Profile Blogs: Kay Kukoyi’s Story
Kay Kukoyi CSM FITOL is a Software Delivery Specialist, global tech startup mentor, author, speaker, and lecturer.
She has written 5 books for entrepreneurs and SMEs, including the Amazon international bestseller, Don’t Hire a Software Developer Until You Read this Book, and has been recognised on the #IB100, the Financial Times and Inclusive Boards list of the 100 Most Influential BAME Leaders in the UK Technology Sector.
Kay is the CEO and Founder of Purposeful Group, which encompasses several brands that support and empower thousands of entrepreneurs around the world through books, mentoring, masterclass workshops, programmes and on and offline startup communities, including Tech Startup Academy™, a global community and centre for learning that supports tech startup founders creating software from scratch to help them start and grow their businesses, and Freelancer Academy™ for freelancers, coaches and consultants starting online businesses. She mentors and supports entrepreneurs through a number of startup accelerators and enterprise hubs, and has worked with clients including Sky News, Barclays Bank, The Prince’s Trust, The British Library, and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur and start your own business?
I had always wanted to start my own business, even when I was at university. I felt like it would be some sort of ultimate test that I would one day want to experience. At that point, I had no idea what business was about, or what sort of business I might want to start though!
In my first year of work post-uni I went to Saturday classes at a local college on how to start a business. It was run by an accountant, and it was a good first introduction, although it showed running a business more from a numbers point of view, because of the teacher’s profession. Understanding how to balance the books is of course very important, but there are so many other aspects to consider too.
Entrepreneurship was always lurking in the back of my mind. Some years ago I became self-employed, and was hired by corporate companies as an IT Consultant to work on large-scale tech projects for them. By that time I already had several side-hustle businesses I was running alongside my “day job.”
What has been the highlight of your journey?
I love working with early stage founders, so there are highlights all the time. I get to meet some great people — intelligent, resourceful, and inspiring, and we’re able to point them in the right direction, give them the right information, and get them up and running more quickly, by giving them steps to follow, and showing them how to get started in ways that are more time and cost effective and reduce their risk.
I sadly come across a lot of horror stories — creating a business is tough already, then we add technology into the mix, which complicates matters further. As a result, it’s unfortunate that a lot of unnecessary and avoidable mistakes are made.
It’s my mission to intervene early to prevent some of these missteps and misadventures before they cost the founder too dearly. Through Tech Startup Academy™ we help them start their tech business the smart way, understanding the major do’s and don’ts so they can progress quickly without too much difficulty or stress.
I’m currently delivering a 12-week programme for OneTech’s Talent Incubator, which is powered by us at Purposeful Group.
We have 34 superb students on the programme learning a range of skills which will empower them to start their own businesses, and will increase their value to businesses through workshops and assignments designed to teach them a range of practical skills. This has been incredibly rewarding — the students are giving us great feedback, and telling us they are learning so much and they are expanding their beliefs about what is possible and what opportunities are open to them.
The entire group just finished an assignment I designed for them, in which they set up a business in the space of a week!
Other highlights are having 5 books which have been read by thousands of founders and entrepreneurs around the world, 4 of which have been Amazon bestsellers in 8 countries, and being recognised by the Financial Times and Inclusive Boards as one of the 100 most influential BAME leaders in the UK tech sector last year.
What challenges have you faced in starting your venture? How have you overcome them?
I don’t have a cofounder and when you are starting out, having to do everything yourself can be tough. If you never slept, and worked 24/7, you might just get around to doing all the things you want to do! That’s certainly how it feels sometimes.
I got mildly obsessed by productivity techniques a few years back — that and a love of tech companies and tech products led to me writing my 4th book Entrepreneurial Espresso, where I shared a lot of what I had been exploring — different time management techniques, productivity tools, different work cycles and routines and even productivity music, along with great software for entrepreneurs to use across their entire business for free, or at a very low cost.
I now have a system that works well, I get a lot done, and I can put myself into a flow state where I am able to do my best work very quickly using a combination of all the techniques I’ve just mentioned. They’re my “not so secret weapons” as I run workshops that teach founders how they can do this themselves!
What top tips would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start their journey?
First of all — start! There are those who overthink to the point of not taking action through fear of failure. Consider that you have already failed if you never begin, because fear has won, and prevented you from evolving and learning…
You cannot avoid risk, business is inherently risky — but you can manage it by taking one step at a time, and reflecting as you move through each stage of getting your business off the ground.
How have you had to adapt to the current COVID Climate?
From March, our in-person masterclasses and 12-week programmes for tech founders came to an abrupt end.
My community for entrepreneurs, technologists and investors used to meet in a pub in central London every 4–6 weeks. That came to a stop too.
We moved online pretty rapidly and have been using Zoom and other tools to run our masterclasses, and to mentor tech startup and freelancer clients one-to-one.
It has given us far more flexibility and we’re able to work more efficiently using the current processes, and we’ve also moved our physical get togethers online now too.
If you could change one thing by tomorrow, what would it be?
In the world? Or in my business?!
I would most certainly banish COVID-19, and all the -isms right away!
If we are talking about within my business, then I would wake up tomorrow with some of the more complex marketing strategies that I am working on all in place, and running like clockwork. That would be a happy scenario to wake up to!
I’m all about strategic work — allocating time to thinking and planning, as opposed to being busy without a bigger picture plan that links all your activities together in a way that amplifies the effect.
I think every 6–9 months it’s great to reflect on what you’re doing and to give it all an upgrade to get these regular quantum leaps, where you really step up your ways of thinking and working. I’m in the middle of one right now which is quite exciting, and it’s now all about executing and refining those plans to get all the elements working as effectively as possible.