Our Alumni, James from our last Future Startup Now will share his entrepreneurial journey and what it’s been like being part of the programme
Tell us about you
My name is James Kaguima, I am 23 years old from Stratford City, London. I graduated from Law School and achieved a Lord Mayor Scholarship for Academic Excellence, but was always passionate about social entrepreneurship and the world of Startups.
Since I was 16, I used to facilitate community-focused events for young people in the local area.
I am now an Ambassador for Youth Employment UK, where I help advise companies on how to become youth-friendly, and make certain the voices of young people are heard.
I bring topics to the surface during policy and decision making by the Government. I joined them as I wanted to share my experience of challenges I faced on my journey and share ways the education and workplace systems can improve.
I did well academically, but at the cost of my mental health.
In order to recover, I spent time in the gym which helped tremendously with mental wellbeing. I focused on creating a Wooden Watch Ecommerce business during my final exam season at Law school. I partnered with a charity called One Tree planted, where, for every watch sold, a tree was planted.
Due to adversity in the job market, I was unable to continue funding that project, so I dived into the world of Startups and became a finalist at a few Hackathons in Legal Tech, Social enterprise and FinTech. These were just training wheels in the early stages of my entrepreneurial journey, I also featured on radio for starting a legal blog to help creatives learn how to protect their work from being stolen or their IP rights being infringed.
This helped grow my network and land my opportunity at a corporate role as I connected with a young Education Skills Consultant/Entrepreneur where I learnt that, if education is the key to success, networking is the hand that opens the door.
What made you apply for Future Startup Now Founder programme
In 2020; 3 months into my corporate role, the pandemic started. I experienced my first lay-off and was then brought onto the furlough scheme.
During this time I spent it in reflection, worked on a few projects, and managed to be appointed a board member at Positive Transformation Group, which is chaired by Sir Kenneth Olisa OBE, the first Black British Lord Lieutenant for the Queen.
I was then brought back into my corporate role. Then, in the beginning of 2021, although I was performing well and brought many clients into the company, my mental health deteriorated and became unwell during lockdown in the winter, which led to me being let go with one week notice.
My first instinct was to apply for as many opportunities as possible, one of them was the Future Startup Now Founder programme, which I think I was blessed to be part of. The journey with other aspiring entrepreneurs helped provide a safety net and support network which I needed during another pivotal and difficult time in my life.
What Startup idea did you decide to focus on for this programme?
Growing up, I was not taught about notable Black British figures in schools. We mostly learnt about Tudor times and the World Wars (which was fine), but when it came to the heritage of Black British people, we only learned about Colonialism briefly and American Civil Rights movement.
Though it was African American focused, I felt that there was a lack of education around Black British History in our schools curriculum. This could leave many children like myself with invisible boundaries of what can be achieved as a person of Black British heritage as we only learn about the parts where we were oppressed.
It took until I was 23 to learn about people like John Archer, who was the first Black British Mayor of Battersea, making him the first Black mayor in London.
In more recent times, I came to know of Sir Kenneth Olisa OBE, who is the right hand to the queen and 1st British-born black man to serve as a Director of a FTSE-100 company (Reuters) and the founder of two technology merchant banks.
If these people can inspire me, imagine what that could do for a young child who may not have seen role models that look like them achieve great heights.
The FOBBS Platform (Figures of Black British Society), I created was to not only educate but showcase Black British History and their figures in an innovative and entertaining way using creative technology.
This is done through virtual reality and various media formats to cater to people’s different learning styles (Audio, Visual, and Kinetic e.g. Physical activity).
We take into account different learning styles because we know that people learn differently, inspired by this quote
"if you tell a fish to climb a tree, it will forever think it is not smart”
What three things about this programme do you think will benefit you most?
Lean Startup Methodology
- Don’t Wait For Perfection – Go Live With An Imperfect Product
- Start with the minimum viable product and make it perfect on-the-go
- Don’t hide your product from the public until it is perfect, because it might only be perfect in your eyes, and others may be able to provide feedback on areas to improve
- Go live with the imperfect but viable product and then learn from its mistakes. Make it better and better on the way, and keep on fine-tuning your ideas
- Trends and technology change so fast, and this way you don’t risk swooping in too late
- A nice side-effect of starting out with an imperfect product is that your funding needs are smaller, too; once you have your proof of concept, and maybe even a growing client-base
2. Shift Your Focus To Your Customers
- The big shift of going lean is to create a product together with the consumers
- The Startups that do well are those that constantly speak with their customers
- Market research is how you stay ahead of the game, focus on your customers and you won't have to worry about your competitors
3. Stay Agile. Always
- Failures are part of the process and to be embraced as the only way to achieve highest possible quality
- To be able to do that, you need to have short decision-making paths, good communication – and a team where people are always on top of what’s going on
What would you say to anyone looking to apply for Future Startup Founders Now?
Definitely take the opportunity to apply, and if you do get accepted, make the most out of it by being a proactive participant in each session and take action on what you learnt to ensure you utilise their opportunity to the fullest!