With the ‘make it happen’ theme still in our minds from International Women’s Day, this week’s Small Business Star is Amelia Humfress. As founder and CEO of Steer, Amelia and her team supply training courses for those who want to learn web development and coding.

It was while in her role on the marketing team at Jimmy Choo that Amelia realised her interest to work in the digital sector. After switching to the world of digital marketing and project managing web design and build, Amelia enrolled herself on an evening course to learn HTML, CSS and Javascript. After taking an interest in the technical side of product development, Amelia’s training enabled her to create her own websites. Since then, Amelia has gone on to study Ruby on Rails and iOS development. At first, this wasn’t about starting a business. But, having celebrated almost two years in business, Amelia’s web development and coding service is dedicated to becoming the number one place to learn how to code.

Here’s what Amelia has to say about her experience…

You can steer yourself any direction you choose

Our name came from a book called ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’ by Dr. Suess. In the book, Dr. Suess writes, “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.” For me, that quote says so much. When you learn to code, you don’t have to become a web developer – there’s so much that you can do with coding skills. You really can go in any direction that you choose.

Adapt with an evolving market

It’s interesting to see how the market has changed – there were only a couple of companies making waves in this space when we started. Since then, the interest in learning to code seems to have exploded. They’ve started to teach programming as part of the curriculum for primary school children, and we’re seeing an increasing number of businesses sending their employees on courses. In the US, even Obama is talking about the importance of learning to code. The market in the UK is much smaller than in the US, but the interest over there is a sign of what’s to come.

Listen to what your market needs and wants

Our courses are all project based so that you’re never just learning how to code – you’re learning how to make your own sites and apps. We’ve found that this very practical way of teaching helps people get their head around some of the more abstract concepts that you come up against when coding. Our flagship Front End, Back End and iOS courses are popular because they’re just five days long. Five days is enough time to get to grips with a new subject, without being too much time away from work.

Put yourself in front of your audience 

We’ve tried a bunch of different things. We’ve always been active on Twitter, and have run a few ad campaigns with them. In the early days, we would speak at events and invite bloggers that had technology and design audiences to attend a course. Both of these approaches were effective at getting us in front of people that’d never heard of us before, and we still regularly speak at events. We recently launched a podcast, and that got featured by Apple on the iTunes store, which was pretty exciting. We didn’t start the podcast to market our courses, but we’ve already had people signup who discovered us this way.

Understand the benefits for your business

Programming languages are constantly evolving, and it’s important that we’re teaching people the latest and greatest techniques. Apple recently introduced a new programming language called Swift, which is replacing Objective-C as the programming language developers use to make iOS apps. That change, which we didn’t know was coming, meant that we had to stop running our iOS course until Swift was stable, and we had redesigned the course in this new language.

Championing women in tech

We were really excited to find out that, for the last three months of 2014, we had more women than men attend our Front End Web Development course. Technology is something that affects all of us, and yet there’s a big gender issue within the industry. Last summer, it was announced that only 30% of all employees at Google and 31% at Facebook are women. Those numbers get worse at the top of the chain, and in the technical teams. Encouraging more women to try their hand at coding is something that I’m particularly passionate about. After all, the career opportunities are huge.

To grow, you must keep moving forwards

The most challenging thing that we face is the same as every other fledgling business – managing resources. Working through everything that needs to be done efficiently and effectively, while staying focussed on the bigger picture is a challenge. It’s very easy to get bogged down with the day-to-day, and you can’t allow that to happen when you want to grow.

Go with your gut and don’t give up

When it comes to giving advice, everything that springs to mind sounds trite. The thing is, there’s a lot of truth in the advice that you hear on repeat. I’d say that keeping it simple and not giving up are the two most important mantras that you can live by when building a new business.

Steer are currently working on some exciting new projects which they’ll be able to talk about very soon.  

Find out more about Amelia and Steer by visiting: https://www.steer.me

For more advice and insight from business owners, visit our Small Business Stars hub.

Oh, and one last thing – if you are, or know, a small business star, share your comments below.