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Style and Substance

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

Massimiliano Gritti (MG) (BSc Business Studies, 2016) and business partner Elliot Aeschlimann (EA) are men with an eye for style and craftsmanship. Their site, Bombinate.com, offers a curated collection of Europe’s finest niche brands, all in one place. We caught up with these dapper go-getters.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

MG) I was at Cass from 2013 to 2016 studying Business Studies. I spent the three years split between Northampton Square and Bunhill Row. It was a really great experience. I met a lot of very interesting and cool people and made a strong and close friendship group – even after we have graduated we are still close. My course was really useful, especially my dissertation, which took about three months to complete. It was really interesting to do a big project, a very good experience.

EA) And it was your dissertation that led to Bombinate!

What did you get up to next?

MG) We actually had the idea for Bombinate in Summer 2015 and started working on it in April 2016, before we both graduated. We were calling brands, testing the market, doing research, and generally getting some validation for the project. Because we started when we were students it was not too much of a challenge to find the time, and it gave us the momentum to do it full time after we graduated.

EA) It was good to have three months as a student when we decided to go for it, so we didn’t have to worry so much about money – we had a buffer.

So what exactly is Bombinate?

MG) It’s the first online destination for men where they can shop and discover high quality craftsmanship brands. It’s e-commerce but our criteria for inclusion are based solely on quality not brand recognition or the strength of the designer’s name.

EA) It’s a marketplace, so we don’t own the products.

MG) We showcase the items and sell them, so it’s a shop window. We also provide the brands with the marketing, PR and social media marketing skills to reach beyond their own borders and niches.

And Bombinate is a Launch Lab resident?

MG) It is! It’s pretty cool to be here, especially as we have got the space for free! Until recently I wasn’t aware of the lab itself or that what they could offer was so serious. I knew of the Hangout, because I’d visited in my first year – but there was not that much to see so it went to the back of my mind. Then I attended an event where I met Chris, another resident, and he told me about all the support you get at the Launch Lab, and that I should apply because there was space available. So we applied, we were accepted and since then we’ve been active residents.

EA) Every day we’re first in, last out!

MG) We moved in when the Launch Lab was at the Unruly campus in November 2016 and then the Lab moved here in January. It’s a lovely office – at Unruly it was a back room with no fresh air or view.

Do you have any advice for people looking to follow in your footsteps?

MG) It’s all about doing your research. You need to ask important questions of the right people, and take notice of industry experts because they have been there, they know what is happening. But also remember that because they have been in it for a while, they can overlook things, so you need to gauge what’s happening for yourself. Above all you need to go for it! If you see an opportunity – a gap – it can be done efficiently, so get going.

EA) You learn a lot along the way. Even if your idea isn’t the most optimal at first you will learn and improve and you will get there.

MG) It’s also an advantage to be serious and professional in the way you go about things. That also helps you to get those hard skills that are transferable to anything you do in the future.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

EA) Definitely the biggest challenge has been convincing the brands – for us that’s been make or break. At the start it’s just about sending out emails with basic documents, waiting for feedback, which was mixed at the start, and keeping up your motivation to continue.

MG) Then we started with phone calls and presentations. Brands can be very defensive in terms of their image, and they get lots of marketplace calls – but none of the other marketplace providers respect their image and their manufacturing process like we do.

EA) There’s a little bit of bluffing involved. If you’re talking to ten brands and they all tell you they will join if you have others signed up, you have to bluff a little. But at the same time, we respect their brands and their skill and we just want to tell their story. I think that comes through.

MG) Fake it ‘til you make it! You need to show that you are professional so that they can be secure in choosing to partner with us. We worked hard to create really professional documents that showcase what we are about in terms of content and design, and that’s what made them go with us.

EA) For us it’s all about credibility – and you don’t have anything at the beginning! It was just us…

MG) …with our documents, landing page and phone calls.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: EA) The area from Troy Bar in Shoreditch to Hackney MG) Borough Market to the London Eye, along the Southbank
Favourite holiday destination: EA) Tarifa for kitesurfing MG) Tarifa too, but also the Swiss Alps, where we come from. When you go back it’s so refreshing!
Must-check every day website: EA) Hubspotmarketing MG) The FT, reddit and facebook
Dream travel destination: EA) Socotra MG) Bhutan is on my bucket list
Cheese or chocolate: EA) I can’t decide!! Ok, I’ll say chocolate because we live together so I could have some of his cheese MG) Cheese 100%, but being Swiss it’s a hard choice

You can find out more about Bombinate on Bombinate.com as well as on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Getting Flushed

Alumni Stories.

While most people would want to avoid their hard work going down the drain, that’s precisely the objective of our award-winning entrepreneurs Al Bozorgi (Cultural and Creative Industries, 2017) and Elle McIntosh (Elle studied BSc Biomedical Science at the University of Bedfordshire (2015), before studying Business Administration in 2016 at City, University of London).

Creators of Twipes and this year’s winners of the Mayor’s Entrepreneurial Competition, Al and Elle talk us through their journey from blocked toilets to winning that £20,000 prize.     

How did you meet?

Al: City and Islington Sixth Form College. We’ve known each other for 7 years.

Where did the idea come from?

Elle: It was when a third person, a mutual friend of ours, sat us down and said he was looking for a product. He used both toilet paper and wet wipes in the bathroom and told us he had blocked his toilet three times this year!

Al: It was February – how had he blocked it three times that year?!

Elle: Exactly. He said ‘I just want wipes on a roll, I just want something convenient, I just want something easy for me to use’. So we looked into the viability of it. Al looked at the business side of viability. Whether it would be affordable for us to actually make this. I looked at the chemical components of regular wet wipes and what they’re made of and whether there was a quicker way to make them disperse.

