Entrepreneur Of The Week – Lauren Riley
Tell us about you and The Link App?
I am a London based entrepreneur, lawyer, blogger and public speaker but I am probably best known for my appearance on BBC The Apprentice last year. I took the months between filming the show and it being shown on TV to build my business, so by the time I was ‘fired’ The Link App was a real product and as a result it was a great position to launch from. I am still a family lawyer but on a consultant basis. This means I am fortunate enough to be able to spend most of my time in the business. Personally I am indulging my passions for fitness and travel whenever possible but the focus has certainly been about the business recently.
The Link App is the ultimate tool for busy law firms looking to thrive in an increasingly competitive market, improve customer service, save time and money and increase productivity. This is done by utilising technology to keep clients ‘in the loop’ without the need for back and forth communication, freeing up valuable solicitor’s time. The Link App offers potential savings to the law firms in real costs but is also a very valuable marketing angle.
How did the idea come to you?
I have always been interested in business. Having completed a business graduate scheme with a global company prior to qualifying, I always saw myself as a bit of an entrepreneur and was using these skills to dramatically increase turnover of my family law department. I was convinced there must be a better way for lawyers to communicate with their clients. After all, this is the twenty first century. After listening to the continued grumblings of my colleagues I had my eureka moment and The Link App was born.
I was employed full time as a family law solicitor.
How did you know there was a market for it?
I was one of the lawyers who needed it. I did some research for my firm at the time and had it have been readily available I would have stopped at referring it to them and carried on happily as a lawyer. My research drew a blank and I knew that this was a fanatics idea for a product that was needed and would make a real difference to law firms and their clients.
You appeared on this years series of The Apprentice, what was the experience like?
It was enjoyable actually and it’s been a good place to launch from. Of course, its full of highs and lows but I learnt that being confident in myself and my own beliefs was the right path. Business is largely about trust and the quality of relationships you build along the way. I am content with how things have worked out and I am proud of the results I have achieved for The Link App to date.
Has that helped you grow your business?
The consensus from viewers was that I came across as a credible candidate and that Lord Sugar really made a big deal about my profession. Being recognised as a lawyer is great, as I am proud of this and the industry recognition helps as my app is aimed at law firms. Also the majority of my public speaking is in this sector too. The start-up journey is always tough though, I imagine that is the same for any business, Apprentice appearance or not.
Describe your full business model and how you make money?
The app is available in the Google Play and App store and is free for the client of law firms to use. The law firms pay a nominal annual fee for The Link App and then on a per case basis bought in bundles, the cost of this depends on the size of bundle they buy. This means it is affordable for all law firms regardless of their size.
How did you raise the funds for the business? (Please do add in the crowd funding info)
To date I have been fortunate enough to self-fund the business but I am pleased to announce we have launched an equity crowdfunding campaign. We are raising £150,000 through the crowd and more details can be found at www.crowd2fund.com/thelinkapp this is an opportunity for investors to gain equity in an exciting business which is already creating waves in the legal industry.
What challenges have you faced since starting?
I imagine similar challenges that every start-up faces. Getting the right talent on board and making progress on a limited budget. Personally this journey has been made more difficult with continuing in the legal profession. The sacrifices have been personal though and I was always determined that the business would benefit from me continuing to have my finger on the pulse of the industry it serves.
What has been your biggest breakthrough so far?
This month we pitched The Link App to Dell UK in front of the VP and management team. The Link App was selected as a finalist in their start up in residence programme. We have enjoyed great recognition from the legal sector to date, even being shortlisted for an innovation in law award but the recognition from such a global name in the tech sector was brilliant. This was a proud moment for me, it was the sort of thing I would have been able to do on the Apprentice but this time I was there on my own merit and it was real life.
Do you think there is enough education about entrepreneurship in the education system?
No almost certainly not. There is a real culture of ‘you grow up, you get a degree and if you’re lucky you get a good job’. I don’t think that mentality serves everyone. Employment is a great route for some but not for all. Having said that, I wouldn’t be able to achieve the things I have without first having the experience I had in employment.
Where would you like to be in five years time?
The short answer is global success for the link app, of course. The long answer is that I have tried to utilise my media profile to send a positive message, I am female, mixed race, young (ish) professional in law and tech, and these are both under represented sectors. I have enjoyed being able to be a public face for these professions and very much hope to encourage a public change in perception. I hope to be very successful and to use my journey to encourage other entrepreneurs, particularly women. Right now I share my journey via social media and my blog. My ethos is best explained on my websitewww.laurenriley.co.uk there I explain my belief that women can have it all. I have had hundreds of people contact me through twitter or my website and it’s been great to hear how I have inspired them to look again at their career options or spur them on in their chosen path. I am also fortunate enough to be a public speaker and the feedback from these events is always very rewarding. In 5 years’ time I’d like to be in a position to really give back to society focusing more of my time on these.
And finally, what piece of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
I would say choose something that you have a genuine passion for, and ideally expertise in. Every day of my journey with The Link App is informed by years of working in the sector I am looking to change. Not only that but I genuinely care about the sector, the people who work in it and the clients they serve. This makes business so much more enjoyable. Starting out in business is not easy but be passionate, determined and most of all enjoy it!
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