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4 min read

AMA: Samantha Hornsby, co-founder of ERIC

AMA: Samantha Hornsby, co-founder of ERIC

Table of Contents

ERIC is a one-stop shop for youngsters looking for openings in creative industries. We talked to co-founder Samantha Hornsby and asked her how it all began.

Hi Samantha! Could you share the story behind your company, including the problem you set out to solve and the inspiration that led to its creation?

The ERIC app provides 16-25-year-olds access to thousands of upskilling opportunities in creative industries and connects them with the hundreds of organisations (like BFI, Into Games, ITV, Warner, Penguin, and Publicis) that are looking to help young people get into work.

With over 40,000 users a year after launching and a fast-growing client base, ERIC is taking the careers world by storm.

It's the first of its kind in the careers/recruitment space; it aggregates all the existing creative careers programmes, internships, apprenticeships, events, and workshops that have been posted online and embeds them all on the app to provide an easy browsing experience for its users.

Opportunities can be curated depending on a young person’s creative interests, situation, location, age and other variable factors.

Created along with my best friend of 24 years, Mae Yip, the idea came from our own experience of trying and failing to get into creative industries. 

Mae Yip and Samantha Hornsby

Mae Yip (left) and Samantha Hornsby (right).

Did you hit any roadblocks along the way?

We've hit a few roadblocks, but nothing we haven't overcome. The first being that we are two founders with zero tech knowledge, who had an ambition of building an app.

Navigating this new tech world was the first big roadblock for us.

It really helps having a co-founder who's your best friend too, because you can kind of laugh your way through these quite challenging situations!

Getting a strong team together is essential. Can you discuss your approach to assembling yours?

We never look for qualifications, but always attitude. We believe the best startup teams are built by people who believe in the mission so strongly that they're already doing something about it in their own free time. This means your values are truly aligned.

Attitude is everything.

Everyone on our team has fought for the cause of democratised access to the creative industries (the core mission of ERIC) in their own time in some way, before joining the team. That really shows us that they'll champion the cause both internally and externally, and they'll share as much passion for ERIC as the founders do.

Have there been any significant changes or evolutions in your business strategy?

We actually used to be an events company! We ran ERIC as an alternative careers fair event series for 5 years before the pandemic.

It was very successful, but when the pandemic hit we decided to rethink the model as it wasn't scalable and we wanted to get more to the root of the issue for the young people and organisations we were serving.

We wanted to focus on the discovery issue that was happening - organisations were putting time and money into creating things to help young people gain access to the creative industries, but they were struggling to find the young people they were trying to help.

And on the other side, the young people were looking for things to help them, but they couldn't find the opportunities that were right for them. That's when we realised the solution was in a marketplace platform that connected the two sides. So we built the app.

ERIC app

Many founders seek mentors. What's your view?

I'm more of a hands-on learner, and I struggle to have the patience for mentoring and advice. I just want to get to the action quicker. I think I'm a bit impatient like that - and I know I'm not the only one in the founder community!

Some people aren't very good at sitting still and talking about theory or learning from others' mistakes. I have to make the mistakes myself. But it’s great that Mae's so good at taking advice and she thrives from mentorship.

Our advisors know that Mae and I have very different personalities, so I think they accommodate my short attention span! We're so grateful for them - they really are fantastic when we have a tough decision to make or we have a specific ask.

They do know us very well and that's helpful when we're having tough conversations because they know how to deliver advice in a way that's most useful to us.

For aspiring entrepreneurs and early-stage founders, what are the most critical pieces of advice you would give to help them on their startup journey, based on your own experiences?

Lean into your personality type, identify your strengths and find someone who can fill the gaps.

Don't try to be someone you aren't.

You'll waste so much time and energy doing things that aren't natural for you - and you probably won't produce very good results. And time and energy run out very quickly when you're a founder.

Do you have a share scheme in place? If so, what does that do for your company?

Yes, we have an employee share scheme. It means they're fighting even more for the success of the company. And it gives them a long-term financial goal to work towards.

Absolutely! What sets your startup apart from competitors? How do you maintain a competitive edge?

There are two things:

  1. We're serving an overlooked and underestimated market - the creative industries. There's a lot to be said for empowering the underdog.
  2. Never underestimate branding. Our attention to brand has set us apart from all our competitors. People remember who ERIC is and they can picture us because we're bright, colourful, youthful - we're memorable. But they never remember the name or the look of our competitors.
If you could time travel to any point in history to learn from or meet an iconic entrepreneur or innovator, who would it be, and what questions would you ask them?

We don't need to travel back in time - we would meet Melanie Perkins, CEO and co-founder of Canva.

She really is an entrepreneur of our time; she's built something that democratises access to a creative skill for tens of millions of people across the world, and she's done it as a woman in a world full of men; many of whom tried to gatekeep her out when she tried to raise investment.

Also, her attitude to extreme wealth sets a standard for the next generation of entrepreneurs. She truly is an inspiration to us.

Great suggestion. Thanks so much for your time, Samantha.
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