A Week in My Life: Georgia Wheadon, Founder, Umii
Georgia Wheadon founded Umii, the university-based networking app, in 2020 based on her own experiences in higher education.
As a student, when she joined university she struggled to make connections in halls and as part of her degree programme - and considered dropping out. Instead, it opened her eyes to the issue of loneliness, and she founded Umii as a way to help students meet people they'll click with.
The platform, which lets students select their university, course, interests and societies and build a profile, had its pilot launch last year and was fully rolled out this year - with 8,000 members and having made 30,000 connections. Among those institutions which have trialled and endorse the app are Bolton University, UCLan SU, and the University of Hull.
We found out what a recent week in Georgia's life looked like...
I start the week catching up with the product team and the app developers. Umii is an app that connects like-minded university students, to increase attendance and reduce isolation. It's a really easy-to-use platform thanks to our developers and we want to keep it that way as we grow.
Our partners are already really engaged - we get regular suggestions and requests from universities, students' unions and students themselves, which is fantastic.
We’re delighted to consider all suggestions; the app is for them after all. It’s important to make sure that we don’t swerve into the domain of other apps though - this is not a dating app, or a general UK-wide one. We are all about connecting students at their own university to help them make friends.
I go for a quick walk at lunchtime - I walk every day. The fresh air and quiet is good for my mental health. It’s important to switch off where possible and just relax.
I work late and it's an early night, a busy week ahead!
The morning is filled with meetings with existing customers, to check everything is going well. There are a few plans - we're keen to help students connect through the app then meet in person as soon as possible, so we're discussing mixer events, two-for-one drinks promotions, and other ways to get people out and about, really enjoying the social side of university.
I’m working in our new HQ at Enterprise City. We have this shared space with Exchange, the startup programme we’re part of. I live in Salford so it’s really handy, but I’d travel miles to come here - it’s a great setup and after a very strange introduction to the world of work thanks to COVID, I’m delighted to be amongst other people, hearing their stories and getting inspiration from them.
There are lots of meetups, talks and workshops. I’m taking all the advice I can and thoroughly enjoying it.
After work I play tennis. I used to play when I was younger and I’m determined to have more hobbies in my 20s. It’s good fun, and I play at Fallowfield, student land - I should bring some Umii flyers next time!
I meet with the Umii marketing teams to discuss the plans for Freshers' Week. We're an online brand but a lot of our marketing is face to face - we're looking at flyers, merchandise and partnerships to get our message to new students as much as possible.
This year’s cohort are the first ones starting their student life with Umii, although the feedback from those using it last year was fantastic - Essex SU saw well over 8,000 student connections in the first three months, for example. I’d like Umii to be one of the first things students think about when they get to university. Get to your room, download the app. It should be part of the whole arrival process.
After my lunch (and daily walk!) I have an interview with a business magazine. They are really encouraging. I’ve been delighted with the support from the media.
Alarm at the ready, as I’m up early for a train to Leeds, where I’m taking part in a podcast on loneliness and mental health with Leeds International Festival of Ideas. I went to Leeds University, and while it is a fantastic place, my first year was not good, as I was placed in a small flat with people I just didn’t connect with.
I then had an accident which left me housebound and I ended up completely isolated, instead of going out and making friends. It’s very difficult when you then go on social media and see all your old school friends sharing their wonderful new experiences. I ended up getting very low.
My family supported me, I worked hard at my studies, and did make new friends in my later years, however it really opened my eyes to the fact there should be a simple way to overcome this common issue. A quarter of students feel lonely ‘often or always’, and one in six university students say they have no ‘true friends’. We aim to change that.
I feel a bit nervous at first, but the host puts me at ease and it’s important to talk about this as much as possible - it’s nothing to be ashamed of and we should all help each other connect and enjoy good mental health. I also think it’s important to push myself out of my comfort zone!
Back to sunny Salford and a few drinks with friends. The weather is great - long may it last!
It’s a beautiful morning, so I get up early and go for a really long walk before work. I love Manchester and Salford; I grew up in Clitheroe, studied in Yorkshire and enjoy going out in Liverpool and Newcastle, but this part of the North really does feel like home to me now, even though I haven’t lived here for a long time.
I then have my regular catch-up with the team at Nova. I spent my year in industry with them as part of my degree and it was here that Umii was created. They are such a brilliant team - Umii would not exist without their mentorship and guidance. We go over our plans for the week ahead and discuss a day out that we’re all having soon, which should be good fun.
At the end of the day I collect my twin sister - she’s spending the weekend with me and I can’t wait!