Tell me about some of the research:

Elle: I did lots of research. Lots and lots of research. Currently, the wipes on the market are either cotton or bamboo. And a lot of toilet paper itself is made from recycled paper. So I looked into the process of essentially getting toilet paper which is moist and a little bit thicker and also made in the same way that wipes are manufactured. Regular toilet paper is made in a layering process. Wet wipes are made from cotton and fat, with an emulsifier on top, which has all of the chemicals, so it’s a two-layer process. I wanted to see if you could do the same thing to our Twipes product.

Al: I did market research and found out some crazy statistics. The wet wipes market is worth nine billion pounds globally and in the UK 14 percent of consumer sales are for use in the bathroom. I also found out that Thames Water unblocks a sewer or drain because wet wipes have been flushed, every six and a half minutes which is insane.

Elle: 80 percent of all blockages originate from wet wipes.

What’s different about Twipes?

Al: 99% of wet wipes are actually made of cotton which causes a blockage because cotton doesn’t break down in water. Our wet wipes are made from wood pulp which you’re not cutting down trees for. It’s a by-product of paper manufacturing. So we use that because paper does break down in water.

Elle: Twipes also come on a roll like toilet paper.

Al: And they’re antibacterial.

What feedback have you had?

Al: We gave Twipes out to family and friends, we gave it out at events, at CitySpark last year and people said their bums were too wet, so we had to adapt them – now they’re way less wet. During our market research people also gave us different ideas for the use of Twipes.

Elle: That gave us the validation. We could speak to a room of five people and they’d give you five different uses for the product.

When can we expect Twipes to be on the market?

Elle: If we sold them in a little case just like baby wipes, we could do them tomorrow but we want them on a roll because they’re going to be sold in the wipes section. There are no wipes on a roll on the market so it will stand out on a shelf. So we want to make sure those cases are finalised and perfect before we go and sell.

Al: We’re currently in the process of getting an injection moulding done so we’ll have a final version of a case that screws open.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Al: I’ve never worked on a products business. We never had any sort of experience when it came to this. We didn’t even know where to begin. So the biggest challenge was in the first few months were we just went round in loops and circles trying to figure everything out. But once we actually got a plan, it became clear to us.

What’s been the most rewarding?

Elle: I just want to talk about the Mayor’s entrepreneurial awards. If it wasn’t for the Enterprise Team at City, we wouldn’t have known about the Mayor’s Entrepreneurial Award. It was Marius that pushed us to apply. We knew the previous winners and we only found out we knew the previous winners because of Marius. We didn’t expect to win, we only came for the publicity because we thought it would be a great opportunity and we won!

Any advice?

Elle: For anyone that wants to set up their own business, I’d personally say research. And be prepared to work hard. Always prioritise your business. It will be so difficult when you have to manage your life, manage friends, family, relationships, business and everything. It’s going to pull you in so many different directions. You have to be focused. And don’t compromise your weekends because you’ll drive yourself into the ground. Know when it’s time to take a break. Be prepared. There are going to be 16 hour days ahead of you and you have to think ‘do I really want to do this?’

Al: Talk to everyone about your idea. A lot of people say they have a really amazing idea but they won’t tell you because they think you are going to copy it. People don’t have the time and effort to copy you. Tell everyone about your idea. If we hadn’t told everyone about our idea, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Elle: Tell people your idea but just limit the information you give them.

Al: Because you also won’t find out if you have a good idea unless you tell people about it.

What’s next?

Al: We’ve got space here until June, so we’re going to use up every last second of that.

Elle: One of the things that we want to do is partner with another start-up making biodegradable tampons. We want to start making water-dispersible feminine hygiene products and the pocket version of Twipes obviously.

 

To find out more about Twipes please visit:

Website: www.twipes.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/twipes/

Twitter: @ace_twipes

Instagram: @ace_twipes

 

If you need support or office space to launch your own business, please visit: www.city.ac.uk/cityventures/launch/city-launch-lab

 

 

 

Through His Lens

Alumni Stories.

Shooting Producer/Director James Hill (Psychology, 2011) took the skills he learned from his Psychology degree to make his dream job a reality. Here James steps out from behind the camera to tell us a story he knows very well; his own one. 

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I loved my time at City. I struggled through school, but when I started taking psychology at A-level I found a subject that I really enjoyed. I worked incredibly hard and was able to scrape together the grades to get into City. Once there, learning no longer became a chore; something I had to do, but was something I was actively pursuing.

Psychology fuelled my fascination with people, helped me become more empathetic, and in turn allowed me to create a more authentic connection with people. It taught me the importance of airing out issues, the importance of follow-up care and support, and how a person’s past will shape their future; all lessons I use in my career daily.

I not only learned about Psychology but was also introduced to Philosophy and Sociology, two subjects that I’m still fascinated with.

My degree also helped me understand how my dyslexia could be an advantage, rather than the burden I had always viewed it as. For my dissertation, I was able to investigate the effects of stress on the symptoms of dyslexia. With the support of my supervisor and Peter Barr (who created a computer program for me), I made an unpredicted finding; dyslexic participants were better at creative tasks than non-dyslexic participants, during both stressed and non-stress conditions.

This has always stuck with me and during my career, I’ve noticed that when the pressure is on and things get stressful, I’m very adaptable and my ability to work is not hindered.

Whilst at City my friends and I also created a snow sports society; we were able to enjoy trips to indoor ski slopes and met many like-minded people. The experience of being a student in London was too good to describe. So much to see and do while forming some of the most important friendships that I have today.

What happened after you graduated?

