As part of the Open Accelerator, we are privileged to meet some great people within our community, all of which have a goal to start up their own business based on their passion and/or experience.
Today we share Carolyn Freeman’s story. After 15 years in marketing, and with a keen interest in consumer behaviour, Carolyn decided to retrain as a Cyber Psychologist.
“Nothing to do with Cyber Security” Carolyn states.
So what does it involve? What’s the idea? Read the full interview here to find out.
Morning Carolyn, thank you for joining us today and on our Open Accelerator Programme. To start with, it would be great to learn more about you, the industry experience you have and about Cybercology?
I’m Carolyn Freeman. I used to be in marketing and spent 15 years doing corporate brand marketing. The thing I really loved about my job, was understanding why consumers did what they did. Because of this passion, I decided to leave marketing completely and retrain as a psychologist – which I finished two years ago. One of the things that really interested me in studying psychology was technology and how it changes human behaviour and social norms. I was specifically interested in how we engage with technology both how that now and in the future. In light of that, I decided to do a Master’s in CyberPsychology which I am three quarters of the way through.
Throughout the course, I have been chatting with other students of CyberPsychology. One of the things often came up in conversation was a lack of a place where all research findings could be disseminated to the public. As it’s such a new area of psychology, articles that are mostly only being shared through academic media, which the general public doesn’t read. The wider media, who do engage with academic research articles then to reads parts of the research and pull out ‘nuggets of information’ to share with their audience. This is often the negatives impact that technology has on individuals. Negative stories often gain more traction than positive ones. The frustration amongst some academics is the lack of a balanced view on the impact of technology amongst the general public. This kind of inspired me, with my marketing background, and having some elements of copywriting in the process, that there was something I could do. So, I am launching a website that takes academic insights, which are so brilliant, and bring them into the public domain. This is so that the general public can also access the insights, and get a more balanced perspective on the positive and negatives of technology use, – so that they can make their own informed decisions.
These informed decisions can support people like parents worrying about their children using mobile phones. Helping them understand the positives and negatives of social media, and how for e.g. social media can help combat loneliness and improve connections during Covid. It’s abour bringing a balanced view into the public realm. So, I brought a URL and set up an online magazine style website called Cybercology. Although I’ve been able to populate it with copy, where I got stuck was how to monetize it. As it’s a huge passion of mine, I want to spend a lot of time working on it, so need to turn into a profitable business. That’s why I spoke to Anthony about coming on board with the Open Accelerator programme.
What are some of the positives, towards social media, that we may not be aware of?
Well, especially during Covid, one of the things that has come out in research is that spending a little bit more time on social media has helped some people continue engaging with their social groups and help people continue to connect, even if they couldn’t physically be near one another. It has helped reduce the loneliness, especially for those living alone. Engaging with social media has made what could have been a really lonely time, slightly more bearable for some as a way to virtually connect with others. Additionally, social media has shown to help children who are very shy or are not able to explore their identity in a physical arena due to the social norms within a school environment, they are able to do so online. They are able to engage with their interests or develop a persona in the form of an avatar, which can help them explore their self-identity and build self-confidence. It can, therefore, help those who are shy, become a little more confident in who they are, more so than they ever would have if been able to do without social media or internet.
So, there are benefits to social media, that mass media tends not to share, as it is far more “juicer” to comment on cyber bullying or negative effects of technology on, for example, the lack of sleep and addiction, than on more positive areas. Yes, those negative aspects do exist, but we need to balance the views and also present the positive aspects of technology. Giving parents all the information about technology can empower them to make better informed decisions about technology use within their family.
With the Open Accelerator, you mentioned about getting support in understanding opportunities to monetise the business, so going further on that, why did you join the programme?
I think one of the big reasons for me, was to get help to identify how to monetise this idea. Because it’s what our industry needs. The question is how I actually make money from this. I know I’m going to put everything I have into this, but the mortgage and bills still need paying!
So, it was about finding a space, where I could chew over the ideas in my head and share them with like-minded people and experts who could challenge my thinking. I’ve been in this headspace for so long, and applied a lot of detail to it, so I need someone external to suggest new ways of thinking or challenging me to think about it another way. As this is how ideas are made so much better. So, I’ve joined the programme for someone to challenge my way of thinking, pull my idea apart a bit, and although I have other peers and mentors who help and share ideas, I need someone completely on the outside with a fresh perspective.
Starting up your own business is quite a challenge. What advice would you give to someone with an idea, thinking about what to do next? What would you say to them?
I think I’m going to be giving a real marketing answer here, but ‘do your research’. Find out if someone else is doing it, internationally, nationally, locally. If they are, what are you doing which is different from what they are doing. If you can find that, then you may have something. However, if you are replicating something that somebody else is doing, then you need to have a rethink.
The other side of it is finding out the demand. Do people actually want this? If there is no demand for, you won’t be able to sell it. So, find out what people are needing, do they need what you have, why do they need it, how much are they willing to pay for it? If you are able to answer these questions, then you can begin researching what you can offer to fulfil these customers need.
Throughout the Open Accelerator, we’ll be documenting Carolyn’s journey to see how the programme has helped her business, Cybercology, so make sure you return to this page.