Sanchita Saha shocked her parents when she announced she wanted to quit a secure job at the BBC to set up her own web based business.
But just three years after launching City Socialising she has grown the site into the UK’s leading socialising network operating across 19 UK cities and organising more than 600 events each month for over 60,000 members.
Sanchita has certainly come a long way since leaving the BBC – where her first job was bringing Vanessa Feltz her lunch.
She went on to be a key member of the small team which launched BBC Radio 1’s sister station 1Xtra – giving her a taste of starting something from scratch.
But her mum Shipra and dad Sam needed some convincing that quitting the Beeb was a wise career move.
She said: “My parents always pushed me and my sisters to be high achievers in our careers and even though they ran their own business, a post office, they wanted us to follow more traditional career paths.
“I was interested in the arts but ended up studying maths at university because my parents felt it would lead to more improved career prospects. But I definitely didn’t want to work in the City.
“I graduated in 1997 and joined the BBC a year later. My first job was as a runner on the Vanessa programme where my duties included bringing Vanessa her lunch every day.
“The hours were long and the pay wasn’t great but I was delighted to be working at Television Centre. I can remember thinking, ‘I’ve really made it.’
“After that I was able to use my maths degree to work in the BBC’s finance division. I loved music and got a transfer to Radio 1, first in the ops team and later in production. From there I got selected to be part of the launch team for 1Xtra.”
It was while she and her colleagues created the template for a new radio station from scratch that Sanchita realised she would love to launch her own business.
“I had always had a strong entrepreneurial streak and used to do little things like make and sell my own greetings cards at university. But being on the launch team for 1Xtra was amazing and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to create something for myself?’”
The idea for City Socialising had been in her head for a couple of years anyway – now the time had come to stop thinking and start doing.
“I had always had an active social life in London but I got a real buzz from being able to introduce different people and watch them build lasting and genuine friendships. When my twin sister Sharmita was sent out to San Francisco with her company and struggled to make friends, the idea started to crystallise.
“There was nothing out there for young professionals like us who just wanted to make new friends. The internet was filled with dating sites but what if you just wanted to socialise? I was convinced there was a gap in the market.”
Sanchita secured a loan from the Prince’s Trust to fund further research and was soon ready to launch her new company – although her parents, particularly her mother, were unconvinced.
She said: “Mum kept asking if I was sure I knew what I was doing. She hated the idea of me leaving a secure corporation like the BBC to set up something on my own. Her concern did make me question what I was doing – but by then I was determined to go ahead.”
City Socialising launched in January 2007 and quickly became London's leading social events network for professionals moving to, living and working in the capital. Within eight months the business financed its national expansion and today the model has been successfully replicated in 19 cities including Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh & Glasgow.
Sanchita has even been able to employ her former boss at BBC Radio 1 – ex-Operations Manager Miles Eames.
She recently raised £260,000 from the London Business Angels network and now has plans to roll her site out to Europe and the USA.
She has won numerous business accolades – most recently she was named as one of the 20 winners of the BT Essence of the Entrepreneur Awards and was photographed by top snapper Rankin. So her parents must be very proud?
“My family are very supportive of me and of what I’ve achieved. And I think mum has just about forgiven me for leaving the BBC.”
More / images:
London PR Agency
0207 193 0566