After I graduated I did a ski season in Austria, did some charity work in Uganda and went traveling before returning to London. I started working for free at a few television companies, crashing on friends couches and eating a lot of pasta, which led to an entry level paid position as a runner.

 One day I was assisting a shooting producer and director – driving, carrying kit, getting tea and lunch, packing away equipment. During some downtime, he kindly showed me how a broadcast camera worked. I practiced whenever I could and gradually learned to shoot for broadcast. As I continued with the show, they allowed me to ‘recce’ potential contributors, which meant interviewing them on camera and editing the footage.

As I already had experience with camera and editing I learned a lot very quickly. This was recognised early on and I was given the opportunity to produce, direct and shoot my own stories. This lead to becoming a Shooting Producer/Director which I have been doing for a number of years now.

Through my work, I have found myself on construction sites, eco retreats to be demolished by the council, live studios, gold mines in the Yukon and homesteads in North Carolina. I’ve also been welcomed into the homes of countless people and feel truly blessed that every day I get to tell other people’s stories.

When did your interest in filming and story-telling start?

I grew up with two brothers who are seven and eleven years older than me. One of the benefits was that they would sneak me into films I was too young for, introducing me to amazing films from a very early age. I fell in love with movies and was fascinated with how they were made. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn’t say a rock star or a cowboy; I’d say a director.

As I got older I started messing around with the family camcorder, making videos with my friends and editing little movies. I had to play the camcorder through the TV and quickly pressing record and stop on a VHS player! This carried on and developed to more sophisticated equipment as I grew older. I learned more about cameras and editing; how an idea becomes footage and how that is put together. I loved it and started looking into how I would be able to use this to tell the stories of real people. I discovered the television industry and haven’t looked back.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Actually getting into the industry. Like most industries, you have to start out as an intern and work your way up, however, to get an internship (or become a ‘runner’) you need to get experience in the field – also known as working for free. Luckily I had kind and amenable friends from City who let me crash on their couches during these days.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

The most rewarding experience I have had in my career was probably when I was in a honky-tonk bar in the USA during some down time on location. The bar had a TV and was showing an episode of a show that I had worked on. A row of people were sat at the bar watching. When they started cheering and discussing a scene that I had shot and directed it struck me how crazy the situation was. I couldn’t have imagined when I was making stupid videos with my friends that it would have ever lead to a situation like that. I realised that I was doing my childhood dream job…

That or when I got to do a lame ‘cool guy’ handshake with Coolio and made Kenan and Kel references during a celebrity game show.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Get stuck in. Message every company you can and ask if you could help out for a week or two. If no one is replying to your emails, call. If no one is returning your call, turn up to the office with your CV.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is sometimes the feeling that you need to fake it till you make it, but I would say the opposite. If you would like some advice and someone has the time, ask for it. You may worry that this will make you look bad, but there is no point in progressing to a senior position if you haven’t learned the foundations of what that role is.

Finally, realise the potential your degree gives you. Don’t be constrained by what career most people who study your degree have, but realise how it can be applied to other fields.

 

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Clissold Park on a sunny day

Favourite holiday destination: Hokkaido, Japan

Must-check every day website: Reddit

Dream travel destination: A secret surfing spot on the equator, so secret I don’t even know where it is!

Cheese or chocolate: Cheese. Everything is better with cheese; except lactose intolerance.

 

If you would like to check out some of James’ show reels or any of his work, please visit: jamesolavhill.com

You can also contact James at jolavhill@gmail.com

 

British Council Study UK Alumni Awards 2017

Alumni Notice Board.

Congratulations to the following alumni who have won a British Council Study UK Alumni Award:

Egypt

Professional Achievement Award: Sherif Hefni (PG Dip. Professional Legal Skills, 2010)

Malaysia

Entrepreneurial Award: Mary-Ann Ooi Suan Kim (Bar Vocational Course, 2007)

Read more about Mary-Ann.

Mexico

Professional Achievement Award: Dr Jorge Sigal Sefchovich (PhD Music, 2003)

 

Image credit: @StudyUK.BritishCouncil

Prepared for Success

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

Deniz Sasal (Executive MBA, 2013) has taken control of his own destiny, and wants to help you take control of yours too! He’s sharing insider hiring information at The Career Mastery and on YouTube, and helping you get further in your career at Landing Interviews Guaranteed. We asked him how it happened.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

Looking back at it now in 2017, it’s amazing to realise how much life can change in seven years. My time at Cass was full of ups and downs and in retrospect, I think I probably had more downs than ups. In 2010, during my second year, I was briefly unemployed. This quickly proved to be a major issue as I still had expenses to cover like school payments and rent.

I was the second youngest in my class and not only was I relatively younger than the others, I was now also unemployed. While many of my coursemates were already in senior leadership positions, I was finding it was difficult to keep up with their lifestyle. Even a $15-lunch was out of my league!

I tried to keep my difficulties to myself, but it was not easy. I’d be lying if I told you I never considered quitting, but my competitive sailing background had taught me to never quit and keep on going until I hit the finish line.

From an academic perspective, Cass gave us the best education possible. It was an intensive two-year programme which allowed me to learn what I didn’t know. Although this sounds trite, there is a major difference between knowing what you don’t know and not knowing what you don’t know. When you don’t know what you don’t know, then the opportunities to grow are very limited. You set the bar lower than your actual abilities just because you don’t know your potential.

After finishing Cass what was your next step?

Going through all these challenges during my MBA was a turning point for me because I realised then and there that I was going to be in charge of my own future. I never wanted to be dependent on anyone for my own fate.

So I decided I was going to own my own business. That was it. I just needed to learn a few more unknowns. To make it happen, I laid out my “very advanced” three-step grand strategy that would propel me to … Unlimited Wealth, Youth, and Prosperity! Step one was to get a job – any job – so I could start paying the bills as soon as possible. Step two was all about getting “the job” to leverage high income and save funds. The final step was to use that investment to set up my “own shop”.

