How I started a business at accident

14 May 2024

Undergraduate alumni, Jake Schogger, shares his career journey since graduating with a BA(QD) in Law and Business in 2015.

To be honest, I never intended to start a business.

Prior to joining WBS back in 2011, I had been a full-time musician for years, having slacked off my original university place in 2008. Ultimately, we had little success and made even less money, so when our singer called it quits, we (reluctantly) accepted that we would never be playing stadiums in front of adoring fans across the world.

I then took the natural step from drummer to Law & Business student at Warwick, where I opted for a four year degree to put off real life for as long as possible.

I threw myself into running societies, managing a 5-a-side team, playing in jazz bands, and – towards the end of my degree – exploring an idea for a side hustle. And I now know that all of these experiences set me up fantastically well for running a business (but more on that later).

Stumbling across a gap in the market

At university, I had attended dozens of open days, participated in countless interviews and case studies, and was lucky enough to have secured six internship offers from City firms. I took detailed notes throughout all the workshops I attended, and carried out further research into all of the topics that came up during my interviews, which left me with hundreds of pages of insights and definitions by my final year. To say I “overprepared” would be an understatement, but as a “mature” student, I was terrified of leaving university without a job.

At this point, I started running a mentoring scheme where myself and others with City job offers provided free one-on-one application and interview support to other students during weekly employability clinics, and it was this that ended up giving me a first-hand insight into students’ key concerns.

I decided to collate my notes into one document, worked a little on the structure, pleaded with firms for sponsorship funds so that I could print hardcopies, then distributed these “books" for free to members of a society I had co-founded. Within a few weeks, nearly 400 copies had been snapped up! Based on the feedback I received, I quickly realised there was a gap in the market for interview-specific commercial awareness and employability advice. And so, my publishing company was born.

I subsequently spent a great deal of time spamming Facebook groups, setting up partnerships with societies at other universities, and figuring out how to actually price, sell and distribute the products, all while developing books focused on law, banking, consulting, and the recruitment process more generally.

My journey to solopreneurship

After leaving Warwick, I completed the Legal Practice Course and then a training contract at international City firm Freshfields, whilst working late nights and weekends to keep the publishing company going. With this constant comparison between running my own thing, and being at the bottom of a corporate hierarchy, I quickly realised that City law – and employment more generally! – wasn’t for me (here’s why). I stuck with it until I qualified as a lawyer, then quit to focus on doing my own thing.

The key skills I developed at Warwick that helped me along the way

Pretty much all these roles came through networking, a skill that I had used constantly as a musician trying to break into the industry, at university whilst meeting potential employers and running societies, and in the early days of learning how to build and market a publishing business from scratch (if networking terrifies you, give this a quick read). In fact, I still work closely with people who I studied alongside at Warwick. I also met my wife on my course, but she refuses to work with me.

Whilst we’re on the topic of skills: in hindsight, my experiences of running university societies enabled me to develop a foundation of pretty much all the key skills I needed to run a business, from branding, marketing and project management, to negotiating funding, running events, and recruiting juniors (see here for a more detailed insight).  Similarly, City careers enable you to develop a whole host of transferable skills, so try to ignore any preconceptions that lawyers can only be lawyers, and so on (see here for my take on the non-legal skills lawyers often develop).

The impact of lockdown

During the pandemic, I started developing and delivering virtual events to support students who could no longer attend in-person events or access my physical books. I recorded these events at the time, and wanted to make the content available on demand. Ultimately, this is where the idea of online courses was born.

I realised that by building online courses, I could take the content from my books to a whole new level, bringing through supplementing the text with videos, quizzes, animations, downloadable PDFs and more.  By bringing everything online, this also meant people could access the content instantly, including international students (who often had to wait weeks and pay a small fortune in delivery fees).

I really enjoyed this process, and have since spent – literally – thousands of hours learning how to use the tech, developing new courses, bringing in expert speakers, animating lessons, and building a community of thousands of aspiring lawyers across various social platforms.

You can also visit my platform and blog to find out more and connect with me via LinkedIn!

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