Zara Ransley, co-founder of MyPocketSkill, explains how she came up with the idea for her product, and how the UCL EDUCATE programme helped to develop the company to its current success.
Before I started MyPocketSkill, I would sometimes help out with school enterprise programmes.
You will probably be familiar with this set up: kids are expected to get into teams, come up with a unique business idea to make money – perhaps a confectionery stall or a car-washing service – and then go out and sell the produce to parents and neighbours.
What always struck me about these kinds of sessions is that I would see recurring types of students. There would always be a few who just messed around, others that would stay quiet through the whole session, but perhaps one or two who just seemed to know the best ways to go about making money. Whenever I asked these young entrepreneurs how do they know, it would often come back to some direct experience, either through a part-time job or through a small family business or some other form of exposure to the world of work.
This made me curious to discover how you extrapolate a personal experience like that into something more structured – to better demonstrate the link between doing a small job and the skills to become financially capable.
We decided to participate in the UCL EDUCATE programme to explore exactly that. For us, the programme was a structured way of looking at the research evidence, the theory of change and impact behind our prototype digital solution. We were able to map out a piece of research which was helpful and relevant to MyPocketSkill and which helped us to join the dots between experience and financial capability.
We found that there is already research, which points to the positive impact provided to young people through earning pocket-money (tip for parents: it has to be earned rather than just given). And other research has also pointed to the usefulness of early interaction with employers to build up skills and habits that will help in future employment. This enabled us to narrow down our research to examine whether, by having a digital platform, we were increasing the pool of opportunities for young people, thus amplifying the effect of money-earning experience.
Our approach involved surveys, targeting households and business owners, to understand their attitudes and behaviours in relation to employing young people and potentially using digital platforms, such as ours, to do this. The results were extremely positive in terms of their interest and willingness to recognise young people as potentially useful for tasks in their own home or business, and that they would be more likely to hire a young person for a task if they can do it simply through an online platform.
We also learned that the by-product is the social impact of the platform, with two-thirds valuing the importance of giving young people an early opportunity to acquire skills to help with their future employment or studies and the majority being concerned that young people are often ignored by employers because they don’t have the right skills or experience. How do you start?
For us, the key research message is that online platforms can potentially offer a means of widening the pool of opportunities for young people to earn money and gain experience. Such platforms potentially satisfy the needs of households and businesses as well as delivering a societal benefit in providing enhanced financial capability and employability.
We are now looking forward to the launch of our next web and app version of our digital solution in a few weeks’ time.