Steps one and two were relatively easy to accomplish. After a few jumps, I was hired by PwC Consulting and quickly became a manager in the firm in my first year. The high intensity consulting environment was suited to my character, I was good at what I did, and my career flourished. There was never a dull day and my emotions regularly ran the full spectrum. Talk about the beauty that exists in volatility!

Finally, even though it was still going great, I quit in March 2017 to fully focus on step three. It was not easy. The third step took a few trial and errors. Not counting the days I sold fishballs in the wet market, my first real entrepreneurial activity was with Alphadore.

Alphadore was your first company?

Starting in 2011, whilst working full time, I worked night after night on Alphadore. It was a novel software solution designed to provide financial analysis for small businesses. Big corporations with their unlimited resources can afford to get best consultants, while mom and pop shops and other small businesses usually do not have such resources. So I thought I could create an amazing resource for them, a piece of software to run various simulations and show the health of their business. Not just that, but it could also benchmark them against each other. Well, it didn’t sell any… Not even my mother and father, small business owners, found any use for it.

After a year of working on it every single night, I gave up and sold it to another player in the market for the price of a nice coffee machine. They immediately renamed it, turned it into a QuickBooks Plugin, and made it a multimillion dollar solution within as little as three months.

But despite the seeming failure, Alphadore taught me many things about product development, product quality, adding tremendous value, digital marketing, guerrilla marketing strategies, and so many other essential skills that are needed to succeed as an entrepreneur.

When I heard about the success of Alphadore 2.0, I spent the next three months wondering whether I should be happy that my baby became so successful or devastated that I wasn’t the one who could walk the finish line. Of course, I made the right decision and chose to be devastated about it! Problem solved. I spent probably another four years hating entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs, and anything to do with being self-employed, and threw myself in to my corporate role.

Looking back, I was probably right to. Thankfully, I had a job in consulting that I loved immensely. I was sure that if I spent another three years with PwC Consulting, I would eventually become a partner. But then I remembered those days back in Cass again, when I was suddenly unemployed, and felt that lack of control over my fate. The idea that someone else could control my future just seemed so scary again. That was when I returned to that third step of my grand strategy.

How did The Career Mastery come about?

It started with a mission to expose some underhand practices in the jobs market. Specifically, I came across a few well-known multinational firms posting fake jobs online with job boards. This is a known but unacknowledged practice and happens for three main reasons.

Firstly, to trick financial analysts into thinking that the company is growing, because hiring means growth. Second, because the company bought bulk placements from major job boards anticipating growth, but then growth was slower than projected, so they put fake posts in instead. Thirdly, they may do this because the company wants to promote an internal employee but needs to pick a few bad apples from the external market to show that the internal employee is a better candidate.

I publicly named and shamed such companies during presentations at a few seminars in Europe. This was picked up by large media outlets and quickly turned into a big story. Eventually, one of those firms I named threatened me with a multi-million-dollar lawsuit. Of course, this only further triggered the interest of the public and Netizens had a field day searching about me! All of a sudden, my LinkedIn was exploding with connection requests.

It was then that I realised how hungry people are for valuable, differentiated content. Every marketer knows now that content is paramount. Yet, what everyone misses is that quality content is king. I realised I had some real quality content to offer, and so The Career Mastery was born, followed by my YouTube channel, and finally my free and paid training program Landing Interviews Guaranteed. Suddenly, I found myself truly helping thousands of people transform their careers.

People are hungry for value but we are in an unprecedented era of content overload. Everybody has something to share but the winners are the ones who truly care to add value and make a difference in their customers’ lives. That’s when the customers become followers and life-long advocates of your services.

I want Deniz Sasal to mean something to career aspirants. They know that if I share an opinion, it’s valuable.

Do you have a favourite top tip for jobseekers?

Yes, I do. Join Landing Interviews Guaranteed!

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Be obsessed with adding value. That’s the single biggest unique selling point you can ever have as an entrepreneur or an employee.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Cass Campus where I met my wife!
Favourite holiday destination: The Philippines
Must-check every day website: Of course it’s TheCareerMastery.com and LandingInterviewsGuaranteed.com
Dream travel destination: I think I already visited all my dream destinations. But a dream project is to participate in Clipper Round The World race.
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese.

Get advice from Deniz at The Career Mastery, on his YouTube channel, and access free and paid training programs at Landing Interviews Guaranteed.

Producing Magic

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

MBA alumnus Patrick Fischer (right, with business partner Richard, left) (Executive MBA, 2012) has added to his undergraduate film degree with MBA business know-how to form Creativity Media and its investment company Creativity Capital, combining film investment and post-production – with exciting outcomes. BAFTA-winning “Under the Shadow” was both part-funded and post-produced by Patrick and his team. We chatted about making it all happen.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I had known of Cass for a while, probably because they did a film-centric MBA and I knew people who had done that. My first degree was in film and I had just met Richard and started our post-production company. I’d been looking at doing a full time MBA either in the UK or the USA, but then I started to consider part-time as the best option.

What I really liked about Cass was that the interview process was very British – we just had a chat! I said I was starting a company and that the modular nature really appealed to me, and at the end they said I should apply. I really appreciated that.

The way the degree is set up was brilliant. The other students in my cohort were so interesting and it was great to see people from all different walks of life. The film world is very small, a tight-knit bubble that sometimes takes itself too seriously, so it was great to meet such a range of people, and at different stages in their careers too. I still regularly meet friends from the course.

