Business Monthly: ME AND MY PARTNER - CHARLIE OSMOND AND CAROLINE PLUMB ; Charlie Osmond and Caroline Plumb Met at Oxford University. They Gave Up on the Idea of a Career in Management Consultancy to Start Their Own Company, FreshMinds, Which Uses Graduate `Minds' to Supply Firms with Research Data
Tobias, Emma, The Independent (London, England)
I read engineering, economics and management at Oxford University. It was the summer of 2000, I was approaching the end of my course and my plan was to work in management consulting, where I had already had an offer from McKinsey management consultants.
Charlie and I already knew each other a little because we were studying the same course. He was the entrepreneurial one of us and he suggested we should start a business. Neither of us had a long employment history behind us. As part of the course, we had to undertake a six-month placement in a company. I worked for a company called Fletcher Research, which was bought by Forrester research. It was a very interesting period to work at Fletcher Research and I saw the company's staff grow from 13 people to 26. We sent out an email to people on our course, inviting them for lunch to discuss different ventures. As a result we started a small company, but a couple of months later Charlie and I decided to start something different. At first we had an idea for the fashion industry, but changed our minds when we came up with the concept for FreshMinds.
We both graduated in June 2000 and spent an easy couple of months planning and started trading in September. Today the company has a turnover of pounds 800,000, doubled from last year, and employs 14 staff and 500 Minds.
To start, we asked everyone we knew, including previous employers, what they thought about the idea and asked for sales advice and tips for the business. As a result, some of the people we sought advice from gave us work. Charlie was great at dealing with the legal issues and registering for VAT and companies house. And thanks to his parents, we were able start working by using their back room as an office.
The majority of the business is the project work that is done outside the client's offices. For most companies, we are like a normal research company. They call and tell us what they are looking for and when they need it by. Our project manager will then search our database and find the most appropriate Mind. We have 500 Minds on our database and we will use 20 to 50 Minds in any one month.
Charlie and I tend to split the roles at work. He looks after the sales and marketing side and I look after operations and finance. The benefit of having two people is that by the time you have come to a decision on an idea, it is generally a good one - all the pros and cons have really been thrashed out. If either of us has an idea, we will come back and say "I have had this idea, a bit like this" and the other person will misinterpret it and say "Oh do you mean this?" which turns out to be a better idea. That happens so many times.
Working with Charlie and starting FreshMinds was one of my best moves or decisions. I'm a very happy woman.
As a child, I had always wanted to run my own business and I started a few when I was growing up. My first venture was selling hardened conkers at prep school. This was just the beginning. When I was at school I opened a toasted sandwich shop and then when I went to university, I started a company that imported wooden furniture from Italy. All three ventures were easy to start and were also a lot of fun, especially the sandwich shop.
I was really lucky - my housemaster at school was a big advocate of enterprise and thought that one of the things you should learn beyond the curriculum was following your desires and setting up businesses. …