Kate Barnard is a former Engineering Programme Manager at Rolls Royce and now runs Enjoy the Air, a company that provides validated geographical datasets which quantifiably evidence air quality risk to local authorities and healthcare to achieve optimal health solutions, both economic and physical.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I began my career as an engineer and over the last two decades, held positions at a large aerospace engine manufacturing company. In 2020, I took a leap of faith and launched Enjoy the Air. I wanted more autonomy to set my own goals and direction, and to pursue opportunities that align with my values.
Enjoy the Air was born out of an idea to address the lack of data in air pollution strategies. Air pollution is a silent but deadly risk with severe effects on our health. I knew I needed to start to work with local authorities to bring air quality action plans to life and raise more awareness for this health hazard.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
The idea for Enjoy the Air sparked from the news that Australia’s former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, did not accept climate change was an issue. My now co-founder had been investigating and understanding the air quality ‘down under’ and found there was almost no traction for this issue at all.
Through Enjoy the Air, I created the HALO certification, endorsed by the UK Intellectual Property Office, is the world’s first independent certification that recognises and rewards local authorities who meet the legislative environment act standards for air quality.
How did you achieve awareness?
At the very beginning, Enjoy The Air was essentially a two-person company. This meant I had to rely on an ad-hoc style of generating noise. I was solely responsible for posting regularly about our progress on social media and making short videos explaining what we do.
I was also lucky to have a strong network of global connections I had made after leaving the engineering industry. I took advantage of this, making sure that Enjoy the Air had a presence in a multitude of events, publications, and industry circles. From here, I have been able to grow the company to the level of awareness it has today.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
When setting up Enjoy the Air, I was awarded a start-up loan of £25,000 from the British Business Bank, which funded the creation of our HALO Certification. Since I was tapping into a sector that the UK Government is looking to invest in, I was also able to achieve further funding through Innovate UK and EU along with being selected to join the Geovation Business Accelerator.
Excitingly, Enjoy the Air secured a £50,000 grant from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Fast Start: Innovation for a pilot project in a Borough in Birmingham, examining the link between air pollution, social behaviours, and the cost of healthcare in the area.
Taking advantage of the various funding grants available to start-up businesses helped Enjoy the Air ‘take-off’.
What are the key successes?
There have been some defining moments since launching the business, including bringing my first product to market with HALO certification, which snowballed the company to the size it is today.
Being shortlisted as a semi-finalist in the AccelerateHER awards felt like a significant moment considering I established the business in 2020. Also, we were awarded the Tech Company of Gloucestershire by Tech South West. Receiving that industry recognition can be a real confidence boost as an entrepreneur as it shows you are on the right track.
And a personal success has been standing alone as Kate Barnard. I am delighted to see my work as a Founder get the recognition that I think it deserves.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
As with starting any business, I needed to stay agile, to adapt, innovate and pivot when necessary. Since we were working in a niche, our first challenge was understanding the market and our competitors. My co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Errol Kruger, was instrumental by constantly researching and understanding the market both in the UK and globally.
We are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating. We characterised 2022 as our time to spend understanding what we did know and what we did not. This was incredibly helpful in identifying gaps in our knowledge and becoming more resilient to the market.
Our present challenge is trying to engage local authorities in the UK to meet air pollution targets, as many lack the systems and reporting tools required to mobilise real change.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We are turning our focus inwards and looking at how we can grow the business further in 2023. We are working out ways to expand our team and drive sales, while continuing the development of our digital healthcare product, HAND Health (Healthy Air Nano Data).
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
The joy, freedom, and pace at which you can make your own decisions is worth taking a risk for.
If you are in a career you are generally with people who have similar skillsets, as an entrepreneur you meet such a vast range of people. Whether you have the skills or feel competent, you start out doing all the jobs and have to cover finance, from marketing and sales to technology, no other career gives you such exposure and hands on experience.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Firstly – resilience. You will be constantly challenged and told your business might not be fit for purpose. My advice is to take all this with a pinch of salt and learn from it. You can then go back, adapt, and come back stronger.
Next is agility. Start with a great idea – which accounts for one percent of your entrepreneurial journey – and move on to a hypothesis and niche. You cannot achieve success without also surrounding yourself with great people, so build a team that inspires you.
Finally, be hungry and treat every day as a school day.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
I am a big reader, so I draw a lot of inspiration from fictional authors. I enjoy almost all genres, but I particularly enjoy murder mysteries. As an avid bookworm, it is my escapism.
Duncan Bannatyne, his autobiography, and a very successful entrepreneur, gave me a different perspective on risk, fully appreciating the focus on costs and nailing an opportunity.
My children, they are both unique with different outlooks on life and needing different things from me. However, watching them grow, explore, and try new things and getting me to do it with them has made me learn just as much as them.
All working mums who are juggling childcare, work and the emotional stress that goes with it.
Patient people as I don’t know how you do it!
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“99% done is not done.” – Daniel Priestley
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
“The harder I try the luckier I become.” – Gary Player
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
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