Redbrick Sport spoke to current Maths PhD student and part-time UoB lecturer Alex Tisbury about being called up to the England Dodgeball squad last monthWritten by Thomas Dodd on 24th November 2016
Interview with Imagine Forest founder
Greg Woodin speaks to Safia Begum, the founder of Imagine Forest, a virtual world that helps children with their reading and writing skills.
Safia Begum graduated with a first class honours degree in Business and Management from Aston University in 2015.
What was your career journey after graduating?
Since graduating I joined the bSeen programme to start my own business. I was reluctant to join any graduate schemes because I wanted to be in a position where my work would make a huge impact on the company or improve society somehow.
When was Imagine Forest founded and how did it start?
The idea of Imagine Forest existed in early 2015, where after attending various enterprise workshops at Aston University I was inspired to start my own business.
Imagine Forest was born from my interest in writing stories and desire to a have social impact through helping children improve their writing skills. Authors like Dr. Seuss were a great source of inspiration for me, as they really helped me to understand the world and deal with tough moments as a child.
After lots of research, I realised the monumental role that technology plays in a child’s life today, and that children are more likely to play games on a tablet than pick up a book. The idea developed into a creative-writing virtual world for kids – where children can sign-up, write stories, earn points and then use these points to upgrade their character. These gaming elements were added to make story-writing fun for reluctant writers.
“Being an entrepreneur really depends on your patience and resilience to handle the unknown
What attracted you to the bSeen programme and how has it helped you?
I was attracted to join the bSeen programme due to the support they offered to turn my idea into a real business. For example, they ran a series of workshops in the summer where I learnt to promote my product on a low budget, define my target market and gained insight on business planning. I was also provided with an excellent mentor who helped me improve on my weaknesses (such as confidence issues.)
What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced when starting your company and how did you overcome them?
My biggest difficulty has always been my shyness and communication skills. I have always been the type of person to keep things simple and direct. But I found that this doesn’t always work out in business, especially when you’re trying to sell your idea at networking events or to possible investors.
I made it to semi-finals of the Baldwin’s Kickstarter competition and the reason I didn’t get any further was that they felt I wouldn't be able to communicate my passion for Imagine Forest in front of hundreds of people in the finals, as the panel could see my shyness. Networking events help me get used to talking to people about my idea with confidence.
When was your proudest moment?
Making it to the finals of the Santander 60 Second Pitch competition and winning 3rd place based on public votes. This achievement definitely gave me more confidence in my product, as the votes I received showed that others thought that Imagine Forest was a great idea.
Would you recommend students to start up their own companies?
In my opinion, being an entrepreneur requires you to understand all areas of business from finance to legal technicalities to ensure you’re running effectively – even if you find this stuff boring.
You also could be operating at a loss for a long time before you break even, meaning you might not get any salary in the first year or a very small salary depending on your business. “
However once your business starts growing, the satisfaction that comes from owning a successful business is unbeatable and you never know how much your business could be worth in the future! So it really depends on your patience and resilience to handle the unknown.
“Once your business starts growing, the satisfaction that comes from owning a successful business is unbeatable
I would give two pieces of advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs: always think before jumping in and take some time-out, it can help you see new solutions to a problem and develop your creativity.