How to grow a business during a pandemic: Haydon, Founder of Geologize

Valley and lake. Image from Canva.

In May, we heard from Tide member, Haydon Mort, Founder and CEO of Geologize, a geoscience communications company based in Yeovil and working worldwide.

Haydon Mort, Founder and Director, Geologize
Haydon Mort, Founder and
Director, Geologize

Haydon told us how being made redundant from his teaching job gave him the push (and the time) he needed to concentrate full-time on building his own company. (He registered his limited company with Tide, at the same time as opening a free Tide business account.)

Read the article here:
Tide blog | How to start a business in lockdown: Haydon, Founder of Geologize

During the November lockdown, we caught up with Haydon to find out how he’s been working towards his mission.

The small business with a planet-sized mission

Successful companies are often those which spot a problem and find a great way to solve it. Geoscientist Dr Haydon Mort has identified planet-sized problems. With his company Geologize, he’s on a mission to play his part in solving them. He says:

“We’re facing a crisis in the geosciences. We have huge problems to solve – climate change, carbon capture and storage, innovations in energy, and more. But we have fewer people to solve these problems because fewer people are enrolling at university for geosciences.

“To stop this decline, my mission is to bring back enthusiasm in the classroom and in society. Geologize does this by training geoscientists to be ambassadors – to communicate with the public and in schools, in a way that engages and inspires people.”

Previously, Haydon has delivered in-person training to geoscientists. Modifying his work to suit Covid restrictions, Haydon used his experience to develop Practical Geocommunication, an online course supported by other short stand-alone modules. The courses will provide Haydon with the income stream he needs to develop his company – and because Haydon doesn’t need to be present to teach the courses, there’s the added bonus of being able to reach more people. The courses launched in September – we called him to find out how it’s going.

📞 Hello Haydon! Your new courses at training.geologize.org and the videos on your YouTube channel look great…

Thank you! I had several years’ worth of videos on YouTube and it’s turned into a ready-made portfolio. I’m now finding new audiences for the content on LinkedIn.

How do you make your course videos? Did you have to buy any kit?

I made the courses myself using the Thinkific platform. I record the lessons on my computer with a good webcam and screen-shared the content. The only thing I shelled out for was a good quality microphone. Editing the video content is intense – I love it but it’s time-consuming.

While you were making the content for the courses, what did you learn about yourself?

I realised I had to focus. To do one thing and do it very well. It’s difficult because I’m interested in so many things, there’s so much I want to do. I had to hone in on the things that would give me an income stream straight away, with as little financial outlay as possible.

If you do too much, there’s a price to pay. If I don’t organise my time efficiently, my family will suffer. Then I’ll suffer, so my business will suffer.

True. Do you have any help making the content?

No, I’m as comfortable with the recording and technical side as I am with delivery and editing. But I do now have a mentor…

Ah great! How did you find your mentor?

It happened as part of the National Enterprise Allowance. I applied for the grant back in April. It’s £65 a week and as part of it, they gave me a mentor for up to a year.

The mentoring sessions are done by video call. I had three compulsory sessions and then I was able to get the allowance. I’ve been lucky with the person they matched me with – he’s set up biomedicine companies, so he works in a similar field. I talk over ideas with him and he gives very direct feedback.

You were made redundant back in March – what happened to the school you were working for?

The building is up for sale – there’s no going back! It’s a shame, the school had a long history.

And it must have provided many jobs in the area. In the testimonials on your website, participants praise your unique teaching methods – what’s different about how you teach?

It’s about helping scientists empathise with their audience – whether that’s children or adults. When scientists understand what other people are interested in and what’s important to them, they can find ways to get information across in a way that’s real and meaningful.

Go on, tell us your secret…

Haa! Well, for example, I show viewers how to use analogies to help people connect and understand. The challenge is to make things embed in people’s memories. When I get people to react emotionally, they remember – and then change can happen. Some of the techniques I teach are similar to those used by illusionists like Derren Brown!

Intriguing! How are sales going? What’s your strategy?

I opened the website for pre-sales on 15 August then launched on 15 September. In that month, I had 25 sign-ups for Practical Geocommunication.

