I met Steve Barlett at UnGagged in June 2016. Steve set up his first company while at University and now runs a multi million pound social media company and he is not even 25 years old ! I was impressed by what he had accomplished at such a young age that I wanted to interview him on SEO Jo Blogs.
What motivated you to set up your Wall Park?
I was playing Xbox one day at university in Manchester with my housemate when it dawned on me that this wasn’t exactly the life-affirming experience I had expected it to be. I began thinking about what everyone else might be up to and I wondered how to give students the power of community.
Wallpark basically was a digital notice board where students could share everything; events, gigs, job vacancies etc. It had the ability to transform students university life into something altogether more exciting and varied, as it meant your social compass went from 10 to 100,000.
2. Were you scared to leave that and start Social Chain? And if so, how did you motivate yourself?
When myself and my business partner Dom McGregor decided to start Social Chain it was never like we were giving up on one project and starting another. It was more just like a creative process, we would never have thought up the idea behind Social Chain without Wallpark and so it was just a natural progression.
I’m a self-professed work addict, so lack of motivation isn’t something I generally have to worry about. When I began I had nothing left to lose, so remembering that period of my life is motivation in itself.
I have always been fascinated in the psychology of humans and really understanding the interpersonal dynamics behind social marketing, so for me it seemed obvious that to connect young people to brands required a shift in thinking – this is how Social Chain was born.
3. Who are your role models and do you have a mentor that can help you with some of the tough decisions you need to make?
My role models are Elon Musk and Martin Luther King. Elon Musk’s goal is to try to use his inventions for social good, and this is something that really resonates with me, as I would like to follow a similar path. Martin Luther King is perhaps more of an obvious one, but for me it is because he refused to accept the status quo. He famously said “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase” and for me this is the golden rule of being entrepreneur -you have to truly believe in your vision, otherwise how will anyone else?
Yes, I do have a mentor. His name is Marc Nohr and is the CEO of Fold 7. We talk about almost everything. It is invaluable to have someone to bounce ideas off who has the experience and wisdom to really challenge what I am saying.
4. What three pieces of advice would you give to those people looking to start up their own business?
As I just mentioned, for me the most fundamental thing is a belief in yourself and a passion for your trade. The odds are stacked against you as a startup enterprise anyway and so if the passion isn’t there and you aren’t 100% committed then in my opinion you have failed before you’ve even got it off the ground.
Having said that, great ideas are what provides that spark, but at the end of the day it is the attention to detail that keeps a business afloat. So I would also say keep a watchful eye over the numbers and give yourself complete oversight and transparency over every single element of the business.
Finally I would say, master your craft. Do not go into it with the aim of making money, go into it in the hope that with time, patience and good hard graft you can become an expert in your chosen field. One tip for this is to read more, completely immerse yourself in the industry and consume all the information you can possibly get your hands on. I think ultimately knowledge and proficiency in something will provide a lot more long-term satisfaction than something done for purely financial gains.
5. Looking back at what you have achieved at such a young age, do you believe entrepreneurs are born and not made?
Yes, entrepreneurs can certainly be made. But I do think that some people are just hard wired that way; some people possess that innate need to question everything and not take anything as gospel.
Anyone with a good idea, drive and determination can become an entrepreneur, but I’m not sure I had any choice, it was so deeply ingrained in me that it was always a natural career choice.
6. You have achieved such a lot already, more than many, do you have any further goals you want to achieve (this can be outside of work too).
I want to inspire more young people to not resign themselves to an ordinary life; I’m not saying don’t go to university or anything like that. But I believe you have to forge your own path in life and if that doesn’t quite sit with convention, well then that is probably a good thing.
I also want to try to make a positive impact to the world and to those around me. I want to experience all that life has to offer – We only get one chance to make an impact on this earth, and so why the hell wouldn’t I try?