LLB Law student Daisy Doardo founded her business offering personal branding support to lawyers. Daisy discovered a niche target market for her area of expertise and has established her start-up to run alongside her degree studies.
I didn’t follow the traditional route to university. As I teenager, I struggled with my mental health and dropped out of sixth form, twice, because of depression and suicide attempts. I didn’t get any A-levels and was too unwell to work, so I signed onto sickness benefits to pay the bills. Once I recovered, I pursued a career in insurance. Years later, after moving to England and being subjected to sexual harassment at work, I decided to apply to read law at university. I didn’t think that going to university would be an option for me because of my lack of A-levels. However, I was accepted to the University of Essex to study the LLB with a foundation year and scored the highest mark in the year.
I discovered the Essex Startups team at the Freshers’ Fair in 2019, when I first started at Essex. They immediately sparked my interest and led me to sign-up to a Weekender event during my first term.
My first business venture was a scuba diving e-commerce store. After winning two pitching events and a grant for £500, I set up the website and registered my company. The funding empowered me to cover the initial running costs have bespoke visual branding assets designed, and order samples for my Shopify store. The business was in the early stages of trading when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and international travel completely stopped. I fulfilled a handful of international orders, but not enough to keep the business afloat. Despite this business coming to a grinding halt, I wasn’t deterred – the experience had shown me that it was possible to start a business and fulfil orders, instilling in me the knowledge that I could do it again.
In early 2021, I took a part-time job as the Marketing Manager for a start-up law firm. During the year I spent in this role, I witnessed first-hand the importance of personal branding for legal founders and how enhancing your professional social media presence can widen your network and generate new business. In January 2022 I was fired for the first time in my life. It was an awful experience, and I was determined not to rely on an employer for my income again. The day after, I registered my current business and haven’t looked back.
I have now been trading for nine months. The core focus of my business is personal branding for lawyers, but I haven’t stopped there. I listen to the needs of my clients and have expanded my services to include social media management for founder and start-up legal brands.
I have consistently worked to build my personal brand on social media, which has generated new clients for my business. I work with a select group of start-up law firms on a retainer basis. Being selective with my client base has enabled me to provide the best service to them, as I understand their challenges and how to overcome them.
I have maintained harmony between work, life, and study by creating my business to fit my lifestyle. My business is proof that you don’t need to put in 40+ hour weeks to enjoy success. I work fully flexible, part-time hours and have systems in place that allow me to take time off (a difficult thing for a solopreneur!). I keep a strict schedule and plan everything in my calendar so that my working days have a clear structure, and I can keep sight of upcoming deadlines. Doing this also allows me to ensure that I have time blocked out for myself!
Earlier this year I took part in the evolve Accelerator Programme, run by Essex Startups. I was grateful to have the opportunity to participate in this intensive programme of weekly expert forums and workshops, learning directly from other founders to gain insight into their successes and challenges.
I regularly work in Studio X, based in the Business Innovation Centre on the Colchester Campus. It’s helpful to have a base where I can work alongside other founders and maintain contact with the Essex Startups team. Using this space has allowed me to feel fully integrated into the start-up community at Essex, as we discuss ideas and share skills with one another.
Every now and again, I take a moment to reflect on what I’ve achieved so far. Goal-orientated, I find it easy to overlook how far I’ve come as there is so much farther to go. When I stop to think about it, I feel ecstatic that I’ve actually done it – I’ve built a business that functions and is generating a growing income, and that is really exciting.
I’m working on improving and expanding my service-offering. Having formed strong relationships with my current clients, I have been able to offer trial workshops to test each stage of my programme and gain the crucial feedback needed to make tweaks and perfect my offering to ensure maximum value provision.
I’m about to begin the final year of my law degree. For that reason, I have restricted my client base to its current level.
Since starting a business, my outlook has changed; I value my time and my skills much more than I ever have and think strategically about every aspect of my life. I see everything in terms of ROI. There is the temptation to take on further clients, but I remind myself that the potential to expand will still be there once I graduate next year. The way that I work with my current clients over the next year will continue to offer me the chance to explore new opportunities in the future.
If you’ve got an idea, just make a start. You can study the theory of entrepreneurship but taking action and actually building a business is a completely different learning experience to anything you can read or watch. I don’t believe that any time is ‘too soon’ because every step forms part of your learning journey and you won’t know what you’re truly capable of until you begin.
I would also stress the importance of defining what you personally want to get out of your start-up journey. You’ll be given a huge amount of advice about the ways you should approach running your business, so it’s vital that you set your own parameters. This will ensure that you build the life you want, not the one that other people think you should want.
If you have a potential business idea, or are interested in developing your business skills, find out more about the training, events and support Essex Startups offers to current students and recent graduates.
Applications for the evolve Accelerator Programme 2023 are now open. So, if you're an Essex entrepreneur looking to turn your side-hustle into a career, or have started a business but need help getting things off the ground, we’re looking for the 15 most ambitious and innovative ventures to work with.
University of Essex
Essex Startups offers wide range of training, support and funding opportunities to our community of budding entrepreneurs. Whether you already have a business idea, or are simply interested in the possibility of working for yourself in the future, we can provide the guidance and support to help make your dreams a reality.