Support simplified with Stitch Hub - an FTDi alumni start up
With FTDi’s first cohort of BCII graduates flourishing in their career pursuits, we sat down with a group of students who were brave enough to on take the path of entrepreneurship. Lucy Allen, Eliza Marks and Polina Pashkov decided to continue their commitment to ‘Stitch Hub’ on a part time basis, post-graduation.
Their online support directory aims to transform the way chronic illness support is offered and found by streamlining the process. People living with a chronic illness are offered a one stop shop for personalised resources in a flexible, reliable and high quality manner.
Stitch Hub originated from their BCII Capstone project within their fourth year of study; a subject where students work towards a proof-of concept for their proposed innovation, mapping the pathway to realisation. During this subject, the Stitch Hub Co-Founders developed a critical understanding of their initiative; comprehending the transformation and sustainability conditions needed to implement it successfully within the innovation landscape.
At age 9, Co-Founder Lucy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes; her transition from paediatric treatment to adult care highlighted the increasing sense of isolation for chronic illness sufferers within the type 1 community. When the opportunity presented itself to explore this problem space further in fourth year BCII, Eliza and Polina rallied together with Lucy.
The following Q&A discussion with Stitch Hub’s Co-Founders, further contextualizes their understanding of their chronic illness support system, whilst highlighting their plans for the future
In April 2018, what does Stitch Hub mean to its users? How has this changed from your original concept last year during your fourth year of BCII?
The goal of Stitch Hub has always been to help those living with chronic illnesses. In 2017, we wanted to be everything to everyone who had a chronic illness. We wanted to create support resources, offer supply management and tracking, provide a HCP booking system and facilitate social networking. But through intensive user testing and prototyping we came to realise that by tackling so much, we were affecting not much at all. Now, in April 2018, Stitch Hub offers all manner of support resources to its users. We provide users with a one-stop shop for curated, personalised support resources. We partner with charities, non profits, product manufacturers and health care providers to make sure our services are best in class. To its users, Stitch Hub means support made simple.
If you were to gain a million dollars from an angel investor tomorrow… how would you invest it at Stitch Hub?
For starters we’d all quit our part time jobs and pay ourselves a salary, maybe splash out and cover the ridiculous public transport costs that come with not being a student anymore, invest in a hefty stack of post it notes, butchers paper and maybe even a whiteboard marker or two. We’re very comfortable in our co-working space at UTS Hatchery at the moment so I don’t think we’d look to move. We’d save a little for a launch party, to thank all those generous souls who have supported us to-date.
We could accelerate our growth at 50x our current pace! Currently, we’ve struggled to find people able to test our platform, with the inability to offer anything but a premium account upon launch. So we’d devote a significant portion to schedule and execute regular user testing. Our onboarding strategy heavily features paid SEO, social media, and print media so we would heavily invest in the development and execution of these three, as our business only becomes profitable with a significant amount of users. We could further invest in our tech, hire a few more developers to support our current teammate, and give him the opportunity to lead that team. With more funds, we could work in an agile way rapidly develop, test and iterate new functions, and automate systems to take the burden of monotonous and laborious tasks off the co-founders. The most exciting thing for us would be to hire an advisory board, who could test and validate all the content and support resources we’re offering our users. That’s in our 5-year road map, but will bring such value and integrity to the site, that it would be amazing to implement it earlier.
Think about the toughest point in your entrepreneurial journey so far… If you could give one piece of advice to your younger selves or a younger FTDi student in regards to entrepreneurship, what would it be?
"I’ve most struggled with the disconnect between what it means to be successful in the eyes of the older, more traditional generation, and the start up community. I grew tired of people comparing my work situation to every Sally from down the road who works at Deloitte. But at a certain point, you just have to think "good for Sally, great for me". Don’t stress yourself in appearing legitimate or fully put together as a business person. Great ideas have fallen because founders spent too much money on business cards, or developing a fully fledged product before truly testing. Work rapidly and frantically to do the bare minimum for every situation, and develop based on that. Nobody will judge you for not having a beautiful office space or an attractive headshot, in fact it’ll be the opposite. They’ll see the concentration and energy you’re putting into your idea, and they’ll respect you all the more for it." – Eliza Marks, Stitch Hub Co-Founder
"The hardest part initially was the decision to follow an untraditional path, veering away from the ‘leave uni and get a job’ that I’d always imagined for myself. Once we had committed to this and had thrown ourselves into our venture, we realised that owning a company means more than just getting your work done. You’re responsible for managing everything in-between and knowing that other people are relying on you. It has been the most difficult yet rewarding part of this entire process. So a piece of advice if you’re considering an entrepreneurial venture is to find the right people. Find the people who will take a leap of faith with you, take something and run with it and commit to each other and your cause. Being young in the entrepreneurial game doesn’t mean anything other than it’s the perfect time to take risks and give it a shot. The world of entrepreneurship isn’t as scary as it may seem and you’ll discovered an incredibly supportive community where we least expected it." – Lucy Allen, Stitch Hub Co-Founder
"Get in the game early. Don’t let your lack of life experience or work experience stop you from going for opportunities you don’t think you’re qualified for. Rather than waiting for an opportunity, for things to come to you, approach people and ask for what you want. You’ll be surprised by how much you get back from this. And don’t make finance a priority in either your personal or professional life at such a young age. Don’t turn down anything because it’s not enough money, it will pay its dues in experience 9 times out of 10." – Polina Pashkov, Stitch Hub Co-Founder
Now we understand that this is a complex world that we live in, and everything could change in an instant… But, how do you see Stitch Hub in 5 years from now? How will your roles within the company evolve and change? How will your users evolve and change?
We’re trying to disrupt the search engine system - the current crisis is that Google simply offers too many results for even the most specific of searches. So it’d be amazing if, in 5 years, instead of ‘Googling it’ people ‘Stitched it’.
We said before that we learned we couldn’t be everything to everyone… at least not right now. But in 5 years, we hope to have expanded across the 7 most prevalent chronic illnesses in Australia, and be exploring international capabilities in the US and India, as these are the two countries with similar statistics and behavioural patterns to the Australian chronic illness market.
At the moment we work the grunt, we do everything and anything that we can. In 5 years we’ll have a dedicated workforce we’ve built up. We’ll decide on the strategic and operational future of the business, but rely on our employees to execute. As our customers become more wholistically supported, their needs will change. It’s impossible to predict what trends in support will rise - it could be more social groups, more events, more research and clinical trials that they desire. But whatever it is, we’ll be there to provide it.