Business story: Diego Melo, Founder of Nudge Education

Business story: Diego Melo, Founder of Nudge Education

6th January 2020

Nudge Education delivers bespoke interventions for children and young people who have become chronically disengaged from education. The team works to support young people to access skills development, to take steps towards their future and re-engage with education.

Can you remember your ‘lightbulb’ moment when you first came up with the idea for Nudge Education?

I trained as a teacher and have a background in child psychology. In my previous career I’d seen what can happen when a child falls through the cracks in the education system and I saw the need for specialism and expertise in helping these young people take steps towards a life worth living.

What motivated you to take the leap and start your own business? Why was the time right then?

When I left working directly with schools, I spent time formulating the idea for Nudge Education. I decided it was a case of now or never, and set up the business.

Did you found the business on your own or was it as part of a team?

I began on my own, working as a specialist teacher, but I quickly brought in Brian Mair as Director of Operations to help me realise the vision, and soon other members of the team joined. We have now moved offices three times to keep up with the growth. Now we have more than 90 people across the North, working with 33 different commissioners.

As I expanded the team it was key to get the right core people in place with the right skills and who buy into the same vision: to eradicate chronic disengagement in the education sector and help children and young people imagine a life worth living.

What business support and advice did you access to help turn your business idea into a reality?

Initially we both took a £10k loan from Virgin Startups (via Tedco) in order to provide us with some stability. On top of this we engaged with the North East Fund’s Innovation Programme run by Northstar and Generator, which gave us some very practical advice and tools to grow, as well as £10k of investment via a convertor loan. As we have started to scale we have also been successful in securing £40k from the North East Fund via NEL.

As we grew we accessed business support in the form of funding through the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and I also took part in an amazing six-week business support programme through Generator which covered all aspects of business, from financial forecasting to stakeholder management.

How fast did your company reach a £1m turnover?

In order to deliver our vision and to do it well, we have to operate as a successful business, and we need to grow. We’re projecting a turnover of between £950,000 and £1.2m this year and that will be ploughed back into our growth and our workforce. We achieved cumulative turnover of £1million in March 2019.

Can you share some of the highs and lows you’ve experienced along the way?

First and foremost, we’re pioneering something new and it’s been amazing to see it work. I wanted to do good for the children who need it the most and we see lives being changed every single day of the week. We’ve seen people find hope for the future. And on top of that we provide work for nearly 100 people and our business also supports other local services.

In terms of low points, personally, dealing with imposter syndrome has been difficult: looking it in the eye and not letting it hold me back. Being at the forefront of a business can also be a lonely place. Having Brian, our Director of Operations, as a companion in this venture has been invaluable to say the least.

Why is the North East a great place to start a business?

I was born in Rio and it’s a beautiful place, but there’s no place like the North East. I just love it. The people are amazing, there’s access to business support and education, and our surroundings are beautiful. We have the heritage of being inventors and entrepreneurs and that’s something we need to be doing more of. I’ve worked in a lot of other places but there’s something magical about Newcastle.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start a business?

Go and talk to people. Try to get out of your own head. There’s plenty of support out there in the North East so make the most of it. Above all, believe in what you’re doing and you can make it happen.

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