Alex Kostyakov is a recent graduate from Manchester Metropolitan University, throughout his time at MMU Alex was enrolled within the ICE Programme. The programme is accredited by the IOEE and gives students the knowledge to become a confident entrepreneur and potential business owner. Alex whilst at University started his own business called Flyr Artists and at one point gaining a £30,00 investment in the company. Flyr Artists gives promoters and venues the ability to book DJ’s directly and at a moments notice, they act as an agent, handling cash, riders, contracts and tech specs for less than half of a usual agents fee.
Alex was born in West Yorkshire and grew up within the care system, money was not something which came freely. Alex would often find himself doing work to make money on the side, from cleaning cars to selling bottled water on hot days, his brother always said to him he would be an entrepreneur one day.
Highschool was a tough period for Alex both in and out of school, finding himself heading down the wrong path in life. After scraping through college Alex wasn’t sure what he wanted from life but through an excellent family support network he found himself applying for a foundation degree at University. Attending MMU enabled Alex to turn his life around, giving him the independence needed but also the self obedience needed to succeed in life, he is now looking at a guaranteed 2:1 and potentially even a 1st when graduating this summer!
We asked Alex what it was he believed being involved in the ICE Programme gave him and how this in turn assisted him in taking his business forward. “Coming into ICE, I think I was a bit of a know-it-all, almost cocky student start up entrepreneur. What ICE really did for me was make me take a step back and realise that there are so many invaluable tools out there, and that arrogance can be an enterprising person’s worst enemy. Of course, I think that confidence is essential for any person wanting to make a go of their own business, both in terms of taking the plunge, managing a team and being the face of a company, but when you do this, it is easy to get carried away. Being one of the few students doing this kind of thing around me, I feel it started to go to my head somewhat.
Going into ICE showed me that there is ALWAYS an opportunity for learning, whether it is new models, or guest speakers, having the willingness to learn is something that I think even the biggest CEO’s could do with doing more and is something I will take with me in my entrepreneurial journey forever.
So what was Alex’s favourite parts from being enrolled in the ICE Programme and what did he find particularly useful? Alex said “It’s actually a bit funny, because in our first assignment of the year, we had to come up with two business ideas and generate a creative proposal for each. The key point being they couldn’t be pre-existing business such as mine. At first I was a bit annoyed by this, as I thought, why not be able to do it on my own business (Flyr Artists) as it would really help me. However, after a while, it was really nice playing around with a new business idea, and remembering the fun things about being an entrepreneur, and thinking about making the impossible, possible. The huge ideas and ambitions that I have since found can get bogged down by monthly targets, keeping the invoices in order and general labour of actually trying to get a company off the ground. The design, the creativeness, the endless opportunities is what entrepreneurs really want to talk and think about and the first coursework really allowed me to fall in love with being an innovator again.”
What difficulties did you face when initially setting up your business? “I mean where do you start? I think that anyone who hasn’t run a business really assumes that it will be super easy. Think of an idea, pay someone to build it, and millions of students will download it overnight. Oh the naivety, it’s almost cute thinking about me three years ago. I think most young entrepreneurs will say getting the capital to start their business is the hardest thing, and that’s natural because they want an office, a team, contractors and all the rest of it. But really, the hardest thing is getting customers, and then getting them to actually pay for your services. The amount of times i heard ‘yes i would definitely pay for that’ whilst doing my market research gave me a false sense of confidence in the product and that’s probably why we have had to pivot our idea to three different products / companies since we started.
Finding a team is also hard. I’m lucky now, that we have a tech team that medium size creative agencies could only dream of. I didn’t need a fancy office to attract the best talent, I just had to patient and give enough people a decent chance to prove themselves. Create a culture of learning and understanding and depressurisation, so that working on the project remains fun and exciting, we really are trying to change the music industry. I think having a central goal as big as that, that people can rally around is one of the most important things.” Now that Alex is graduating University he is leaving what many believe to be the safe business incubation space that University provides. This has the potential to cause issues for Alex and his team as the business will have to scale quickly in order to fund himself and the team continuing to work on it, this is as a pose to working on evening and weekends as has to been doing throughout University life.
Alex had this to say on the continued growth of Flyr “The thing is, going in our favour, is that we have proved people use the product, and they will pay for it. There is an old saying that if one person will pay for your product, so will 100, and then 1000, and then so on. You just have to get it to them.
So we are really focusing now, on getting ready for our big ‘out of Beta’ launch in September which we hope to be the next big chapter in the company’s life. We are also in talks with a couple of investors who are showing interest in helping us to fund the next stage of the company, so its both an extremely frightening, but exciting time. All I want, is to get the whole team working on the project full time. I think if we can get that, we can really go about changing the music industry.” As an IOEE Member Alex also has access to a vast array of business information and templates, as well as best practise material and the potential to receive mentoring support, giving Alex every opportunity to make Flyr Artists successful.