Hermione is the founder of The DoNation, a charitable-giving website that replaces cash with action. On a gruelling cycle ride from London to Morocco, she came up with the idea. Instead of asking for sponsorship money, she asked friends and family to commit to carbon saving tasks, like going meat-free for a few days a week, or washing their clothes at 30°C. Her sponsors saved over 16 tonnes of CO2, and the feedback she received made her realise that she could take the idea further. The DoNation website lets people support their friends without parting with cash and Hermione hopes that through social networks, her site will promote positive, proactive environmental messages to millions of people.
What are the challenges of starting your own business?
The main one was raising enough money to get it off the ground. But the reason I came up with the idea of sponsorship with action was that I didn’t like asking people for money, and so it’s kind of a given that I’d struggle with that (very important) bit.
What are you looking forward to achieving with your business?
Well, launching it, for starters! The real reason I’m setting up The DoNation is to encourage people to live more sustainable lives, to help make sure that our kids have a decent planet to live on. What am I looking forward to achieving? Seeing millions of people become inspired and educated to live more sustainably through using The DoNation.
Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010 is all about busting myths about entrepreneurs. In starting your business what key things have you discovered?
I discovered that you definitely don’t need an MBA to set up a business, that you just need a great idea, passion, and a hell of a lot of determination. And resilience. If you have those, the rest will follow.
What would you say to someone who has had a business idea, but hasn’t taken the steps to start it?
While I’ve found getting financial support relatively tough, getting in-kind support has been amazing. There are some great people out there willing to lend a hand or an ear to young entrepreneurs who are bold enough to go out there and follow their dreams, and their support has been invaluable. The British Library Business and IP Centre, UnLtd, Business Link as well as my personal contacts were all amazing resources. Use them.
What’s it like to be a Virgin Media Pioneer?
Being involved in Virgin Media Pioneers has been great, it’s opened up a whole bunch of exciting opportunities, and perhaps most importantly, it’s helped me to feel a bit less mad for going out there alone and setting up a business at such a young and inexperienced age. It’s helped me to see that there are tons of other young people who are in the same shoes – trying to do the same thing – and that’s really reassuring.
Many people might think it scary to start your own business in a recession, what do you think?
I think it can be the best possible time. As a start up, your overheads are low and so the recession doesn’t really affect you, and there’s great appetite for change, for new and innovative business models. Furthermore, when the recession eases, you’ll be rearing to go and ready to ride the wave of growth, dominating your market as you go.
Why do you think other people should start their own business rather than work for an employer?
If you have an idea that you’re passionate about, and it’s clearly solving a problem that needs addressing, then you should go for it. If you’re just doing it because you think it’s a quick route to fame and fortune and will be a source of easy money, then you should think again…
Virgin Media Pioneers is a place for young entrepreneurs to ‘make their ideas happen’. It’s an online community where you can get help to develop your idea, pick up new skills and create your own network. For more information visit www.virginmediapioneers.com