In general the teaching was good, especially the finance and economics. It was so well organised and put together, and the range of electives allowed you to gravitate to one area. When I could choose I chose modules that would help my business. For example I chose HR as one of my electives and then I took that straight back to Richard. I always did any homework on my company too, which really helped.

The MBA helped me to build a proper business – something I don’t really see in my film network because film-making is very much a cottage industry in the UK. I was keen to ensure that this company was not like that, and the MBA helped me realise that goal. It also made me comfortable with finances, numbers and investments.

During the MBA I started my film investment company and secured venture capital funding in 2012. Basically I made the presentation for Creative Media as my dissertation and one VC company said yes to investing, so my degree was instrumental in starting my second business. I had some seed money at the start but this (gestures around at the fantastic studios we are in) is all built by VC money from Schneider Investment Associates.

I was also able to set up Creativity Capital as standalone investment company thanks to my line of credit with them. It’s now grown to multiple sources of finance. I would not have been able to attract investment, grow and set up a company like this if not for my MBA.

And one of your films just won a BAFTA?

Yes, “Under the Shadow”. Babak (the director), Kit (the cinematographer) and Matt (the colourist, one of the Creativity Media team) and I all did our film degrees together. The film was part financed through Creative Capital, and Creative Media did the post-production. It actually got two nominations and it won the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.

How did Creativity Media come about?

It was the joining of two separate wishes. The first was to create a viable business in the film industry. The second was to have little ship, so I could say “let’s go here, and then let’s go there”. I didn’t want to be just me on my own setting sail across the vast ocean that is the film industry. Luckily I’ve known Richard for years and we both wanted the same thing and this has been a great partnership and we’ve been able to create our ideal ecosystem. To paraphrase our VC investors “It’s better to have a business selling shovels to gold diggers than to go gold-digging!” We help people make films, which is much more scalable thank producing them yourself.

I‘ve always had a wish to be an entrepreneur, to have my own business, and I really like making movies, although it can be really difficult. So it’s been my dream to be in a situation with a company that works in film and helps people make great movies because I love stories and the film process. It’s magical what you can create through storytelling, and stories affect you in ways you won’t forget.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

You have challenges all the time! Setting up the company you need luck. When we got our first film, it was Richard, myself and Alex (our sound designer) who set it all up. There was a film that needed post-production and one of my film investors said if I created a business that maybe he would support it. So we got our first film to post-produce in 2010, and next we had to try to get our second film. Luckily a couple of producers trusted us and soon we had our third and fourth films.

The first challenge is to get off the ground in the first year. Then the main challenge changes to growing and running your business successfully. It’s about the cash flow forecast, the profit and loss, the shareholders, and trying to create a great place to work for your team. A big part of my job has become the human element – making sure people are happy. We want our team to come and dedicate a portion of their lives to creating films with us, and our clients range from brilliant and affable to slightly more bothersome. So I need to balance all things.

Creativity Media is challenging like any small business, you have to focus on how to run and grow, but that’s a nice challenge to have. I’ve never had that OMG this is not what I want to do moment, but you do get the good and the bad, and have to be careful and prudent when building your business, especially in film.

We can have six amazing months and then in mid post-production a stakeholder can say “I don’t like it” and we have to stop and wait for the director to re-cut the film. We may wait three months to be able to continue and we never know if such a thing will happen from one day to the next. We don’t really want people sitting around, so you have to think on your feet and make sure you’ve got enough projects in.

Do you have any advice?

It’s ultimately about the people – all of it. The two biggest relationships in my life are with my lovely wife Annalena and with my business partner Richard. It’s no exaggeration to say that my relationship with him as my business partner is on equal terms with my marriage. Finding the right people is paramount in life. Once you’ve got that, even if it’s just with one person, you can build and everything else can come from that.

Second, don’t be afraid. People think that when you’ve got a doctorate or an MBA you’ll be given the magic formula and then you’ll be a success in life, business or work. Life is not that complex, and we don’t have that long to do what makes us happy and fulfilled. You need to treat your business and your professional career with the same respect and the same seriousness you would any other long-term relationship in life.

Also, try new things. We’re big on empowering our team. For example Jennifer started an intern three years ago, and now she manages all our post-production projects and just got funding to produce her first film. Don’t worry if you don’t understand or don’t know –just put up your hand and ask. Don’t be afraid to look silly just because you don’t know a term or how the process works. Ask and learn, don’t pretend and then fuck stuff up. If you make a mistake always own up to it immediately. You get fired for the cover-up, not the mistake.

Be open to things and to other humans. Everyone is afraid to go out there and talk, to make connections. But then be critical: is this someone you are just chatting to for 5 mins over cocktails, or is it someone you could make a real friendship with.

For me, there is nothing worse than seeing people work in a big company and they aren’t really happy but become accustomed to a good paycheque and then suddenly they are 50 and wish they could have done something else. I’ll be able to say at least we did it, we tried. Film companies come and go, and people say it’s bad luck but it’s part of the game. In fact, business is all one big game don’t get so hung up on it.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: I used to live in a flat off Whitehall by Trafalgar Square, with a roof terrace and barbecue – so I’d say there
Favourite holiday destination: It changes! I used to go to Florida a lot but with all that’s happening over there… I’d say where my Grandmother lives in Baden Baden in South Germany.
Must-check every day website: BBC News and Reddit, but also I always look at my daily email from Finimize, a quick daily digest of all the main stories in finance.
Dream travel destination: Japan
Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate every time! I once calculated I’d eaten about 450kg of Nutella! I’m trying to cut down.

You can watch “Under the Shadow” on pay-to-view YouTube and Google Play, as well as other outlets.

