I launched a website instead of going to university
Half way through her A-levels Hattie decided she didn’t want to go to uni. She tells The Mix that despite the initial anxiety of letting people down, it was the best decision she's ever made.
I was dreading telling my parents. My sister was at uni and they both went, so they assumed I’d go too. But I wasn’t academic and I didn’t enjoy school. I was utterly uninspired by my subjects (English lit, Spanish and Classics) and the thought of studying them for another year filled me with dread.
Breaking the news
I decided to quit after I got my AS results – not because I did badly, because I couldn’t see the point of continuing. I felt under a lot of pressure before I made that decision; I didn’t want to let people down. But once my mind was made up my teachers and friends were really supportive. I just needed to break the news to my parents.
I told my mum first. Thankfully it didn’t come as too much of a surprise. My sister’s naturally very academic but I’m more practical, so once we’d talked it through it made perfect sense for me not to go. My parents were really supportive; they’re very liberal and ultimately just want me to be happy.
The next step
I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I started researching my options online hoping something would become obvious, but there didn’t seem to be much out there for school leavers. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, so I wanted to find a course that would teach me skills to start something from scratch. A friend told me about a secretarial course her daughter was doing, so I went to check it out and loved it.
The course was a lot more practical and relevant to the workplace. It covered stuff like how to write formal letters, HR issues, contracts, dealing with the public etc – things I wouldn’t have learned at uni. I knew there must be other courses like this for school leavers, but finding them was not so easy. I could see there was a gap in the market for a website that would provide options for school leavers.
Having an idea
My mum and I discussed it and came up with Uni’s not for me. The idea was to create a platform with all the smart alternatives to university.
I spent hours compiling information about courses and started to include other options for school leavers, such as apprenticeships, gap year opportunities, starting your own business etc. I realised that leaving school didn’t have to be so daunting. There are so many options for young people, they’re just not obvious.
Creating my website
My website was very basic at first. I was familiar with WordPress so I could do the straightforward bits, like adding content – it was a start. At first I worked on it in the evenings as I was working during the day at a PR company. But my website became my passion. I was getting loads of enquiries from school leavers and really felt like I was making an impact – especially as there was a lot of press coverage about graduates not finding jobs at the time.
It wasn’t long before I was working on it every night, so I applied for a couple of start-up loans and decided to work on it full-time. I sent out press releases and started building up a network of good contacts and spent the money from the loans on improving my website.
I was so busy I took on my own apprentices, a trainee journalist who does most of the writing, as well as an apprentice PR officer. We’re now a team of five.
We’ve tried to keep the site as organic and authentic as possible, trying not to bombard it with ads. However, it’s now time to make the site sustainable, so we’re launching new campaigns for companies to promote their opportunities for school leavers.
We’ve also just launched our first magazine for schools to encourage and promote the alternatives to university.
I really enjoy what I do and I don’t regret not going to uni at all. I’m making a difference and feel lucky I found something that motivates and inspires me every day. I’m not sure I’d have got that from going to university.
Updated on 29-Sep-2015
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