Where are they now? Calvin Benton
Why did you choose to study economics?
"My A-Level economics teacher was a bit of a maverick. We didn’t cover any of the A-Level syllabus in his classes. We learnt about the financial crisis, why the European Union was set up, and the origins of monetary and fiscal policy. My classmates and I had to do all of our studying for the exam outside of the classroom, but I did learn why the subject was so interesting."
What first attracted you to Sheffield?
"I walked a lot in the Peak District as a kid, so I had fond memories of Sheffield. When I visited I loved the University building (especially the Paternoster!) so I was super happy when I got the offer."
What were some of your favourite things to do in Sheffield?
"I played for the badminton club in my three years which was a lot of fun. Travelling to a different university every Wednesday for BUCS. I spent most of my free time in the Enterprise Zone. I enjoyed hanging out with the people there who were passionate about building something."
What is your best memory of Sheffield?
"There were a couple of exams where I probably hadn’t done the amount of studying I should have! Each time I had friends on my course who would help me out. To me, I think this captures the spirit of Sheffield nicely."
Since graduating from Sheffield you’ve set up your own business providing online therapy and mental health support. How did this come about?
"I saw how difficult it was for people to access proper mental health support. I saw people being turned away for not being “severe” enough or having to jump through a bunch of hoops to speak to somebody. Both of my parents are therapists so I knew how helpful talk therapy could be. I wanted to make something that made talking to somebody something that everyone had access to."
What was the initial uptake like, and how has this changed over the last year through the pandemic?
"For mental health in general, the pandemic has forced the conversation around mental health in business. So it’s acted as a big awareness campaign for what we do in some ways. We’ve seen around 140 new businesses sign up to Spill and we are now delivering over 1,000 hours of therapy each month."
How does your course at the University play into your career now?
"Learning the fundamentals of economic theory helps on a strategic level. It has helped to know why things are priced the way they are. Also, statistics has helped more than I thought possible. I spend a lot of time analysing fairly large data sets. Correlation does not equal causation!"
You were recently featured in the news for the flat salary scale at Spill – where did the idea for this come from?
"I wanted to challenge how a business should be run. To me, it didn’t make sense that some people were paid more than others, despite doing the same amount of work. Working back from how much people needed to live and save, we decided on a company-wide salary."
Do you think flat scales can work in businesses?
"Ultimately, the reason it didn’t work was because of the various roles we had to hire for. If you had a small company with one type of role like a design agency or a games company, I think it would work."
Do you have a piece of advice for students or recent graduates looking to set out with their own business?
"Learn to code. Even if you don’t start a software business, knowing the basics of programming and web development will help you get stuff done without needing other people's help."
What is your ultimate goal for the future?
"To make the world a bit more human."