Breaking the Money Taboo

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

Emilie Bellet came to Cass as part of her degree at ESCP in Paris, and then moved to London when she graduated. She’s always been ‘good’ at earning money, but saving….less so. Her new company, Vestpod, is all about informing women about how to be smart with their finances. We sat down for a chat about it all.

Tell me about you time at Cass!

I studied at Cass for six months as part of my Business Studies degree at ESCP in Paris. I specifically came to Cass to study because of its fantastic reputation for finance teaching and I wanted to work in an investment bank. The finance classes at Cass are amazing! I studied corporate finance and markets. It was also great to spend some more time in the city and to study in London.

The summer before I came to Cass I had done internship at Lehman Brothers and that led to a job starting in London the summer after. So being at Cass was also really good for my network because I could start meeting people in the city.

Alongside my studies I also got to play field hockey for a local team. I had played for the French team in Paris – and had played for a year in Spain before too – and I played in the national division here for six months. That was a great experience. Basically, I shared my time between Cass and the hockey pitch!

What did you do after Cass?

I studied at Cass close to the end of my education, so I returned to Paris for six months to complete my studies and present my Master’s thesis. Then I returned to London to work at Lehman Brothers – this was a year before the bankruptcy!

What was it like at Lehman Brothers?

I was there for a year, and then the crash came in September the year after I joined. When you’re a junior in a bank you learn a lot anyway, but this was beyond anything I had expected. It was stressful, but I treated it as an experience and tried to learn as much as I could.

I got lucky because I was in private equity and my managers created a spin-off of the fund. We managed to get funding to replace the Lehman Brothers commitments, which led to the creation of a separate entity. Despite this, there were five months of uncertainty, and in that time lots of other departments closed and lots of people were fired.

Where did you go next?

My department at Lehman Brothers became this separate entity that was called Trilantic Capital Partners, and I stayed there until 2014. I worked for six years in the PE fund, investing in and managing mid-cap companies.

I had lots of fun at Trilantic, working hard on investments. I looked after a company in France, another in South Africa, and one in Turkey and my role required really broad skills encompassing strategy, marketing, finance, and HR.

And then you wanted a change?

I decided then that what I really wanted to do was something meaningful and to create something that could change people’s lives. I started a business before this one, called Seed Recruit, but it didn’t work out even though I got a round of angel funding. After a year and a half I closed it, but I had all that experience under my belt.

I turned to this nagging feeling I’d always had… “How do I manage my finances?” I always knew that I’m good at earning and good at spending, but not good at saving! I started to look at what I could do to address this and had a hard time finding financial advisors to work with, especially because they are expensive. So I turned to financial publications and the internet, and didn’t really find very much of use.

Money feels like a big taboo. I couldn’t find anyone to talk about it with, not family or friends and when you’ve been a banker you don’t want to talk salary! So I had no community to talk to about it with, and let’s be honest, it’s a pretty boring topic.

How did Vestpod come about?

I started researching, and realised I wanted to launch something dedicated to women and finance. The two main things that came out of my research were that more and more women are becoming the breadwinner of the family, and that by 2028, women will inherit two-thirds of the world’s wealth. In general, money can be intimidating, and many people are put off by the financial jargon. So I thought, how do I address this topic in a way where I can both engage and inform?

Of course, the banks are trying to modernise but they have essentially been doing the same for years, and they are still not really addressing women, who typically have less money in their pensions, less confidence in managing their finances, and live longer. So they need more help! And that’s where Vestpod comes in. I’m not trying to be patronising, I want to be straightforward in everything I write. I also regularly invite experts to share on my platform, such as people from the fintech world, as well as financial advisors, and in early February I did an event with the FT money editor.

What does Vestpod do?

My first product is a weekly newsletter. The tone is friendly and cool, and I try to keep it that way. I used to just send it to friends, and now I have several hundred subscribers. In particular I really want to help women who are just starting their careers to those who have 10 years of experience – so all the access to the content is free at Vestpod.

We also run events. At this recent event with the FT money editor we had 40 women who spent two hours listening and asking a lot of questions – there was lots of interaction. I think this is because we presented the subject in a different manner. I’m super exciting about doing more of that, covering topics like how to get a mortgage, information about choosing your saving products (ISA), investing your money and much more. For me, it’s about being informed and being in control. It makes such a difference to your life when you don’t stress about money.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Really the challenge is starting. You can research an idea as much as you want, do interviews, talk to people and so on, but if you’re not launching your first product you’re just procrastinating. Lots of people have ideas that they talk about, but the upshot is that the execution is everything. Just do it. You’re never going to be exactly right the first time, but you can learn from your mistakes and iterate until you’ve got something valued and working.

What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Since I’ve dropped out of the corporate world I’ve tried to dream bigger. If you have something you are passionate about, even if it’s outside work, try to spend more time and energy on it. So many people complain about their jobs, but I say be a bit less dependent on what people think and don’t worry about them judging you. In the end it’s your life and your destiny.

What is next for Vestpod and for you?

Now I’ve launched Vestpod I want to do more writing, and I’m always thinking about how to scale the business. It’s just me and two freelancers at the moment, and I can’t do events every day – so I need to leverage technology as much as possible.

I’m also pregnant with my second baby, so it’s been a bit crazy at the moment. At least I’ve launched the business so I’m going to do as much as possible before the birth. I may need to raise funds by the end of the year to make Vestpod a bigger company and to employ more people.

In the long term I want to be really empowering women, whether in finances or in work or life. Why not creating a modern bank for women. So I’ve got lots of long-term projects!

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Camden and Primrose Hill
Favourite holiday destination: Japan
Must-check every day website: (no hesitation) The FT
Dream travel destination: A round-the-world trip with my family, I’m sure I’ll do it at some point, take a year out and just go!
Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate!

