Two very different jobs led Samantha Halliday to start her own business, Technology Sam, which helps elderly and disabled people make the most of technology. She tells BQ about setting up her own business and entering the If We Can You Can competition.
What did you do before setting up your business?
Before starting Technology Sam I worked for a big tech company as a hybrid engineer in one of their local stores, covering everything from software fixes to hardware fixes. I was also a P.A for clients with Down syndrome for number of years. It really was a combination of these two jobs that give me the passion and the drive to set up Technology Sam.
What inspired you to set up your business?
Working as a hybrid engineer was a big factor and inspiration. Many of the customers that came into the store to get help were elderly or less able and just wanted help with some simple things. They just wanted to know how to stay in contact with their family, how to use their phones in case of emergencies and quite a lot of people were interested in the health application side of technology, and how they could use it to stay on top of their medication and fitness. A lot of the clients that came in struggled to get to the location as many of the big technology companies are only in big cities.
Seeing what a big difference it made helping these customers learn just some simple tech made me want to reach even more people that needed help, those people who couldn’t reach the stores and suffered a lot from social isolation.
What makes this business different?
What makes us different is we tailor our support and learning to each individual. We realise that everyone learns at different paces and in different ways, so we have made all our programs customisable to suit each clients needs. We also offer this service directly to the client’s door, making it accessible for everyone. The elderly and less able are the most underserved demographic when it comes to technology and service, we are looking to bridge this gap and serve this demographic. We want to use our support service and technology to engage them with the wider community, increase social inclusion and reduce social isolation. We provide this service both in the community with classes over coffee mornings, drop in sessions and direct to their door, so the clients who can’t travel are not neglected.
The programs we offer are all integrated together and built towards creating a community, so once the lessons are over the support continues. We are building a friendly community that can reach even the most remote people so we can help get people suffering from loneliness. Helping them communicate with family and connect with each other. One million people over 65+ always or often feel lonely; we want to help reduce that statistic with our programs.
What inspired you to enter the If We Can You Can Challenge?
My partner attended the event couple of years ago at the Baltic and I saw what a great event and community it was. So as soon as I had my business up and running I applied as soon as I could. I feel it’s a great community to get your business out there too and to meet some amazing likeminded people
Where do you see your business in three years’ time?
We hope in three years’ time to have expanded throughout the North East and across the UK. We are looking to take on a big team creating jobs across the country so we will have employees all over the UK providing community lessons and door to door services. Expanding the Technology Sam community and connecting even more people who are lonely and suffering from social isolation.
We also have recently set up a creative side to the company getting children with learning difficulties and Down syndrome into the creative side of technology. We are looking to provide them with the equipment that they normally wouldn’t have access too. We will provide tailored lessons on short filmmaking, animation and eventually music creation so students can tell their stories and express themselves through technology and different types of media. We hope that this could result in an annual film and music festival where the students can showcase their work meet other students and integrate with the community.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?
The most rewarding part of our journey so far has been seeing the difference our programs have made to the lives of our customers.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge we have struggled with is getting out there to the elderly and isolated community, creating connections within the community. It’s not just as easy as posting online or advertising on Facebook as the community we are trying to reach doesn’t just pop online and stumble across us. Its all been about going out into the community to as many places as possible to get ourselves out there.
Who/what gave you support or advice?
The beginning of our journey started at the enterprise place within the University of Sunderland. We have since then been accepted onto the Natwest Entrepreneurial Spark program.
What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own business?
Keep at it, if you have an idea and a passion, don’t let anything stop you. Sometimes it can be hard and giving up is tempting but if you keep going and trying you will always find someone out there that will love your business as much as you do and someone that it can really help.