Q&A with Makaela Richardson, Founder, Free The FresherLast Updated: December 3, 2017
Makaela Richardson launched her business Free The Fresher while still at university and has managed to grow a business with a 10,000-strong customer base within a year. Although her learning curve has been steep, she has retained an upbeat outlook and emphasises that new young entrepreneurs don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everyone.
Makaela Richardson tapped into her own experiences as a cash-strapped university student when she founded Free The Fresher, one of the UK’s most successful fledgling businesses.
“Don’t stress, it’s going to be fine!” And you don’t have to say yes to everyone.
The London-based business studies graduate spent her university summer breaks working in an HR department and in waitressing to raise the £6,000 that she used to get her business off the ground in 2016.
Now, Makaela Richardson is employing no fewer than five staff, and her Free The Fresher business has a turnover forecast for 2018 of some £2.5m.
Free The Fresher is a means of providing students with all of the things they need for university, at an affordable price. For instance, the Freshers starter pack, costing £50, includes kitchen equipment (pot, pan, cutlery, cutting knife & board, spatula, mixing spoon, cheese grater, plates, cups, mugs, shot glasses, measuring cups, hangover kit, dish cloth); bedding & personal accessories (duvet , pillows, sheets, toilet paper, pins, towels, and a gym bag; and university stationery (including card deck, pens, pencils, highlighters, notepads, binders, and a planner).
These boxes are delivered free, and there are also seasonal packs for Christmas and summer. In a short space of time, Makaela Richardson and her team have grown a 10,000-strong customer base, which is about 20% of the UK market. Free The Fresher works with a stable of quality brands, including Co-op, Amazon, Nando’s, Topshop, Boohoo.com, H&M, SportsDirect.com, Railcard, Poundland, Sweaty Bettery, Ted Baker, Go Ape, Lenovo and Domino’s.
12 Questions for Makaela Richardson, Founder, Free The Fresher
Makaela Richardson is working steadily towards the next big milestone of capturing 50% of the UK student market. However, she cleared some time in her busy schedule to talk to AGENT about the story of her business, and to pass on what she has learnt in her early stage entrepreneur career.
1. Briefly tell us about your business and your business goals.
Free The Fresher is a subscription-based service, whereby we supply students with everything they need for university for a one-time fee of £50. We currently hold 20% of the UK student market, so a goal would be to hold 50% in the next year.
2. What age were you when you realised you wanted to run your own business?
I never really planned on having my own business but I’ve always followed my gut. So, when I had this idea, I did my research and pursued it.
3. Who are your business icons and inspirations?
Oprah Winfrey is my business icon. I love her story, her ideologies and everything that she stands for, and the positive impact she’s had on so many lives.
4. What has been your biggest challenge in business, and how did you surmount it?
My biggest challenge has been running my business. Everything was extremely new to me. My membership was, and still is, growing quickly, so I had to get organized and grow up extremely quickly. Luckily, I had a very supportive family and great people around to help.
5. What gives you the most satisfaction in business?
Happy customers by far. It means so much to me to know that I’m saving thousands of students money, and they are happy with my supplies and service.
6. Work-Life balance: is it possible? How do you achieve it?
Nope. Ideally, you should have a balanced work and social life, but I haven’t quite achieved that yet. Free The Fresher monopolises my life, but I enjoy it, so it doesn’t bother me.
7. What is the first thing you do every day?
Check my email and all my social medias.
8. What screen saver picture is currently on your phone?
Horseshoe Bay Beach, Bermuda.
9. What is the most important app on your mobile phone, and why?
Linkedin. It’s basically like business Facebook, and I love it.
10. What is the last thing you Googled?
“what’s Obamas net worth”
11. What item do you never leave the house without, and why?
My phone. It’s my life line!
12. What advice would you give to your younger self starting out in business?
Don’t stress, it’s going to be fine. And you don’t have to say yes to everyone.