"When you’re a small business, every pound counts," says Harrison. "That’s why, for many small business owners, Studentgems.com is ideal. If they want a one-off job done, they can use a talented student and pay much less than a temp."
The firm has gone from strength to strength since inception, boating 14,000 registered students and clients ranging from sole traders and private individuals to listed companies and household names. And the site recently attracted angel investment to further its expansion plans.
"We went on the investment trail about a year ago," says Harrison. "We’ve found eight individual angels who bring both funds and expertise to the firm."
Altogether, Studentgems.com has raised a six-figure sum. Two of the investors, Peter Fergusson and Eddie Price, have also joined the internet firm’s board.
“Investing in Studentgems is a great opportunity to invest in a business which is offering an innovative service to help every other small business across the UK," says Price. "At a time when SMEs are struggling through the worst recession for many years it was refreshing to find a way to help make a difference.”
Fergusson says: "The attraction of Studentgems is that it addresses two major needs of our times. Students are desperate for part-time work to help them fund the ever-increasing costs of college. Increasingly they have a range of skills before they start their studies which they are only too willing to use. SMEs are desperate to find people willing to work hard on an assignment, or on a short-term basis. Studentgems is skillfully designed to bring the two together. I am confident that it will quickly become established throughout the UK.”
The Studentgems.com business model works like a dating site. It is free for companies and students to register and upload contracts or profiles but companies must pay to contact the students regarding placements. Prices start at £19.95 for a one-off month membership. "We kept the rates low to encourage small businesses to try us. Once they’ve used the service, they typically come back. We are seeing a lot of repeat business."
Even Studentgems itself is using students’ skills to help it get through the downturn. "We’re about to launch an aggressive marketing strategy," says Harrison. "And we’ll use student talent from the site."