Interview with Fifi Kara- Co-Founder of the Hulah App & Director of Model Westminister

1. Where do you work and what is your position?

I am the co-founder at of Yonder travel and I currently work at the Unite Accelerator in Shoreditch.

2. How did you decide to pursue the career you’re working in- was there a pivotal moment where you recognised this was what you wanted to do?

I dropped out of university when I was 18 and was forced to do something different. I came up with some different. I ended up getting a traditional job working at National Citizen Service which I found very unfulfilling at the time and that led me to creating my organisation which is called Model Westminster. That basically started a journey of entrepreneurship where I really enjoyed working for myself and created control for a business and the ability to come up with ideas myself. I slowly but surely moved away from the traditional career route. I knew once I had graduated from LSE I would end up doing something different and working on Model Westminster.

3. How did you go from Model Westminster to what you’re up to now?
For me, moving away from Model Westminster was the 2015 election. I’ve always been interested in politics and the movement of political literacy. But, after the 2015 election I drifted away, thinking that some of the issues that government has are almost bigger than political literacy and are somewhat engrained. I did start to think that people. And my generation could affect more change-or the same amount of change in whatever area they wanted to, through business or through social business.  Although I knew that government was one of the best agencies to make global change, if you have a democratic system, it doesn’t mean it always works out very well. I started to think how can we solve problems, whether they be consumer problems, social problems, or environmental problems – how can we use business methodology to solve that? That’s why I moved away from government,

The second reason as to why I moved away from politics into travel, was because going off of Model Westminster, I wanted to do something incredibly different. I wanted to try a profit making entity, I knew it would be a challenge, I knew it would be more difficult. If you go into politics, you kind of know where you’re heading. It’s kind of like a ladder system where as this was very different.  Why travel? Whilst I was studying at LSE I ended up doing a lot more travelling, seeing different places, getting out of this London bubble and we have great system and transport, it’s incredibly beautiful, very diverse and we can do what we want. We live in a big city and have a lot more opportunities. I realised there’s a lot more to see and a lot more going on across the rest of the world. Maybe London isn’t the greatest city on earth, but it is incredible! There’s immense value in travel, it’s changing my opinion every single day and every time I go away. I wanted other people to see more of the world, more efficiently and flexibly. It just so happened going into the travel industry, makes you travel more.

4. Take me through a typical day of what you do?

I am currently on the Ignite Accelerator, so we work Monday- Friday 10am-4pm built is completely up to you. Some days we have organised talks and workshops. So I will take you through today. So 10am we had a session with an investment from a company called North Star, a northern UK equity fund and he headed up the section called proof of concept. All of the companies in ignite had 20 minute sessions. We talked about Yonder and he gave some feedback and discussed best practice for investment. That was the morning. After that, we met up with the organisers of the Nike programme, who run the programme for London and updated them on the progress for the Week. We told them or progress on the week and what we’ll focus on next week. Each week we try to each achieve a KPI. At Yonder it’s the amount of searches people do. We have to try different things to meet that KPI. We might try Facebook advertising on Monday, then come up with a plan to create a list of Youtubers who specialise in travel.  Wednesday, you’d draft an email, create a poster to send to all the youtubers. Thursday, you may do customer feedback, contacting people who already use Yonder just to iterate the service. It’s completely varied and is dependent on the KPI. It’s also dependent on what the session ends up to us. A lot of them can be things we don’t expect to anticipate doing it. Apart from tech- we have someone dedicated to that. As a start-up you do marketing, you do customer development, you do accounting, tax and the legal. You get to do it all.

5. What would you say are one of your challenges to getting where you are?
It being a risk was a major challenge, it’s a risk and it doesn’t always go your way. If you want to be an entrepreneur. You have to sacrifice things. Your savings, your time, you have to be able to get your qualifications somewhere else. You are working on something you haven’t validated yet, with millions of pounds and revenue. It’s such a risk. Every day you have to wake up and go ‘this is a good idea’. I think it’s going to work. I’m not just going to go and get the salary. One of the biggest challenges is having to prove it to yourself every day and in turn prove it to everyone else. But it is the best risk to take during this time of your life.

6. Biggest achievements to date:
Not doing the status quo when it comes to career trajectories. If I could go back, I might consider going to university, I don’t know how valuable it was. My biggest achievement is having concerns and actioning them. So, one of my biggest ones was leaving university the first time because I didn’t like the course the first time around. Setting ups something because the UK needed a programme like that. Having these ideas that bounce around your head, which everyone does but not everyone actions them. Taking the risk and actually doing it. I really hope that doesn’t go away.

7. Has there been a low point in your journey and how did you overcome it?
A typical thing in the start-up world is having big peaks and really low troughs. Which are much worse, because you still need to reach KPIs and proving things to people. Last week, we were realising we were not solving a problem. It’s hard to sell something that people don’t actually need. So we have had to pivot the business, which is hard as it’s been a year in practise. We are still going through that and it is difficult.

An actual real low point, might be not having any money. Having no sense of security- ever. I haven’t saved a penny. You’re trying to get something bigger in the end but that can make the day to day difficult. You definitely have to keep trying. Another low point will hit yourself in the face anytime soon.  A proper low point is having crazy anxiety at university, with public speaking which contributed to me leaving university. A lot of people have university anxiety or develop it there.

8. What advice would you give to your younger self and other people in your position?
You don’t need to have a perfect solution or a perfect idea or the perfect business model that makes a ton of money. That’s not a good way to start. For those wanting to go to entrepreneurship, identify a problem. Do note expect to have a final solution for that. Expect to iterate. Start with the problem generation, then coming up with variants of solutions and  seeing what sticks. Instead of coming up with the perfect solution and putting it out to the world and then not getting the job. Do the bare minimum, order the product, sell it to people close to you. Then iterate iterate iterate.

With everything, you should never not try something. Always try and give yourself time limits. Periods of time where you test something out. Give it a go. If you’re at a cross roads. Don’t treat what you’re trying as something with huge expectations. Just think ‘let me try this for a couple of months’. Even if it for a short amount of time. Try it, take up part time work, you’ll be able to work out whether you like it. Give it a little test for a set period of time.

Don’t be afraid to. You’d be surprised at how generous people are. How many people back you, rather than your idea. You don‘t get if you don’t ask. Be more open to asking. We started off by trying out competitions. We didn’t think we fit the criteria for this to work but learnt that if you think it’s a good idea, get on and try it out.

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