Going to university this year, whether as a fresher or returning for finals, looks very different. Class sizes will be smaller, with many lecturers and seminars taking place online thanks to social distancing.
One thing that isn’t different is the cost. King’s College London suggests you budget for £1,250 a month, not including tuition fees, and some students in the capital could be looking at up spending up to £840 a month just on accommodation. Fitting in a part-time job between lectures and essays, not to mention trying to make friends, will be way down on the list but for many students it’s a necessity.
This is something two brothers Sol and Sam Schlagman recognised during their respective studies at UCL. “Many people come to university to have what is, in theory, the best time of their lives, but they end up compromising it because it’s too expensive,” Sam explains.
“We live in a day and age where everything is accessible with the touch of a button and we thought, why shouldn’t students be able to earn money at the touch of a button in their spare time whenever they can?”
The brothers decided to set up a company that did just that. Named Stint, the start-up allows students to find shifts, or stints, of up to three hours in local businesses on the high street that fit in around their university schedule. You log onto the app and post your availability. Then, when a local business such as a restaurant or clothes shop needs some extra help, they post a job on the app whilst an algorithm works out who is the best student to offer.
Stint started officially in June 2018, where the brothers began recruiting their fellow classmates and organising shifts manually via WhatsApp and Facebook groups. Now the app serves as a marketplace for both businesses and students to find one another. Sam dropped out of his degree, whilst Sol turned down an investment banking graduate job so it’s fair to say they’ve thrown their full weight behind the operations.
Luckily, there are some big names on the app from high street retailers such as Ted Baker, Topman and Reiss, as well as big chains such as Caprice Holdings which owns Annabel’s and The Ivy Collection.
So what’s in it for the businesses? The idea is that establishments will get students in for a small stint to do the things their full-time staff are too busy for, such as fold napkins and polish glasses or silverware. Businesses have also found that it can improve staff morale, as they can focus on the things they enjoy doing and fob off the boring tasks on the stinters.
Stephen Phillips, operations director of the Thai restaurant chain Busaba, says using Stint has helped the business to “maintain the high quality of service our customers expect from our brand. The ability to bring someone in to help for an hour or two during our busiest hours makes all the difference. It’s enabled our team members to focus on and build a rapport with the guests we’re looking after. As a result, we’ve seen an average spend per head and customer satisfaction grow quite significantly.”
“It leads to an uptick in revenue, the staff are able to serve more customers and not compromise on service,” adds Sam.
It’s certainly an interesting take on the gig economy and, in some ways, students are the perfect temporary workforce. Humanities students can have as little as six to eight contact hours a week, leaving them with flexible schedules to pick up a stint or two. So far, 40,000 individual stints have been carried out, with over 20,000 students on the platform. “We’re speaking to students who are paying their rent and getting through university because of Stint,” says Sam.
As the next academic year gets underway, the brothers are ready to take Stint nationwide, targeting the top 50 universities in the country including Durham, Leeds and Sheffield. They hope to hit the target of 50,000 stints by the end of the year and have raised a significant amount of funding to facilitate this growth.
What about coronavirus? If anything, this shows the need for extra temporary staff, they say. Fewer tables mean there’s a need for fast turnover to get people through the door, something stinters can help with. “There isn’t a single day where we don’t read about the struggles of the high street and I think part of that is they work in models where they are busy for very short periods of the day. Being able to maximise that revenue during those periods is fundamental now,” says Sol.
“Many of the students we speak to are worried about finding work when they go back to university — that is one of the reasons why we are determined to launch in as many locations as possible this year to give students a much-needed way to make some extra cash,” adds Sam.
Stint is available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store