Dean Heasman talks to James Cracknell about his community of start-up founders, freelancers and creators
From head of PE at a secondary school to product designer at a tech company is an unusual career trajectory, but one that gives Dean Heasman the opportunity to help others make progress in their own professional lives.
Dean’s unique set of skills and experience have led him to set up a community interest company in his spare time, through which he offers “intense” workshops training freelancers and other entrepreneurs in various digital and design techniques.
The workshops at Locust of Walthamstow include promises to help attendees, for example, to “create and launch an amazing website in seven hours” or “create and launch an app with no coding skills on a budget”. But for every paid ticket to one of his workshops, Dean wants to be able to offer one for free to someone who is unemployed – through a partnership with local job centres.
“The idea is to work with the job centre to give away these tickets,” Dean explains. “If you are earning below a certain amount there will also be a discount available.
“I want to make sure there is an opportunity for everyone.”
Dean’s career transition from teaching into product design had begun when he had an idea for a new app to help teachers keep track of marking students’ work.
“I was a lead practitioner, helping teachers improve their skills. One thing I focused on was improving technology in schools and developing the ways teachers use technology.
“I designed an app to help teachers with their marking, which takes up a lot of their time. The app got built and we used it in our school, then a lot of other schools wanted to use it as well.
“I knew I needed to get a designer to develop it properly.”
Through working with a group of students who helped develop his app, Dean learned about ‘UX’ – user experience design – and decided to leave teaching to study it further. His career in UX flourished, but at the same time he realised he was now in a position to help other people.
“I went from being a PE teacher with a passion for technology to getting an app built off my own back. But if I had learned a bit more first, it could have been easier.”
While on shared parental leave, Dean started doing a series of interviews with local people from successful start-up companies, which he put on Instagram. This eventually led to his next idea.
“I decided to run a workshop, sharing my experience of developing a digital product. I put it all in there, and it sold out.”
When Dean put his work on developing his education app on hold, he decided to combine his Instagram interviews with his workshops to create a new, more ambitious project.
“I realised it ties in really well. The people I was speaking to were giving their advice, and I would deliver this workshop about making a successful business. I decided to call it ‘Grab Coffeee With’.
“We teach people to make an amazing website, or an app. It’s very intense, with just one short break; you could probably spread it over a week but I know that people want to get information quickly and not waste any time.
“I think being an ex-teacher helps me to deliver it in an engaging way, ensuring people get the most out of it.
“There is a huge freelance community in Waltham Forest and I feel that they should be supported.”
This article is supported by William Morris Big Local in association with UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs. To find out more about UnLtd:
Call 0207 566 1100