Posted: Fri 31st May 2019
Ryan Johnson is the founder of Programme Talks, a website for youth and community programme professionals with a video library of insightful interviews and a product/service directory. The Enterprise Nation member tells his story.
How did you come up with your business idea?
With 17 years of working with youth and community programmes, from assistant through to senior leader, I always found value in learning from others, especially the trends and impact being had in other sector or by different programmes. Innovation, greater impact and excitement from the roles came from working with with others and often sharing best practice and achieving our shared goals together.
Often programmes and services would have large sums of funding to spend but no centralised place to find what they needed, rather everyone having to search Google or use existing suppliers. When I first entered the sector I was told to spend £40,000 in a couple of hours on resources (end of financial year). All that was available was Argos online for inspiration.
I didn't like the responsibility, nor ask for it. I'm confident this is still happening as organisations across the public and private sector often have budget mismanagement. Programme Talks both supports any young (or old) professionals who find themselves in this predicament (anytime of the year!).
Explain how you secured the funding.
Savings and creating a passive income during my last few years of full time employment, approaching commercial building owners to convert their properties into residential, overseeing the projects and taking on some of the manual labour in return for favourable long term lets that enabled me to sub-let at profit.
What start-up challenges have you faced?
Isolation and working within the confines of my home/town have diminished enthusiasm, creativity and energy at times. To overcome this I have regularly booked in meetings outside of town, attended conferences or even planned Skype calls (when not essential). I'm fuelled by the communication and interaction with others, more so as in my full time employment I was surrounded by large teams, responsible for hundreds of staff over the summer and directly engaged with thousands of young people and their communities.
Keeping a connection with existing networks whilst creating new ones has certainly been a way to continue this energy fuel.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
The launch date is confirmed for 3 June, but even before launching I have connected many professionals with opportunities, built a strong network in business start-up world and have some large organisations communicating with me and watching, I hope, with the intent of financially supporting once launched.
What is your next big business goal?
Following launch and engagement with the platform, the goal is to amend my content and functions based on user engagement and feedback.
This will be followed by a tour of the UK in a mini campervan, interviewing youth and community programme professionals, capturing lots of insightful on the ground content whilst building
A bigger following through organisation employees and those encountered whilst on the road. Coincidentally I have discovered and since met with a group of guys who have followed a similar formula - creating the Start Up Van four years ago where they have toured the world interviewing start-up founders.
What do you think will be your biggest challenge?
User engagement and having users realise the value of platform insights and opportunities, not everyone wants to focus on their personal development by choice! So buy in from organisations and leaders to assist in both highlighting and advocating Programme Talks to employees will furthermore increase engagement.
Another challenge could be any significant unexpected feedback and a complete re-creation of content required which can be time consuming and personally I find boring.
Travelling around in a camper van and recording content should prove relatively easy due to programmes and professionals being very open and appreciative of sharing their opportunity with a wider audience, who could potentially support their work in different ways - financially, volunteering, partnering and so on.
How has Enterprise Nation helped your business?
Attending a Facebook event in Dublin was very enthusing at the start of the journey, I have kept relationships with some of the delegates who I regularly talk with and that continues to motivate me on my start-up journey.
I enjoy the content released by Enterprise Nation and often look at future opportunities to attend. I have directed many people to website.
Which other entrepreneur inspires you?
I have a personal interest in the tech industry and have always been a consumer of personal development opportunities since a teenager.
I consume podcasts and YouTube channels about start-ups and unicorns, attending talks at Oxford University, which are often very affordable and you can end up rubbing shoulders with billionaires or founders of some of the most impactful companies in the world.
Again variety has been key, connecting the dots and asking how could that technology or way of doing things work in my industry or for those I'm trying to support.
My journey into this business has been somewhat influenced by Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan and Tony Robbins, whose content has always inspired and showed me tools to achieving goals.
What are your three tips for business success?
Resources/support: Joining Enterprise Nation and accessing local enterprise partnership resources. Workshops, grants and coaches all for FREE.
Accountability: Get a business coach or at the very least write down and share your goals with someone who is both supportive (no mood hoovers) and can check in with you on your progress and be used as a sounding board for your mind so you don't end up going crazy or round in circles!
I heard this one before, but now I get it! Those that tell you to start the business, might not actually be the ones who end up supporting you, liking your posts, calling to see how you're doing or buying your service/[product.
There can and will be varying reasons for this and it's not always jealously or not wanting to see you succeed. People are busy, have their own challenges, are inundated with requests from others too. Keep all relationships positive as you never know where it might serve you both in the future.