Sign up to the weekly newsletter here and follow Vestpod on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Brewing Up A Dream

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

group shotTom Miller (TM), James Cartwright (JC) and Chris Mortensen (CM) studied their Executive MBA at Cass from 2012 to 2014. Now, alongside their full-time roles, they mentor Cass students, and over the past 12 months started up their own craft beer company, Elemental Brew House.

We sat down over a beer (obviously) to talk with the team about dealing with HMRC, their love of brewing and how they fit it all in!

Tell me about your time at Cass!

(TM) We all started at Cass together in March 2012, to do our Executive MBAs. We all came from different fields. James and I were in the same working group in our first year and Chris was in a group we worked very closely with. We were a very close-knit cohort who worked hard and played hard, and in doing so we formed very strong bonds which will last our whole lifetimes.

(TM) During our second year at Cass, we moved over to 200 Aldersgate and left Bunhill Row behind. Chris and I took modules in how to Fast-Track Ventures and New Venture Creation, because we had both always had the idea that we would want to launch a venture at some point. (CM) I also studied lots of strategy.

(TM) A lot of our venture creation coursework was so relevant. For example, we had to interview two similar businesses, one which succeeded and one which didn’t, and Chris and I chose coffee in East London – which is very relevant to the brewing industry but ahead in timeframe. I did lots of learning then that was useful for our proof-of-concept launch. We also created our business plan as part of a coursework.

(CM) I specifically enjoyed Fast Track Ventures with Sam Kamuriwo. We learned a lot about growth versus speed, pitfalls etc. The main conclusion I took away from that elective was you need the right team and the right mix of skills. It really sowed the seeds for our idea and our approach. I also learned all the marketing tools and methodologies such as customer segmentation and behaviours, frameworks and foundations and we used lots of the theory in our launch. Even getting our license we used a framework from Sam’s class.

You’re now offering MBA students a chance to work with you?

(JC) We have developed a very deep relationship with Cass, and we all wanted to open up the opportunity to current students to get their Business Mastery Project (BMP) underway with us for our new venture. Tom, Chris and myself have strengths in several fields but we are also able to recognise where our gaps lie. As a result we are offering a really great opportunity for a current student at Cass who wishes to learn more about digital marketing and launch strategies. Our BMP is focussing on a detailed analysis of the London based craft ale market, customer segmentation and profiling, along with the development of optimised launch strategies for our product range. You will also get to know the process of beer making along the way.

(TM) We love to give back – we all mentor current students – and lots of people don’t know what they want to do for their BMP. I was sponsored by my company so I did my project on them and Chris and James had ideas too, but not everyone does, so we wanted to offer something to benefit them. If things go well this year then we will no doubt come back next year and see if we can offer another opportunity.

What did you do after you graduated?

(TM) We all went back to our full-time jobs in different industries and are currently running the ‘Elemental’ business in our spare time. We graduated in June 2014, did our proof of concept in 2015 and had our official launch about four months ago in October 2015.

(TM) Chris and I were the original partners, but we always wanted James to come on board. He recently joined us back in 2016 so we are now all co-founders at Elemental Brew House.

(CM) I remember we started talking about this in October 2014 over dinner! We were all finished and back doing our normal full-time jobs – it was nice to have not so much to juggle. (JC) and then our flagship product won a prize!

Your beer won a prize?

(CM) Brewing has always been a real interest of mine, I’ve been home brewing for at least 10 years. (TM) And he got us interested, because we liked the idea of brewing beer for ourselves to consume! We brewed this particular beer at Chris’s house (CM) and in February 2015 submitted what is now one of our flagship beers, Pamplemousse, to this home brewers’ competition. There were about 380 entries, and we placed in the top 10. A prestigious judge said in a special comment that ours was his favourite and the feedback was that it was very highly regarded. It validated the product and created the ground swell.

(CM) I got Tom and James in to brewing in our first year, and after this we kept having conversations about the best things to make. We want to appeal to each person’s palate so we did a lot of testing. We went from homebrew, to thinking about what gives us an edge, to proof of concept from August to December in 2015. We were successful and last year started looking for brewing location. We chose a place in Edmonton in Spring 2016, then had to get a license, and started brewing there in October 2016.

(TM) We have been brewing commercially for over a year now, but we recently moved in to our current premises in Edmonton as this allowed us to step up in production scale from 150 litres to 850 litres. We recently completed our first brew at this new scale and all that remains is to label it and it will be ready to sell.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

(JC) HMRC! The taxation regulations and VAT all take so long. There are some helpful videos around but at a certain point you just have to grind through it.

(TM) Yes HMRC had obstacles! We had plenty of advantages from our fast track venture course but as a small business we’re struggling because there are no economies of scale, for example in negotiations with suppliers. We’re definitely trying to start lean and learn the business!

(CM) We literally have do to everything. We’d love to outsource but at the moment it’s cheaper to do it ourselves, although maybe not as cost-effective from a time point of view. We all work full-time so fitting it in can be tricky. Luckily we’re now licensed and when we move to even larger premises it will just mean an adjustment to our license which we can deal with when that moment comes.

(JC) When we were in MBA mode we would come and study and do our full-time jobs. Now we’re back to working full-time and doing this at evenings and weekends, so personally I’ve had to dust off those time-management skills again!

(CM) Yes I agree! And now I really enjoy the different combination of physical things – work is not just sitting in office. We have to move big grain sacks, and brewing is a physical process in general, which is part of the draw (TM) for all of us! (CM) It’s creative and a work-out plus when you add the financial management, marketing, sales and more, it’s akin to doing the MBA. It’s all good stuff, and great to have a good balance with the physical and the intellectual.

