Studyclix

The next in our series of Upstarts case studies is Luke Saunders founder of Studyclix.ie, a web start-up company, based in IT Sligo’s Innovation Centre.

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Originally from Dublin, Luke originally studied zoology then with stints working as a creative in an advertising agency, a labourer on a building site, and a door-to-door salesman in Australia, he finally settled into a career as a secondary school teacher in Enniscrone, County Sligo.

What is Studyclix.ie?

Studyclix.ie is a new website built by teachers for students and teachers. It is free and is already being used by over 25,000 students to prepare for their Junior and Leaving Cert exams. It breaks down each subject into topics and gives all past questions and marking schemes on that topic.

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Luke Saunders of Studyclix with students trialling the product.

What were you doing when you decided to set-up Studyclix.ie?

My background is in Science, after graduating with a degree in Zoology I made then the not-so-obvious move into creative advertising where I wrote scripts for TV and radio ads.  After a couple of years working in my home town of Dublin I decided that I wanted to get back into science and to live in the West so I became a secondary school teacher in County Sligo where I still work to this day.

When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?

When I started teaching I was surprised at how little the classroom had changed since I did my Leaving Cert over a decade earlier even though the Internet had changed so many other aspects of life and work.  The idea of Studyclix.ie was to gather in one place the best learning resources for students and teachers relevant to the Junior and Leaving Cert exams.

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?

For the initial development of the site there was no real cost, other than the many late nights of categorising past exam questions into topics and finding good learning resources on the Internet. In the six months prior to launch we were lucky enough to be accepted on to the CEIM programme for start-up businesses, based at the Innovation Centre in IT Sligo.  The CEIM programme was a great way to learn how to set up, run and market our business. We also received some funding assistance from Sligo County Enterprise Board which we used to launch the website at the ASTI teacher’s convention last April.

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What was the biggest obstacle?

Initially, the biggest obstacle I faced was my lack of computer coding experience. Early on a friend of mine, Keith Wright, decided to become my business partner and he looks after the technical side of the website while I make sure the content uploaded by teachers is of high quality.

Who supported you?

The CEIM programme and the Sligo County Enterprise Board as mentioned above, but also both myself and Keith’s girlfriends, who have been very patient with us as we worked many late nights on Studyclix.ie.

How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?

It took us a lot longer than I would have liked! Both Keith and myself still work full time in our day jobs so most of the work has been done late at night and throughout my three-month summer holidays.  So even though the idea of Studyclix.ie is over 4 years old, we only launched in April of this year.

What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?

I really enjoy working on Studyclix.ie as it never feels like work when you are working on your own project. Also, being a web based business, I have the freedom to work from anywhere anytime.

One of the drawbacks of being your own boss can be the lack of a definite routine. I find it hard to know when to stop working sometimes.

Where do you work from and do you have employees?

At the moment Studyclix.ie is just the two of us. As we are a web-based business I can work form anywhere with a wifi connection. So I work in hotels, bars, in my car, my kitchen, and also as part of the CEIM programme I have an office at IT Sligo’s innovation centre. Keith is based in London so we communicate mainly through Skype and by email.

Do you have entrepreneurial role models?

I like the technology entrepreneur, Sean O’Sullivan, who seems to be a serial entrepreneur. I like the idea of having many different businesses, each with a completely different focus.

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?

Most of what I have learned to help me build Studyclix.ie has been from my experience as a teacher. Everyday, I am working with students who use studyclix and who are brutally honest in their feedback.  My students at Jesus and Mary Secondary School in Enniscrone, County Sligo have played a huge role in helping me to develop Studyclix.ie. The tutors and other participants on the CEIM programme have also been a great source of advice and knowledge.

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

I would try and do tasks in the correct order. I was spending hours designing our logo before we had even built the website!

What is your best selling item/service?

Studyclix.ie is currently in beta test mode so it is free for students and teachers. We have had huge traffic to the site with over 25,000 visits in the first month.

Studyclix.ie divides all the main Junior and Leaving Certificate subjects into topics ranging from the Renaissance for history students or Macbeth or Yeats’ poetry from the english course. Students can access all past exam questions, as well as marking schemes, sample answers, videos and free study notes.

Are you a LookWester (previously living outside the Western Region) and if so why did you decide to move home or relocate to the West?

Yes, I am from Dublin originally. As a teenager I spent every school holiday in Easkey in West Sligo where I started surfing. When I was living in Dublin I was driving out West almost every weekend to go surfing, so moving out here permanently was an easy decision.

What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?

I think the West of Ireland is the most beautiful part of Ireland, everyone seems to have way more free time than in bigger cities. Also, there are no traffic lights on my commute to work so I regularly go a few weeks without meeting a red light!

www.studyclix.ie