy, everyone would be doing it. So understand before you start that it will require a lot of time and effort, but that it will be worth it. I won’t guarantee you’ll be successful. In fact the odds are against you because most start-ups fail. But whatever happens you will learn, you will be stronger from the experience and if the first one fails you’ll be better equipped for the next one. And the one after that.
Secondly, find yourself a good coach or a mentor. There are lots of great organisations which can offer help with that, but consider starting with Young Enterprise: they have a wealth of information and there are some fantastic people in the organisation. The thing about a mentor is that they’ve been where you are, they’ve struggled the way you’re going to struggle, and they want to see you succeed almost as much as you want it yourself. They’ll pick you up when you’re down, they will make you challenge yourself, and if they don’t know the answer to your question, they will probably know someone who does. I wouldn’t be here without my mentors.
Finally, face your fears. Too many people quit because they’re afraid of failure, but how are you going to make a difference – to your life or to anyone else’s – if you don’t try? You have to accept that failure is just a part of the road to success. But you only need to look at other successful entrepreneurs to know you’re on the right path: no-one has ever achieved any success without a struggle or without their fair share of failure and rejection. Understand that, and when it happens just dust yourself off and go back to “what if…?”
How do you feel about the future of young people, in a post-covid world?
We are going through massive, worldwide upheaval at the moment. Education, work, travel, entertainment… it has all changed since 2019. That has obviously been devastating for many people and the effects of the coronavirus on business and on the economy (not just on individuals) has been disastrous.
Clearly it will take time for unemployment levels to return to normal and for the economy to recover, but the end is in sight and when we start to come out of the other side, there will be massive opportunities to re-build, to regenerate and to re-skill.
So as tough as the past year has been, I am hugely optimistic for the future and excited by the opportunities and challenges ahead. I think technology, particularly mobile technology, will play an even greater role in our lives, and I am fascinated by the incredible advances in AI which will drive productivity in the coming years. There is a lot to be optimistic about.
I see opportunity in the chaos and we are already seeing innovative solutions which will shape the way work and education look in the future.
What’s next for Myles Jardine?
Since news of the UCAS acquisition broke I have been contacted by dozens of young entrepreneurs who have read about it and who are keen to develop their own business ideas or who need help to raise investment or secure their own exit deal. It’s such a buzz to hear their enthusiasm and I am always keen to help wherever I can. Sometimes that’s just a few words of encouragement. Other times it’s examining their goals or analysing the strengths and weaknesses of their business model. And naturally there are some opportunities where, if I think I can add value, I am keen to roll up my sleeves and get more personally involved too.
In addition to that, I also have a number of new business ideas I’m working on, but those plans are under wraps for now. All I can tell you at this stage is that the next one’s a unicorn…