There’s a feedback form for participants. From that, I gather quotes which I use for marketing. I’ve had endorsements from The Geological Society, The European Federation of Geologists and the International Association for Promoting Geoethics.

Impressive! Who are your clients?

So far, most of them are professionals. For example, senior leaders who give presentations and represent their organisation. Also, state geologists in the USA.

Now I have endorsements and recommendations from these people, I’m getting more interest from universities. I’ve just licensed the course to the University of Portsmouth. All the staff and students in their geosciences faculty will have access – that’s more than 900 people!

Wow! How did you work out your pricing?

Practical Geocommunication costs £350 for individual participants. Obviously, I couldn’t ask the University of Portsmouth for a fee of 900 x £350 so I asked for a licence fee of £2,500 per year. The return on investment should be large: the course will enable their students to go on to be confident and inspiring ambassadors and teachers.

Another option for universities is to buy the course with help from a sponsor. The University of Exeter have bought the course with help from Cornish Lithium, which sponsors the Camborne School of Mines [part of the University of Exeter].

Would you like your course to become an official university module?

Absolutely. It could become a module worth university credits. Currently most geoscience curricula don’t include communications so I’m hoping that when they see the value of this course, they’ll want to make it part of their students’ learning.

I have to be patient – it’ll happen step-by-step. First, universities will try it as an optional support module, then maybe add it to their curriculum…

Your courses themselves are sponsored, aren’t they? Tell us about that…

Yes – course sponsors get course places for free as well as promotion as sponsors. It’s a smart deal for them: they get both CPD [continuing professional development] for their staff and they enhance their corporate social responsibility.

As a teacher used to doing in-person training, how do you feel about teaching online, as pre-recorded modules?

I do like the instant feedback and back-and-forth with students in a classroom or lecture room. But I get to enjoy this in another part of my business: I go to local councils to give talks about climate change, and do a Q&A. Councils can allocate money for this training for two reasons: firstly, it counts it as CPD and secondly, climate change has been declared as an emergency so they can have budget for education and outreach.

It’s genuinely satisfying to see what a difference this training makes to councils. For example, at one session, I told the group about BP sponsoring ‘green’ projects. Later in the session, during the Q&A, one lady – a town councillor – said she’d googled BP’s sponsorship opportunities – and had already registered!

What’s next for you and Geologize?

There’s so much to do! During lockdown, I created an e-book for parents to use with their children. It’s fun and educational, and it’s now been translated into lots of languages. You can download here: GeologizeResource.

I need to focus on income at the moment so while I talk to universities about signing up for Geologize courses, my ideas for books and a proposal I was working on for a documentary series have had to go on the back-burner.

Another way to I’m looking at generating income for Geologize is to franchise it. I want to offer the courses in different languages. I used to teach in Brazil so I can replicate the content in Portuguese but for other markets, I want everything to be in the nation’s language. After Portuguese, Spanish will be next then I think Hindi…

You really are taking your business global. In April, we spoke about creating a business plan and seeking funding – did you decide to do that?

Yes, I wrote a business plan – it was very helpful and allowed me access to government support. However, I didn’t use it to get a loan. Instead, I’m keeping costs as low as possible, for example, working from home, while looking for grants and marketing the courses.

How are you getting on with using Tide for your finance admin? What’s your favourite feature?

I hate paperwork so I love that it’s all digital. I especially like the autocategories – this helps me get everything organised. I will have to get an accountant though…

Make sure you choose an accountant who uses a system that syncs with Tide! And if you get to the stage of paying VAT, then your Tide app can help you do that.

Good tips, thanks!

You’re welcome. Finally, is there anything you wished you’d known back in April? Something that might help people new to running their own business?

Yes – I wish I’d known that rejection is normal. I hate cold-calling but I have to do it. You have to keep asking people. The trick is to build your resilience so rejection doesn’t sting. By building your brand – getting more reviews and endorsements – your business becomes more significant. People become more likely to listen, more interested in what you’re doing.

Very true – and we’ll be very interested to hear about your progress with Geologize. Thanks very much for talking to us, Haydon! Good luck and keep in touch. 💙

Connect with Haydon and Geologize

Geologize logo

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All photos courtesy of Geologize. Main image created by Geologize with Canva.

Suzanne Worthington

Senior Writer

Tide Team

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