Launching a business during your undergraduate studies might sound like a daunting task, but it didn’t stop James Courtney. James launched LUX Rewards while studying his BSc Business Administration degree in 2016. Since then, the premium dining rewards app has grown. The company has recently expanded to London, and James has big plans for the future.
An idea is born
While working in a consultancy role at PwC during a summer break, James spotted a gap in the market. 'I was earning reward points for my business spend on hotels, flights and credit cards, but not restaurants and bars. I also realised that my colleagues and I were the perfect customers, as we dined in the working week and were high spenders.'
And so LUX Rewards was born. James describes LUX as ‘the Air Miles of the restaurant world’. The premium rewards scheme lets users receive up to 7.5% of their spend back in reward points. They can then use the points to buy experiences, like spa days, afternoon teas, wine tastings and more.
Part of the success of LUX is its appeal to different target segments: consumers, restaurants and businesses. The app has 3,000 users and includes over 200 restaurants across Bath, Bristol and London.
Balancing studies and start-ups
It can be hard trying to juggle life alongside your studies. But it becomes even more difficult when you decide to launch a company two months before your finals.
So, how did he manage it? 'The great thing is that it rarely feels like work when you are starting your own business, more of a hobby,' says James. 'So I was happy to put in the hours.'
The structure of his course provided James with the time to work on both: 'As a Business Administration student, I was lucky enough to spend my second six-month placement at the University’s Innovation Centre launching LUX. In this period we released our minimal viable product, got our first customers and raised over £80,000 of investment.'
The teaching on his course also played a big part in helping James prepare for launch. As well as praising the New Product Development unit, James says the degree taught him other valuable lessons: 'The soft skills [I] learned during my studies were probably as valuable as the course content. Presentation and negotiation skills were especially useful.'
Outside of the classroom, the University puts an emphasis on supporting entrepreneurship. James took advantage of every opportunity that came his way:
'[I took part in] The Business Plan competition, the Dragons’ Den competition, the Apps Crunch competition and the Foulathi scholarship.
'I was lucky enough to win the Business Plan competition twice. The prize was incredible, visiting alumni in Boston, New York and San Francisco. It gave me the validation, confidence, connections and advice to make my idea a reality.'
While Bristol and Bath may have been the start of LUX, James has plans to expand. The app has just launched in London, and James and his team are scaling up:
'Our plan is to raise £300,000 and grow LUX across 10 major UK cities by the end of 2019. We have the solid foundations and should soon have the growth capital to deliver.'
LUX will also soon be available in the United States. While James will focus on growing LUX in the UK, an investor and fellow Bath graduate is going to launch the app in Boston using a franchise model.
It’s clear that James has the entrepreneurial bug. LUX is one of several projects he’s working on, including a chatbot for taxis.