Sekyonda is enjoying success the second time around with a thriving online hub for creatives and entrepreneurs.
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MyComeUp World founder Leonard Sekyonda translated a popular Youtube channel into a thriving on and offline community for start-ups and would-be entrepreneurs.
What's the business?
MYCOMEUP WORLD is a platform that enables creatives, talents and entrepreneurs to connect and collaborate in a way that allows them to thrive, not only in business, but also personally.
It provides a unique combination of practical business resources, inspirational self-development content and genuine human interaction in order to enable users to achieve success together.
Where did it come from?
A few years ago I heard about the rise in recruitment of nurses from the Philippines in the UK and spotted an opportunity to start a business over there. Unfortunately, changes in legislation killed that company almost overnight. However, while I was running it I realised I lacked not only practical business experience, but also some of the softer skills that I might have developed had I continued into higher education.
One of the tools I used to get me through the day-to-day challenges of foreign business was self-development books. I found that reading these books helped me develop a more spiritual confidence, and I began sharing some of the tips and thoughts online almost as a kind of therapy to get me through the experience.
I quickly realised there were thousands of other likeminded young people around the world and they seemed to appreciate me sharing my story and this self-help content. This led me to putting self-help at the forefront of MYCOMEUP.com in its early stages, and it is still one of the most popular aspects of the site today.
How has the business developed?
The site started life as a fairly simple blog, but when we decided to take the leap and transform into an online community. At this point we put up a temporary “countdown to launch” holding page, but were surprised how many people were reaching out to us via our Facebook and Twitter demanding that the site went live as soon as possible.
Within our first week of launch we had over 10,000 profiled active users and it has continued to snowball virally until 12 months down the line, we now have more than 125,00 active users.
We are currently still a small team of 4 internal staff with the majority of our backend tech team outsourced. When it came to raising capital, we were fortunate enough to attract an investor who had been using the site since we were just a blog. Raising capital was vital as developing the site from a blog into a community required significant upfront costs, including expanding our technical team and production equipment so we could create original self-help content for our users.
We recently launched our “MCU Brand Partnership” programme to work with a number of brands we feel can add value to our users through bespoke contextual advertising and sponsorship campaigns within our community. We also hold ticketed events and seminars to ensure our users continuously connect on more than just a digital level and feel part our story too.
MCU events bring the online community into the real world
Is social networking a crowded market?
From the outside, some people think we must be mad trying to compete with the likes of LinkedIn. However, there is a growing breed of proactive young millennials who are taking advantage of freedom and lack of restrictions within the web space, and there is great opportunity to grow a community for these people to support and encourage them to start up businesses and pursue their ideas.
What problems have you encountered?
The major bumps in the road started the first day we went live as a community. To be honest we were oblivious to quite how advanced the level of our transition needed to be, and day one felt like it was filled with technical errors, bugs and general mistakes. It was a major wake-up call for me and I realised how much I needed to learn to succeed in the tech industry. I literally spent the next two weeks studying the key technical components of the site, and setting up solid testing processes for any future site upgrades.
How have you told the world about your business?
When we first started to market MYCOMEUP we lacked funds so we built our strategy around YouTube. We did this by creating “MYCOMEUP WORD’s Of Wisdom” videos which were motivational clips highlighting snippets of the best advice from successful entrepreneurs and talents from around the world. We generated a number of videos that went viral, getting a lot of attention and aligning our brand with these successful figures. To date our YouTube channel has more than 24 million views.
What's the downside of running your own business?
One of the hardest things is realising it’s never enough. There’s always something to do and it consumes your life, and that’s why it is so important to run a business that you’re passionate about. A lot of things have to be sacrificed, but the ability to turn ideas into reality and being able to see the effect we are having on our users is a great reward.
Running a business is hard work, but seeing it thrive is hugely rewarding
What should politicians be doing to make life easier to start-ups?
I think the UK could do more to make office and commercial space more accessible to entrepreneurs and new start-ups. Start-ups can really enhance the communities they work in, so enabling them to utilise more commercial space, both as business premises and for events and networking opportunities to engage with other entrepreneurs and even consumers.
What is your biggest mistake?
Being too attached to our company in the early stages. I was just too close to our product and found myself trying to wear all the hats. As time has developed I have realised the importance of collaboration and taking external input.
What have you done to set yourself apart?
What sets MYCOMEUP WORLD apart from other platforms is we have steered away from the conventional hierarchies set within may other platforms. We believe in nurturing and supporting ideas and talent, no matter what level our users come in from. Some are still thinking about an idea, some are actually launching an idea, and some people are actually achieving their current idea as it stands right now.
We’re getting them at different levels, but we’re not isolating any of them, so a 16 year old who wants to start a sneaker company in his bedroom joins the community with the same level of respect as established entrepreneurs, and everyone can participate in sharing their stories and ideas on the same level.
Whether you're selling sneakers or launching an airline - you start at the same point
How do you attract and retain staff?
We have been very fortunate in attracting excellent staff. We are a brand that is dedicated to supporting people’s ideas and many people apply to work for us with the same attitude, which is a huge bonus. Our staff see the effect we are having on our growing user base, and an intern will feel the same satisfaction that I do. We see all our staff as entrepreneurs and encourage their ingenuity as they too are pioneering the brand.
Do you feel supported by government?
I think the government is doing ok as far as supporting start-up businesses that are ready for investment. However, I still feel there is a lack of support in mental and emotional resilience for young start-up entrepreneurs, and there needs to be more opportunities and advice to support the next generation of talent who just need a little more guidance.
What are your top three tips for people starting a business today?
1. Don’t start with the technicalities. We’re often too concerned with the parts of the big picture we don’t currently have – focus on what you can build upon instead.
2. There is power in just starting – things may not be perfect at first, but the start enables people to be aware of what you're doing and ultimately attracts the key people you need along the way.
3. Dream big – never start an idea with limits, ignore the opinions when starting and aim big.