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Sheffield helps build Remember the Date enterprise

After reaching the finals in the University of Sheffield Enterprise Award, and being shortlisted for the Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce ‘Most Promising Business Award’ , a young graduate in Economics from the University of Sheffield is now running a succesful online business. Remember the Date is the Sheffield business that will help you remember those important occasions.

At just 23 years old, Lauren Nicholson is running her own online business which she started from scratch in March this year.

Remember the Date is a website which allows customers to set up a schedule to remind them about important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries up to a year in advance, and to create and send greetings cards and video messages.

I went to meet the enterprising young entrepreneur to find out more.

Lauren Nicholson of Remember the Date

Lauren Nicholson of Remember the Date

Lauren, who hails from Sheffield, has a degree in Economics from the University of Sheffield and had planned to become an investment banker after graduating. However, after a couple of summers of work experience whilst at university, she decided banking was not the industry for her. She told me:

I realised I didn’t want to do a graduate programme, especially for a big company, it just didn’t resonate with me.

Lauren explained that she came up with the idea of setting up her own business in her last year of university, when she took the opportunity to get involved in several enterprise events. These included the Sheffield Graduate Award, which has a category called Skill Build.

After taking part in the six-week programme, which included sessions on how to write a business plan, accountancy, and legal advice for businesses, Lauren participated in the Social Innovation Lab, where students create and develop a social enterprise idea and ultimately pitch it to a panel. She said of the university’s enterprise department “there were different challenges and things to get involved with, and everyone is really nice there”.

Lauren sought advice from the university’s Business Advice Officer, Janet Grant, who she said provided invaluable support. Her initial idea was for a healthy fast food company, but it proved too costly to take this forward, partly because of a lack of suitable retail units in the city centre.

While attending Sheffield’s MADE Entrepreneur Festival in 2012, Lauren met a representative from the Prince’s Trust.  She explained that the charity have provided significant support in setting up Remember the Date, in the form of a loan, a grant and access to a mentor “who has been absolutely fantastic”.

Lauren explained that she has worked with other local Sheffield businesses, and her printers are in Rotherham. She said:

Remember the Date has been built by Sheffield, which is exciting. People said ‘Why not do it in London?’, but I thought ‘Why not in Sheffield?’

In launching the business, Lauren has also had a lot of support from the local press and radio, including a slot on Sheffield Live, who she said has been fantastic.

I asked Lauren how the idea for Remember the Date came about, and she explained that she is one of four friends with birthdays in the last ten days of October, and one year the first friend forgot all three birthdays after her own.

I thought, that’s not possible! My friend got a lot of stick!

From this amusing episode, Lauren came up with idea of a website that schedules cards for the year and reminds you to send them.

Lauren set about researching the greetings card industry, including competitors such as Moonpig and Funky Pigeon. She also conducted focus groups and online surveys, and used Sheffield Forum to ask people to fill in questionnaires, from which she had a good response. And so Remember the Date was born.

As well as allowing the customer to create cards, Remember the Date has developed further with software called Memory Box which allows you to upload a video for your recipient to access online. Lauren said this allows ‘the ultimate personalisation’.

Memory Box makes Remember the Date different because you get ‘something you can keep forever’. It is very easy to use because there is no app to download. The greetings cards have a code which you scan, or a web link to type in, printed inside the card, and these take you straight to your video. Lauren said:

I didn’t want an app as it’s a barrier to using the site. I wanted to make it as seamless as possible.

I asked Lauren about the design and branding of the website.

I worked with an amazing company called Side by Side, based near the Wicker, and they are fantastic at coming up with out-there ideas. I was really excited and it blew my mind what they did.

Part of the branding of the website involves four characters, who ‘run’ the company. Lauren explained that Side by Side have designed the cards as well, after she struggled to find designers who fully understood the brand. She said that some of the cards ‘are a bit out there and random and because they are so different people really like them.’ The total cost is £3.49, which includes the card, postage and Memory Box.

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Sustainability is a key consideration for Lauren, and the printers use FSC mixed-resource card. She wants the cards to be printed using vegetable ink in the future, but doesn’t have the quantity yet to do that. However she said:

All our cards are carbon-neutrally printed so they don’t have an impact on the environment.

Lauren wants to acknowledge the support she has had, so 5% of Remember the Date’s profit goes to Prince’s Trust. She is a passionate supporter of the charity and said:

What Princes Trust do is amazing, they can take a person and turn their life around.

Lauren’s hard work is already paying off; she was a finalist in the University of Sheffield Enterprise Award and Remember the Date has also been shortlisted for the Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce ‘Most Promising Business Award’.

Lauren ended by telling me that setting up the business has been hard work, but she has no regrets:

If you’ve got an idea and you think it works then go for it!

I certainly felt inspired by her determination, and I have no doubt she will succeed.