James Rust: We Are a Start Up Focused On Pay And Careers, Helping Individuals Understand And Navigate These Complex Topics, From School Into University And Into The Work Place

August 26, 2022

We are a start up focused on pay and careers, helping individuals understand and navigate these complex topics, from school into university and into the work place.

We have built interactive tools that make it easy to understand these tricky elements, for different age groups, from school leavers to board directors, and all in between.

We have also built a mentoring tool which connects students to workers, so students can hear first hand what different careers are like, and how to get into them.

Our primary differentiator is that we help those who need help the most. For instance, if you are a student without a friends and family network, we can get you connected to people outside of your network! Its all about social mobility!

Tell us about yourself?

I am a family man, and my kids have been part of the inspiration for what we do.

I was lucky enough to start an executive search business called Leathwaite over 20 years ago with 3 friends, and then spun off The Pay Index in 2019 – I know a fair bit about pay! I didn’t take up my place at university (I was offered an engineering degree course at Loughborough University) because I wanted to work.

This has probably given me a bit of a chip on my shoulder with too many people looking down on me because I don’t have a degree – there are plenty of talented people out there who haven’t been to university!!

Helping individuals who don’t have a network to rely on, and seeing the experiences of my kids as they went through the journey of university applications and into the workforce inspired me to build The Pay Index.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Don’t take it personally! At the time, I got really stressed about our business and how Covid effectively upended it – we were only 6 months old when Covid hit. It was a stressful time for me and my team, but it has proven to be a catalyst for change and hopefully for continued success.

What problem does your business solve?

As we focus on pay and careers, we shine a light on these often-tricky subjects so people can understand it easier. For instance, our mentoring platform, Inspo, connects students with working professionals.

It is particularly useful for those students who do not have social capital to leverage. And our pay comparison tool enables anyone to compare their pay to make sure it is fair. This is now used by people in over 170 countries across the globe.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

I have taken inspiration from a number of sources: from students using our products and finding out what would REALLY help them; from listening to my own kids when they were asking “what can I do with this degree?, who has done this degree themselves and what do they do?” It is about providing a platform for inspiration – hence inspo!

What is your magic sauce?

I guess we are different in that we are uniquely able to help students with not just careers, but also pay advice. This stems from our legacy products enabling anyone to find out about pay.

One of our advantages is in our team, we are our own “secret sauce”. This is a seriously talented and driven team who more than anything, fundamentally believes in the product!

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

My immediate plan is to help more and more students in the UK initially. We want to be one the “go to” resources for students in the UK.

Once we have secured our next round of funding, we will be building out our team and implementing various product enhancements. Once we have proven this in the UK we want to go international and scale up.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Covid has been our biggest challenge, but it has proved to be a saviour as it showed us early on our initial product was not sufficient for the market.

We were forced to re-evaluate our offering, and now have a powerful product that is making waves, connecting the education world to the business world.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

We want to work with businesses and employees who are passionate about helping students who do not have social capital, and want to “give back” as part of their ESG / CSR philosophy.

We have a solution that makes it so easy for staff to help students, and you never know, even help them get a job! And if you know a student who is looking for inspiration, get them to sign up to inspo.uk!

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