Startup story: Samantha Kingston, Virtual Umbrella
Posted May 8th, 15:30
3 min read
Samantha Kingston fell in love with virtual reality by accident, when she started working for a gaming company aged 22.
After working there for just nine months she left to start Virtual Umbrella in 2015, a marketing consultancy specialising in virtual reality. They work with developers, brands, and companies to help them create VR content.
Samantha is an advocate for women in tech and VR and is often found moderating panels on equality in the workplace.
We chat to Samantha about being a young woman in business, and why it’s important to learn that not all business is good business.
Where/when/how did the idea for Virtual Umbrella begin?
I was first introduced to virtual reality when I joined a gaming company, my first job in the gaming industry.
This was where I fell in love with the technology. I could understand what it could be used for, how it was created. VR was not just for gaming it could be used for a variety of industries. I started to realise that I could contribute much more to this industry by creating my own company.
You started the business at a young age with a limited amount of experience – what gave you the confidence to go for it?
I had a passion for the technology. If you have a passion for something, that will give you the confidence. I was never worried about running a company, it was only months down the line that things like my age actually started to impact me.
What would you say to other young women looking to start their own business or who feel like they’re too young to go for it?
You will come across situations where people will question your age and experience. You just must prove you know what you are doing. If you do your job well and people recommend you, that will soon disappear.
I know many young women starting their own businesses at 18 & 19, I even know of a 12-year-old who has set up her own company. If she can do it, so can you.
What should be done to encourage more young women to start their own businesses?
There must be a support unit. It took me a long time to find other women founders in my industry and once I had found them I held onto them. I think it would be great to have more local meetups or support units to help with the process of helping women starting their own journey. Even if it was just a coffee catch up once a week, knowing that you are not alone is such a great confidence boost.
What resources/support did you use when you were setting up?
We didn’t have any resources when we started. We had to learn a lot ourselves. We headed to a couple of workshops that were run in the local areas but we found that we had already worked out the kinks or that we were already doing what we needed to do. The government has some good tips on starting out, but apart from that, I don’t remember many resources that helped.
What have been the highs and lows so far?
There will always be highs and lows on a regular basis with a startup. In the last two years, we have won several awards which have been amazing and we have been featured in the BBC and the Guardian several times. Some of our lows have been to do with invoices; we learnt very quickly that not every company will stick to invoice dates. It can be really frustrating as a startup when you have people to pay and invoices are not being paid. It can be stressful.
What have been your big challenges?
One of my biggest challenges has been learning about people in business and loyalty. We have had our fingers burnt by people we have employed or companies we have worked with and that really hurts. We have worked very hard to create a happy, honest company and when you don’t get that back in return it can be very disheartening, but we have learnt and will continue to learn.
What do you wish you’d known when you started, and what would you tell someone who’s starting now?
I wish I had known that not all business is good business. You don’t have to say yes to everything – it is ok to say no. I have been in positions where I have said yes to just please others, but that is not right.
Remember, you’re creating a company for you, that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it anymore, something is not right.