10 years of Save the Student (From dorm to yacht)
Strap yourself in. We're going back to Tuesday 27th November 2007.
It was in a cold, damp Manchester dorm room that I took the bold leap to splash out $7.19 (around £5.70) on the domain name savethestudent.org.
I was very excited, but slightly anxious about Halifax ripping me off on the £GBP – $USD conversion. Those pennies matter when you're a first-year student approaching the end of your first term.
Luckily, I didn't have to spend any more having secured free website hosting for a year through a friend. And I'd been web developing since 12 years old.
The first version of Save the Student was up within a week. I was driven by pure excitement to share with the world my money-saving tactics and experiences as a new university student.
Then I just started writing. Nothing was really any good, but as I tell new bloggers today, the most important thing is to START. And then try hard to stick with it, consistently posting something once a week.
But you must also ENJOY what you are writing about...
I also started a website reviewing mobility scooters (still live). It made good money from banner clicks, but it was incredibly dull! It's not what I'm passionate about (...yet).
Save the Student made zero money for many years, but I really loved writing and building it. I was my audience, playing my game.
In 2010, I finally had my first advertiser – moneysupermarket.com – approach me. I was soon to graduate, so realising STS had legs to pay the bills, I gave myself a year to build it into a proper business.
I landed a place in a Manchester incubator for startups, and convinced my best mate Jake Butler to leave his recruitment job and join me.
We built a great team of student writers and ramped things up to drive traffic. The first year in business was a success!
It all started to mean even more. Students really did need saving. I was invited to write for mainstream press and even appeared on BBC News.
In 2013, Jake and I had the opportunity to go to Sydney, Australia. We ended up staying for two years, still working on STS from my one-bed flat on Bondi Beach.
We worked late to cross over with the UK working day and kept our 0161 phone number (using VOIP) so advertisers and partners didn't think we'd abandoned the site.
In fact, with fewer daily distractions, we got more work done in Australia than ever!
But I should say, we had a brilliant team of remote writers and freelancers back in the UK which made it much easier to keep growing.
We returned to the UK in 2015, this time setting up camp in London. In looking for a flat, I randomly came across a boat for sale on Rightmove.
Docked near Canary Wharf, it was advertised as a houseboat that was being used as a Forex trading centre.
The boat was on three levels, spacious and light. Perfect for a brilliant and unique office, and amazingly at a fraction of the cost of renting a hipster exposed-brick office in Shoreditch. Done deal!
We renovated the boat (with splashes of our famous purple) and brought a great new team on board.
As I write this freestyle, I'm well aware it's been a bit of a self-indulgent journey of nostalgia (I guess that comes back to how I started the blog in 2007).
But the 10-year growth of Save the Student – from writing/talking to myself to serving almost three million monthly visits – is all down to incredible people who have supported me so much.
I really want to say a MASSIVE thanks to anyone and everyone who has contributed to the website in some way, but especially Jake who has been the ultimate sidekick for seven years now.
And of course thank YOU to the students who have given us their time and trust in choosing to come to our humble, overly-purple website.
Save the Student exists to support students throughout university, by educating and sharing practical advice on how to keep financially afloat.
We would not exist in the same way if personal finance was taught properly at school, or if the cost of university was not increasingly passed onto young people simply looking to better themselves through education.
No student should have to drop out or be put off applying to university, due to a lack of money.
As an organisation, we will continue to campaign on behalf of students whilst filling in the gaps (and hopefully student bank accounts!).
Here's to the next decade...
P.S. Want to come along for the ride? We’re recruiting!