Geraldine Nyathi, MSc Computer Science student at the School of Computing, reached the finals of Kent’s Business Start-Up Journey Pitching Competition 2021 with her business idea My Care Buddy, a Customer Relationship Management app for the adult social care sector.
The Business Start-Up Journey is run by the ASPIRE team in Kent Business School and is open to students on any degree programme. ASPIRE recently interviewed Geraldine about her business, her involvement with BSUJ, and how she came to study MSc Computer Science.
What attracted you to the Business Start Up Journey (BSUJ) programme?
As an individual with an entrepreneur spirit, I thought it sounded interesting, so I went to a couple of sessions. It feels like a safe space in which to express that entrepreneurial side of me.
This year (2020-21) the programme has been run online, with weekly workshops. What has that experience been like?
It hasn’t been too bad. I’ve never done the programme face-to-face before so I don’t have any complaints. Rebecca Smith [ASPIRE Project Officer at Kent Business School] is very engaging and her enthusiasm is infectious.
What’s your business idea?
It’s called My Care Buddy, it’s a Customer Relationship Management app for the adult social care sector, for care planning and management of clients and their data. The goal is to foster digital transformation in the adult social care sector.
What gave you the idea?
I’d been working on and off in the adult social care industry since 2013. I worked with an agency so I went to different places and I found they all had a common problem. When it comes to care management, everything is on paper and there’s no data-driven decision making. That inspired me to think of a better way of doing things.
I had the idea back in 2015/2016 when I was an undergraduate doing aerospace engineering in London. I didn’t know how to progress with it because it’s very computer-science heavy.
After finishing my undergraduate degree, I decided that instead of going into aerospace engineering I would move into IT. It’s a place where I can express my creativity better. So I went into that and worked in industry for two or three years. After that thought OK, I’ll go and study a Master’s and see how far I can get with it. So when I started out in it I already had a business idea. It was a work in progress.
So your decision to enrol on the Master’s course was connected to your business idea?
Yes, I always have ideas about apps. I’m an advocate for tech for good so I figured I need to understand the whole computer science aspect of things, learn how to code properly and create these applications.
How has the BSUJ, the workshops and people you’ve met on the programme, helped you develop the idea?
It’s been interesting, and it’s been great. Everyone has a different style of execution and it fits what they’re doing. I’ve learned a lot from everyone – the workshop facilitators, the guests we’ve had, and the former students. It’s all been good.
What have been the highlights?
I enjoy the sessions run by Karen Winton, the investor in residence. Those are a reality check. I’m always a bit wary about numbers and finances but she asks those hard questions that you need answered. She has been a highlight to me. And also Rebecca [Smith]. Her energy is crazy!
What stage are you at with the business?
We’re working on a minimum viable product. Some students in Kent IT Clinic are creating the app at the moment, so hopefully we are going to use that for the pitching finals for the BSUJ at the end of March *.
What will you have to do for the pitch?
It’s a short presentation and then a demo of the app or your business idea if you’ve got a product to demo.
Would the programme suit someone who didn’t yet have a business idea?
Yes, because I feel like Rebecca creates a very safe environment for people to express themselves, every single session she’s like ‘Even if you don’t have a business idea, get in touch, we can brainstorm, we can figure something out’. You can email her and have a chat in between workshops.
What skills and knowledge do you think you have developed since last September?
I have refined my research skills and I’ve also learned that I need people to help. I’ve recruited my neighbours, my family, all of them with different skills. I need that support because I spent all these years thinking that if I express my idea someone will steal it. I’ve realised I need to have certain people I can trust and express myself and my ideas to and get their feedback.
How have you managed to balance the BSUJ with studying for a Master’s?
My Care Buddy is like my baby and I’ve been doing it on and off even before I started uni. I was more prepared in most aspects than other people because I’d done my market research; I had put together presentations on how I would like the app to work and what I’m trying to achieve. So it’s been quite straightforward for me, it hasn’t affected my uni work that much.
Any other thoughts on the BSUJ?
I think it’s great. A lot of people have an entrepreneurial side, everyone wants to one day own and run their own business, but they just don’t know where to start. So I think it’s very important to highlight the programme, especially to new students. New undergrads could spend three years refining their idea.
What have been the highlights of your Master’s programme so far?
Learning coding has been very interesting as I can express my creativity. In aerospace, there’ll be thousands of you working on the same plane, and you are only maybe responsible for a tiny piece somewhere. But with computer science and coding you can express your whole idea in one place and have it out there. So that has been my highlight, learning how to code and how code works.