• Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email

Sam Hornsby and her best friend Mae Yip were sick of seeing young people experience the same lack of access to the creative industries they went through 20 years ago. So they did something about it.

Mae Yip and Samantha Hornsby
Mae Yip and Samantha Hornsby

Mae and I have been best friends since we were eight years old. We’ve also been business partners for nearly 10 years. People are always shocked about that. 

Many people say they couldn’t run a business with their best friend. But because we share an obsession with solving the same problem, working together has made our friendship stronger. We share the same vision for how we want to change the world, which creates a powerful bond.

What are we so passionate about? 

We run ERIC, an app that connects tens of thousands of people across the UK dreaming of a career in the creative industries with career-related opportunities to help them achieve those dreams. In 2015, when the creative industries felt like an exclusive club, we started to address the unequal access that had hindered our careers. Little did we know then our struggles would become the foundation for our business success.

My friendship with Mae blossomed through a shared love of all things creative and we dreamed of turning this into a career. Mae wanted to work in fashion, I wanted to be an artist. But neither of us got the chance to follow our dreams. 

Fashion wasn’t a ‘serious’ choice, according to Mae’s parents, first generation immigrants who wanted her to follow a stable career path with a good income. She ended up a chartered accountant. For me, the only way I thought I could become an artist was to go into higher education; I didn’t know about any alternative career paths. 

My application to art school was rejected, which threw me into a panic. Without a degree and after applying for hundreds of jobs, I was eventually offered a role at a tiny startup and I went on to work for a series of tech startups.

Identifying a careers education gap

Neither of us enjoyed our jobs and whenever we met, conversation would always turn to this. As time went on, we got increasingly frustrated that our hoped-for careers were so far away from our current jobs. 

In the working world, we met plenty of people in the creative industries – working in design, marketing, production, editing, writing and many more roles. It was a much bigger sector than we ever knew with plenty of interesting careers and routes into them. 

That’s when we realised we could have followed our dreams, we just weren’t given access or support. We’d been fed outdated notions of the creative industries and had been misled into thinking there were no jobs, money or stability in the creative world. We made a dramatic decision to quit our jobs and dedicate our professional lives to preventing other young people falling into the same dead-end trap.

Determined to transform struggle into triumph, we tackled the careers education gap first by hosting a series of alternative careers fairs called ERIC Festivals. These provided an educational space to connect young people with companies that wanted to re-educate people on creative careers. 

Pivoting to a tech business

These events were hugely successful and evolved into an initiative that connected more than 150,000 young people with household-name creative organisations such as Warner Music, BBC, Penguin, Spotify and local governmental bodies like the Mayor of London. 

The last ERIC Festival was in late 2019, just before the pandemic. During lockdown, Mae and I revived an idea we had on the backburner. We wanted to reach all young people in the UK to help them access the creative industries - the events format was too limiting. 

It seemed unfair that the only people able to attend ERIC Festivals were those available at a specific time and location. We wanted to provide support to any young person wherever they were, at whatever time they needed it. We decided to pivot to become a tech business.

In January last year, after two years of building, testing and refining, the ERIC app was launched. The first of its kind, it’s designed to address ‘discoverability’ of opportunities to help people get a foot in the creative industries. 

No more missed opportunities

From our experience running ERIC Festivals, we had uncovered a new problem. While there were plenty of organisations trying to open their doors to young people with careers events, masterclasses, workshops, training schemes, talks, internships and apprenticeships, the young people themselves couldn’t easily find them. 

These opportunities were often posted in obscure parts of the internet and poorly marketed, meaning thousands were missing out. We created a product to gather these opportunities, organise them into categories, and then display them via a free, user-friendly app which can be customised based on interest, location, age etc. Young people would never have to miss an opportunity again. 

The most effective problem-solvers are often those who have experienced an issue firsthand. Our story is testament to that. Access to creative careers is a particularly intractable problem - it’s nuanced and specific to the individual. 

Our journey has equipped us with unparalleled insights as we’ve experienced the creative industries from many angles. Travelling through it as best friends and knowing we are well positioned to create solutions makes our friendship stronger. And the drive and motivation to help people going through the same challenges we did is stronger too.

Sam Hornsby is Co-Founder of ERIC. 

Link to Author(s): 
Headshot of Samantha Hornsby