Launched in 1996 and now turning a profit, Tom Hughes' Milkround Online is a rare start-up that survived the dot.com boom. The former civil engineer was working as a management consultant when he set it up to provide company information to university students looking for their first job.
Soon it was storing student CVs and then it became, in Hughes' words, 'a sort of dating agency for employers looking for graduate employees'.
Armed with a pounds 200,000 input gathered from friends and loans, Hughes got by without a salary for three years, until Milkround won a pounds 500,000 investment from a Dresdner Kleinwort Benson private equity unit. It now has an annual turnover of pounds 1 million, with profits of pounds 150,000. Clients include prestige firms like McKinsey, Morgan Stanley and Slaughter & May. The site receives more than 1,000 user sessions a day, each one lasting about 15 to 20 minutes.
Hughes, 30, employs 15 full-time staff, all recruited via Milkround Online.
'I've had plenty of sleepless nights along the way, particularly when I had to pay salaries by taking out more credit cards. But there are fantastic highs to running your own business.'
Milkround will soon start tackling the second-job market. Of the 200,000 student CVs on the site, 30,000 belong to graduates already in employment.
'It's an obvious next step,' says Hughes. 'Ultimately we just want to be a very profitable company.'