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Jamie Shankland: Lessons learned from a Scottish entrepreneur

21st November 2019

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Jamie Shankland runs JustVenue, an online platform that enables people to rent out venues for events or meetings. He uses Starling to manage the business finances. Here are some of the lessons he’s learned as an entrepreneur.

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Look for solutions for problems that touch your own life

If you come across a problem and have searched the internet without finding a solution, chances are you won’t be the only one wishing that a service existed to fix it. As an entrepreneur, you could have hit upon a business idea.

Jamie came up with the idea for JustVenue after struggling to find an alternative space for a party for a friend in a wheelchair. “The day before the party, the venue called to say that the lift was broken and they wouldn’t be able to accommodate us,” he explains. “I had to call so many event planners and it got me thinking about solving this problem in a bigger way.”

Through JustVenue, customers can book a space for a birthday party, photoshoot, music gig, conference - just about anything. You can filter your search by party size, price and city. The service is free to use and operates in more than 1000 venues across the UK.

Alternatively, if you’re a business running a venue, you can list your event or meeting space on JustVenue for people to find. Business owners might also be interested in HeyAgenda, a venue management platform for bookings and invoices, also run by Jamie.

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Look into external funding but choose wisely

He launched JustVenue in 2017 after he won a £50,000 grant from Scottish EDGE, a competition for Scottish entrepreneurs.

Jamie smiles outside of the V&A Museum
Jamie Shankland outside the V&A Museum in Dundee, the city where he runs JustVenue

Based on previous experience, he’s wary of giving too much control to external investors. “The place where I used to work was bought by a venture capitalist - they overworked everyone and stripped the company to its bare bones. When they saw office plants, they got rid of them to save time on someone watering them. They didn’t think we needed a receptionist so they sacked her and incoming calls were sent round the whole office. That’s when I thought, ’I need to get out of here.’”

Jamie would hate to see his staff and company treated unfairly so he’s treading carefully when it comes to external funding.

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Find the right team

He runs JustVenue with a team of four people. But getting to that point hasn’t been easy. “I’ve learned it the hard way,” he says.

Jamie smiles at the port of Dundee
Jamie Shankland at the port of Dundee, photographed by Beth McDougall

When he started JustVenue, the team consisted of himself, a friend and that friend’s mate and sister. Six months in, his friend left. “I lost one person and that meant losing them all,” he says. He worked on the business on his own for a time, before starting to hire a new team. “Utilise your assets without hiring people for the sake of it - stay lean.”

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Break up daily tasks

Not only does Jamie run a full-time start-up, he’s recently become a dad. “It could be overwhelming but when you break everything down into manageable chunks, it’s not so bad,” he says. “You’re always chipping away at your tasks to get over that hill but when you look back to where you were, you'll see that you’re higher now than before.”

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Choose the right bank for your business

Jamie also recommends finding the right tools to help you save time. "Having the likes of Starling for banking allows me to manage my business finances easily."

Jamie showcases his Starling business card
Jamie uses Starling to manage his business and personal finances

“The Starling partnership with the Post Office was a game changer,” he says. In the last few years, many bank branches have closed in and around Dundee. “There are now only branches bang in the city centre and the queues have quadrupled,” he explains.

“With Starling, I can go to any of the local post offices.” There is a high concentration of Post Offices in and around Dundee so the queues are much shorter than at the bank branches.

Jamie stands outside of the Post Office showing off his Starling card
Jamie at the Whitehall Street Post Office, where he can deposit cash for his business

Jamie has been telling all the other founders of businesses he meets to try Starling: “I’ve been actively campaigning and getting people to use Starling. It’s so simple.”

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