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Interview: Kelly Klein, young IT entrepreneur

22nd November 2013
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Durham graduate, former JP Morgan banker and now young entrepreneur Kelly Klein has launched Student@Home, a service that sees IT students going into elderly people’s homes and teaching them the basics of the internet – from how to send an email to how to set up an eBay account.

The scheme began in London a year ago, and hopes to spread to the rest of the UK in the near future.

We spoke to Kelly as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week (18th – 24nd November.) Her advice? Be thrifty, follow the example of Oprah - but most of all, be passionate.

Did your experience of university help you to develop your entrepreneurial skills?

Yes, whilst at university I set up a business organizing events. This business not only helped me pay my way through university, the experience also taught me many skills that I still use today in my business.

 Did you know you wanted to work as an entrepreneur? Or did it just happen?

I have always been entrepreneurial, even as a child. I did not plan for this to happen, but I feel as though things do happen for a reason. You are drawn to the type of work that you enjoy and have the skills for, and I believe that is what happened to me.

What are your tips for getting a small business off the ground when you’re still relatively young and in experienced?

You should watch your spending carefully. Money doesn’t come easily, especially at the beginning days of a company. A lot of new businesses go under because they don’t have a steady cash flow and they just keep spending. You should worry less about small things, such as what size of office you wish to buy, and focus on building the company. You should also never be hesitant to ask for advice. It is so helpful to find a mentor. And when starting a business, it will take over your life - it needs attention 24/7. Make sure that this is something that you are committed to and passionate about.

Did you have any turning point moments that lead you to leave your career in banking?

I liked the idea of having complete control over my own destiny. Yet, I also wanted to do something good and know I’m helping others with my work. I loved my role at JP Morgan, but when I saw this opportunity I knew I had to take it.

Why did you choose the IT sector?

I saw opportunity in Student@Home. I knew that our reliance on technology would be increasing to the point where we all had to know how to use computers. I knew this business would be able to benefit so many people.

What or who are your business role models?

I have always been inspired by Oprah Winfrey. She has dedicated her whole life to improving other people’s lives. She gives others her best and doesn’t expect anything in return. She is a strong self-made woman, and she has paved the way for other businesswomen.

What or who inspires you to work so hard?

My mother, she has always been a hard worker. She not only taught me that the amount of work that you put in is what you get out, she showed me. She was a great example growing up and I know I am where I am today because of her example.

What are the top three skills you think people need to succeed in this area?

I believe starting a new business is very much like training for a marathon. You need stamina and determination. No matter how hard it gets, you must keep going. You also must be innovative, many different situations come up and you need to figure how new ways to handle them and fix problems as they arise.

Tell us about the business?

Student@Home offers help for all ages and levels of experience, covering virus removal, Wi-Fi Set-up, data back up, email syncing, and more. For a monthly membership of £2, Student@Home clients can book appointments at any time, with students available usually within 24 hours. An hour-long appointment costs £30 – less than half the price of most IT support services. The students offer friendly, patient advice. 

Tell us about a typical day or a particularly special or hilarious day at Student@Home?

There is no such thing as a typical day. Every day is very different. Some days I am interviewing students, reviewing their applications. Others I am spending the majority of the day training new students, recruiting new students and teaching them how to code. And I also spend time managing the call centre. I always have to do a little bit of everything. My days are always quite busy but also very rewarding.

What are the high points?

Two years ago, this was just an idea. And today, we are employing over 60 people. We employ students in deprived areas, we can give them a great job to put on their CV and learn valuable skills that they can use in any future endeavors. I know I am able to help these IT students and that makes it very worthwhile. Our company has also won some awards (The company recently won support from the National Lottery, and is a Social Enterprise of the Year finalist in the National Business Awards) and that also feels great knowing that our hard work isn’t going unnoticed.

What were the low points and how did you get over them?

The business was started in the midst of a recession. It was a big risk I knew this going in. But, it was still very challenging at first getting the business going.  But, I realise the progress that we have made, and I know that it was definitely worth the risk.

Find out more about Global Entrepreneurship Week here.

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