Kathryn Parsons, co-founder of Decoded, started with little more than faith and determination, but four years later it’s grown into a global business. Ahead of her appearance at Accelerate 2015 in Liverpool on Friday, EN persuaded her to share a few snippets of advice for eager entrepreneurs
It didn’t take much for Kathryn Parsons to launch herself into business – just £27 and “limitless belief” – but four years later that business has a presence in 40 cities worldwide, so she clearly landed on her feet after such a leap of faith.
Parsons co-founded Decoded in 2011. The company teaches anyone to code in a day. Since the business was launched, she has won numerous awards, including: The Daily Telegraph’s Top Ten Britons of 2014, the Sunday Times Britain’s Top 30 Female Power List 2014, the 2013 Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award, and Management Today’s 35 Under 35 2013.
On Friday, October 9th at ACC Liverpool, Parsons will be speaking at business conference Accelerate 2015, where she will be passing on her best advice. Hosted by designer Wayne Hemingway, the event will feature speeches from business leaders, panel discussions and masterclasses from the worlds of business, design, music, sport and science.
Ahead of the event, Parsons shared with EN her thoughts on business, and why the event is a must-attend.
Q: Given your experience, what advice you would give to people considering setting up a business?
A: Find a problem worth solving. Have you spotted a problem? Ideally not just shared by you but shared by thousands or potentially millions of other people. Do you think you can solve that problem? Then you have all the ingredients of a great business on your hands. When Decoded started in 2011 it felt as if the world was being increasingly rapidly shaped and influenced by technology. Yet the very thing affecting all our lives and businesses was understood by as little as 1% of the world. That felt like a problem worth solving.
Build your network. I am passionate about the life-changing impact of networking. Get out of your comfort zone, meet new people, go to conferences, learn something new, create your own networking group, speak at an event. Decoded started with no funding, a marketing budget of £27 and limitless belief. Get out there and tell the world about the work you are doing. You never know where it might lead.
Impossible is nothing. When we started, no one believed anyone would want to learn about code. Or that you could teach it in a day. Or that I could do it. I was told it was impossible. But as Walt Disney said, it's kind of fun to do the impossible.
Q: How do you then take your business to the next level?
A: Business is a team sport. Your talent and team is everything. The only way to scale and grow is to hire great future leaders of your business and empower them to be part of driving that vision and mission globally.
Keep an open and honest culture. Nothing will go to plan, so everyone will make mistakes. Create an environment where sharing failures as well as successes is encouraged. It's amazing what you can learn from your failures and how it paves the way for bigger successes.
Have a vision but be adaptable. Our vision is to be the best technology educators in the world. We are currently working with thousands of businesses globally helping them on their journeys of digital transformation. It's a huge evolution from where we were even a year ago. And we expect even more change in the next year. Keep your vision strong but how you get there fluid.
Q: What are the things not to do?
Don't be hard on yourself. Don't panic. Business is tough. Don't be afraid to ask for help. I've been overwhelmed and the amount of support, advice, mentorship and general good-will which flows your way – when you ask.
Q: What is the benefit of events like Accelerate 2015?
A: Events like Accelerate create a unique forum for entrepreneurs and people with an innovator’s mindset to convene, to support and learn from each other. Inspiration, ideas, energy and connections are like rocket fuel for these kinds of people. It powers you to take the leap, take that risk, dream big and believe that you have the ability to make it happen.
Q: In what way are events like this important to push the offer of business sectors outside of London?
A: Technology is a democratic tool. You can learn anything, you can create anything. A global business and globally competitive talent can and should be grown out of any place or space where there is access to a computer and the web. However, we know that this is not the case. Creating communities, events and networks which encourage an environment of entrepreneurialism, knowledge-sharing and support are key. Accelerate is a great example of this happening in Liverpool as is the Baltic Triangle.
Along with Parson, the line-up for Accelerate 2015 includes:
•Katie Piper, the TV presenter and former model who established the Katie Piper Foundation following an acid attack in 2008
•Dr Steve Peters, a sports psychiatrist who has worked with some of the biggest names in UK sport
•Dan Germain, head of brand and creative at Innocent drinks company and Designer of the Year 2014
•Kanya King, founder of the MOBO Awards
•Jim Lawless who has implemented successful cultural change programmes in Apple, Barclaycard, and BT
Accelerate 2015 is organised by Liverpool Vision.