Just three years after graduating from Middlesex University Derin Cag launched Richtopia, an online platform that shares insight from professionals on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to gender equality. In its first year the site completely exceeded expectations, receiving over a million visitors and gaining an impressive social media presence. Having recently embarked on his latest project, Marketing Runners, we speak to Derin about some of the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.
What inspired you to set up Richtopia?
It was a combination of a few things. I wanted to provide something that would help people, but I didn’t want it to be hugely academic, so that it was accessible to everyone.
At the same time I was getting tired of expensive platforms because I think that empowering information should be accessible to everyone. So I decided to create a way for this information to be free for everyone and set up Richtopia, an online platform that shares articles written by experts with at least 10,000 hours of experience in that area.
Our aim is to help empower people in business and life with information, on topics from marketing to executive development, and it’s constantly developing.
We work with over 40 contributors worldwide now, who look at different topics that are becoming big social issues, so one of our focuses at the moment is gender equality and female empowerment. A part of that initiative includes a list of the Top 250 Most Powerful Women that I created, which is available on www.PowerfulWomen.co and also interviews with female leaders including Helen Clark , Celia Sawyer, and more. We also do a number of other lists such as the Top 100 British Entrepreneurs, which has been quite popular. Richard Branson reads that one and has even commented about it on his blog.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day is different for me, I don’t have much of a routine. I act as the Editor in Chief of Richtopia, as well as the Founder and CEO, so I generally spend at least three hours a day editing the articles we publish from around 40 contributors that we work with worldwide.
What has been your proudest achievement to date?
I’m proud of our fantastic team, and of the number of people that we help every day.
We regularly get feedback from people telling us how their lives changed after applying the advice that we provided, which goes to show how what we’re doing is making a difference. I like putting smiles on people’s faces, helping them and adding value to the world.
I enjoy working with my business partner Tim Campbell MBE, who also happens to be a Middlesex University graduate. He is a board member at Richtopia as well as being my 50/50 business partner in Marketing Runners, a company we set up last year and which recently got a mention in Harvard Business Review.
What would your advice be to any budding entrepreneurs?
The best piece of advice I could give anyone starting a business is to get a mentor or an advisory board. Having mentors and people to consult on big decisions has given me a great advantage, and I wouldn’t make important decisions completely on my own anymore. I would always ask an expert in the area before making those decisions.
Having someone to speak to, who has over 20 years of experience in the area, can give you advice based on their experience and stop you from making the same mistakes that they might have made in the past.
What do you enjoy most about running your own business?
Being able to do what I want, when I want and how I want. I can choose when I want to work and where from. If you’re not particularly disciplined then that kind of flexibility in work can really come back to bite you, but I love having that freedom.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges at the beginning was with finances, and managing to get things off the ground with a small sum of money and then keep going.
Getting through that period is hugely dependent on having a good business plan. I did a lot of research, knew my market well and drew up a robust business plan with conservative targets.
There are different challenges that you have to deal with every day, and you manage by improvising where you can.
Any secrets to success you’d like to share?
There is no secret to success. I have stayed consistent and persistent. You need to stay strong and keep doing what you do, even when things aren’t going your way.
Equally, if you achieve something great, don’t over-celebrate. You should definitely reward yourself but don’t overdo it or you risk becoming overconfident and then tripping up later, so stay balanced.
What made you want to study at Middlesex?
While I was at college we were taken on a trip to the old Trent Park campus of Middlesex to have a look around and to gain a bit of insight into what University life was like, and I loved it. I hadn’t had any expectations of the day, but when we got there I loved the campus and the facilities and I thought the programs on offer were great. So when it came to choosing from the universities I got accepted to , I chose Middlesex.
Do you feel your time at Middlesex has contributed to where you are now?
Yes, it taught me how to manage talent, which has been useful in working with contributors at Richtopia, along with a number of other skills that have just become engrained in the way that I work and in the ways that I deal with people that I work with.
I’m going to carry on doing what I’m doing, because I’m really happy with where I am at the moment.
Long-term I have some big ambitions but you’ll just have to watch this space for those.