Digital Leaders 100 spotlight – The Environment Now’s Sam Patchitt

27 Apr 2018

NYA, O2 and Our Bright Future are so proud of our two young entrepreneurs from ‘The Environment Now’ who have been recognised as one of the top 100 Digital leaders, specifically in the top ten ‘Young Digital Leaders’ in 2018.

If you haven’t voted for us (The Environment Now) or our young people (Sam Patchitt and Emily Godden) already, go to Digital Leaders 100 to vote now!

Lydia Allen caught up with Sam from ‘YellowLabel’ to ask about how they started out, their experience on ‘The Environment Now’ and their top tips for other young entrepreneurs.

Hi Sam. Congratulations on being recognised in the top ten for ‘Young Digital Leader of the Year’ in the Digital Leaders 100 Awards. Howdid you react? What does this mean to you and for YellowLabel?

I was really surprised when I heard the news. I know how competitive the competition is, and how many great young leaders there are out there. Just being encouraged to apply gave me immense pride, so being recognised came as a real shock.

It is a great source of pride for both me and the company. Starting a company is a tough. There are a lot of difficult days. But being recognised for your hard work makes the whole process a lot easier, and gives you more of a drive to push on and really create something great.

You’ve been on quite a journey with YellowLabel. Tell me about how YellowLabel first started out and what you wanted to achieve?

YellowLabel started life in a Deloitte Business Challenge at the University of Leeds. All on the same course, we decided to take a day away from our regular studies to enter this competition. The aim of the challenge was to come up with an app that could have a positive environmental impact. Being frequent purchasers of ‘YellowLabel’ items, we created our idea around this reduced-price food. With this in mind the basic concept of our app was born.

After this, we decided to do a bit more research on the business idea, and revisit it after graduation. In this period, we realised how much food is wasted in the UK, and what an impact our app could have.

Since then our business has grown and evolved into the business we have today. While the core principles are the same, all the knowledge we’ve gained has created a business ready to grow into a nationwide service that can provide value for years to come.

Now you’re involved in The Environment Now programme. What attracted you to apply?

What encouraged us to really go for the programme was the support package that comes with the funding. All the events that were advertised, the business support, mentorship, and being associated with O2, were all very appealing. Furthermore, the structure of the support was very unique. Many other funding pots attach stringent conditions to the funding. However, The Environment Now programme was more flexible. It allowed us to pitch our case, and put forward how we believe we should grow over the next 10 months.

The Environment Now is certainly different from other programmes. What has The Environment Now meant for YellowLabel and your personal skills development?

The Environment Now has been crucial in the development on YellowLabel. In terms of funding, it has enabled us to design a new front end of our service, launch a Beta test in Leeds, and grow closer to our customers. All of these are crucial to the continued progression of our business, and none of it would have been possible without the programme.

The team has also taken every opportunity to learn and expand their knowledge through all the events put on by The Environment Now. From O2 business events, to O2 teams including marketing and business experts, the programme has provided them all. Every event provides another possibility to learn. Even if it’s not directly related to the business as it stands, the core principles are always useful and transferable.  

I’m glad the programme has helped you in different areas not just funding. Out of all of this experience, what would be a start-up journey highlight with YellowLabel so far?

Launching our Beta test in Leeds city centre. This ran for five weeks and covered four stores, as well as a pop up ‘pay as you feel’ store. It was a huge undertaking for the team, and meant that the business development, tech, marketing, logistics, and finance, has to all align to ensure the success of the test. Luckily for the business it did, and the test proved a huge success. We smashed both our download and loyal user targets, as well as improving our marketing process. But most importantly we were able to collect a huge amount of data.

You’ve had ample amounts of experience in the tech social/environmental good field. What advice would you give to a young person wanting to start their own business or social enterprise for social or/and environmental good?

My advice would be to go and do it. You will never have another opportunity, with your whole life ahead of you, and no real responsibilities, what are you really risking? There is no age barrier here, if you are passionate about an idea, go see if it will work.

Connected to this would be the notion that it’s ok to fail. If the business or social enterprise fails, so what? You tried, and it didn’t work out. Most businesses don’t. But the growth of you as a person will far outweigh the costs of the fallen venture. And on the flip side, if the business succeeds, great! You can provide value to society, and possibly earn a living doing something you love. Yeah, the journey is tough, and most days you will want to pack it in, but I wouldn’t change anything about it. Nothing can really describe the feeling of watching your idea grow and providing happiness to others.

Our age range favours the young entrepreneur. Do you think there is enough support for young people who want to build their own start-up?

I believe that there should be far more incentives and support for young people to start their own company, or be employed into or out of young businesses. This is especially true around secondary school and University. After my GCSE’s, I had the option to go to 6th form, get an apprenticeship, or go to college to learn a trade. Starting a business should be right up there to encourage entrepreneurship at an early age. The job options upon leaving University were equally narrow. If you didn’t want a graduate scheme, or further study, there was little support. Adding incentives and support at these stages would see a huge upturn in the number of UK enterprises, and give young people more freedom to choose the path they want to go down.

If you like what you have read, why don’t you go and vote for Sam in the Digital Leaders 100 Awards for ‘Young Digital Leader of the Year’.

Follow YellowLabel on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep to date with their developments and when they’ll release their new improved app.

The Environment Now is funded by O2 and the National Lottery’s Big Lottery Fund through the Our Bright Future programme. It is managed by the National Youth Agency.