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Student who sells university starter kits for fellow cash-strapped freshers now makes £2million

An entrepreneur has revealed how she started up a business with a turnover of £2million when she was a penniless student.

Makaela Richardson, then 18, originally from Bermuda, dropped out of her law degree course in Reading to take up business studies at the University of Greenwich in London in 2016.

Struggling with the additional living costs of the capital, she came up with the idea for Free the Fresher, a subscription-based service providing students like her with everything they need for university life, as well as discounts for UK retailers.

Determined to make it work, Makaela moved back to Bermuda during her summer break and worked three jobs, from 9am until midnight – even babysitting on her day off – and ploughed the £6,000 she managed to save into her fledgling business.

Makaela Richardson, then 18, originally from Bermuda, dropped out of her law degree in Reading to take up business studies at the University of Greenwich in London in 2016, where she launched her business

Two years later, Free the Fresher had generated over £2million in revenue and it continues to go from strength to strength, with over a million subscribers.

Speaking to BBC Bitesize, Makaela said it’s just not true that you need a lot of money to start a company. 

‘I started my business with absolutely nothing in my pocket, working three jobs, and then two years later, I generated over £2million in revenue,’ she said, adding that anyone with the right mindset and idea can do the same. 

‘Regardless of where you come from, your economic background or your education or lack thereof, if you have an idea that you want to go for, you can completely do it,’ she said.

Struggling with the additional living costs of the capital, Michaela came up with the idea for Free the Fresher, a subscription-based service providing students like her with everything they need for university life, as well as discounts for UK retailers

Struggling with the additional living costs of the capital, Michaela came up with the idea for Free the Fresher, a subscription-based service providing students like her with everything they need for university life, as well as discounts for UK retailers

‘With the day and age we live in and the access to information and the opportunities, if you have the work ethic, the attitude and the personality, you can do it.’

Free the Fresher is a subscription based service for university students where they pay a monthly fee in return for everything they need for university, along with loads of discounts for loads of brands across the UK, such as Nandos, Amazon, Co-op and ASOS.

Makaela now has offices in London and Manchester and employs around 30 members of staff.

‘Initially when I had my idea, it did feel like it was something unique because it wasn’t really out there,’ she explained.

Makaela now has offices in London and Manchester and employs around 30 members of staff

Makaela now has offices in London and Manchester and employs around 30 members of staff

Her first steps involved conducting research and studying the marketplace. She admitted that failure ‘wasn’t an option’.

‘Because I had made such a big decision to stop studying law, move to London and make life for myself, by myself, I had the mindset that anything I was going to do, I was going to make it work,’ she said.

While at university, Makaela worked part time as a bartender, with all the money she earned going towards her website.

When it first launched she didn’t get any traction because no one knew about her, so she cut off her social life and moved back to Bermuda for the summer to work. 

Makaela highlighted the importance of having supportive, trustworthy friends and family around you. Free the Fresher is now in its fifth year

Makaela highlighted the importance of having supportive, trustworthy friends and family around you. Free the Fresher is now in its fifth year

‘I was working an HR job from 9-4pm, then from 4pm or 5pm until midnight I was waitressing, then bartending, and on my one day off I was babysitting – no life,’ she joked.

‘Even though it was quite hard and it was a bit of a sacrifice, putting all my money in, everything I earned into this, I definitely don’t regret it.

‘It reaped rewards within about three weeks, about 800 people signed up, and that was when I was like, “OK, this is going to work.”‘

This number grew to more than 50,000 at the end of Free the Fresher’s second year and Makaela began seeing profit a year after she came up with the idea, which she described as ‘the most exhilarating feeling ever’.

Free the Fresher is a subscription based service for university students where they pay a monthly fee in return for everything they need for university (pictured), along with loads of discounts for loads of brands across the UK, such as Nandos, Amazon, Co-op and ASOS

Free the Fresher is a subscription based service for university students where they pay a monthly fee in return for everything they need for university (pictured), along with loads of discounts for loads of brands across the UK, such as Nandos, Amazon, Co-op and ASOS

She admitted that running a company while still being a healthy person requires a degree of balance, because her business is like her baby, sapping all her energy and attention.

Makaela highlighted the importance of having supportive, trustworthy friends and family around you. Free the Fresher is now in its fifth year.

The necessities it provides range from stationery and kitchenware to bedding and ‘hangover kits’, delivered directly to students’ doors. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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