(JC) To create a batch we have a brewing day which means an early start to get water boiling and grain dispensed and after many hours of effort you have flavoured sugar water! Then you have to wait two weeks for it to ferment before you can package it up and then two more weeks for it to mature in the bottle or in the keg before distribution.

(TM) It’s all done by hand – the bottling, the labelling, we even hand-stamp the best-before date. It’s really crafty, there is no automation (yet!) and we even try to deliver it ourselves too.

What’s next?

(TM) Next week we’ve got tastings with buyers to talk about the tasting profiles and to make deliveries.

(JC) In the near term we are planning a formal launch event and we are actively working with various venue owners across London, so watch out for details of that coming soon.

(TM) We recently supplied to a photographer for an event, so we want to do more of that sort of thing. The complexity is in finding time to do it all and not to let it affect your day job. We all live and work in different areas of London, and brewing is in another location completely, and storage yet another.

(CM) Logistics is fun 🙁

What has been your most rewarding moment?

(CM) For me it’s definitely seeing someone drink a beer with Elemental on the side.

(TM) At our launch party for the proof of concept at Shoreditch BL-NK, at one point we had the Mayor of Hackney and our beer on stage and he couldn’t stop drinking it! The event was great, we got feedback on taste and also tested our market position with a choice of two labels by going person to person. It was really useful feedback and our biggest event so it was great to be there personally.

(CM) Our first brew for the proof of concept was quite stressful! We did an American amber called Ombre, which is the same as we’re planning for the launch this time.

(JC) Chris and I have Engineering backgrounds so as youngsters we used to build things and then take them apart again to see how they worked and that was fun, but we are both now at that stage in our careers where it’s all about laptops, meetings and sitting behind a desk. At the end of the brewing day you feel shattered but you can also see all the beer you’ve just created, and that’s very cool.

(TM) We have tried to develop beer that satisfies all our palates. It’s great when you do a taste test with people and you say, drink this beer let me know what you think – and they say well, I don’t normally drink beer but I loved it! It’s really rewarding! We try to make beer people like rather than (JC) something like cardamom and clove! (CM) Maybe for Christmas (joke)!

(CM) I personally like what we brew these days, I’m not interested in really hoppy IPAs wars with everyone.

(JC) I’ve been trying to get Chris to develop a rice beer, (TM) Chris is our Master Brewer (JC) because there is a growing trend in China linked to President Xi’s ambition for China to be a sporting hub by 2025. The connection between beer and sporting events is well documented but if you want to drink Chinese-style beer, the flavour profile is one dimensional. Therefore we have a chance to develop and augment rice beer and introduce more structure and complexity to a very popular product.

(TM) The challenge is that our passion is making beer and for us it’s all about producing high quality product, but we also need to sell it. Currently we’re also struggling with doing our HMRC returns!

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

(JC) I came to the MBA journey quite late in my career. I’m definitely older than Tom and I do have regrets about not doing it sooner. You have to have the courage to take that leap. If you feel something is not quite right, all is not well at work, do some quiet analysis and if the solution is to go back and return to study don’t worry about the cost – it will happen.

(TM) Planning but never actually doing it is textbook!

(JC) People get stuck in the mind-set that they will do it next year, but there is always something stopping them – look hard enough and you’ll find a reason not to make that leap. Change your perspective and look forward, invest your time and effort and you’ll get your reward.

(CM) For me it’s about belief. Get an MBA, further yourself and start to create. Then you can better contribute and believe you can actually achieve something successful. For me it’s all about valuing your own time and your abilities

And finally, it’s the quick fire question round!

Tom James Chris
Favourite place in London: East London, I’ve lived there for 10 years Blackfriars on a Sunday at 7am Richmond Park
Favourite holiday destination: Sicily SE Asia, particularly Shanghai & Hanoi Nepal
Must-check everyday website: Twitter for sports news Bloomberg NY times
Dream travel destination: South America The 5 mile radius around my home Everywhere! South America, specially the Andes
Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate. Chocolate coffee stout is my favourite! Cheese Chocolate

If you would like to order some Elemental Brew House Beer please contact Hello@elementalbrewhouse.com. You can also follow them on Facebook and on Twitter @elementalbrew.

#CityJournalism40: Mickey Carroll and Lucy Palmer

#CityJournalism40, Alumni Stories, Arts and Social Sciences News.

As the journalism department prepares to celebrate its 40th year, alumnae Mickey Carroll and Lucy Palmer took time out of their busy (but exciting) schedules to tell us a little bit about their student experience at City.

So student life at City, what was it like?

Mickey: I loved it at City. I joined in 2012. When I first got to London, I came from the fields in Cheshire, my dream was to just live in London and be a journalist at some point. So, I got here and I was full of enthusiasm. I emailed my favourite journalist at the Guardian and wrote ‘I’m at City and it’s very exciting’. And then I went for the most awkward coffee in the world with him. That kind of spurred me on so for the next 2 years.

I was really keen – I was keen the whole way through but I was working for lots of local newspapers and stuff and became really obsessed with journalism. I got on really well with my tutors. So that was useful.

I went to Denmark in my third year – I was studying TV foreign correspondence. I arrived thinking I was going to be in a city like Copenhagen. But when I arrived I realised, ‘this is not Copenhagen! This is Aarhus’ – which is a tiny tiny town, smaller than the town near me where I grew up.

At first I just freaked out completely and then realised that the course was amazing. It’s one of the best course for TV foreign correspondence in Europe. I ended up really loving it and got to meet the most amazing people and just had a great time. I came back and worked in the industry for 6 months; part-time at the Economist Educational Foundation, part time at an all-female production company and a month at the Sunday Times.

Lucy: My three years at City were probably the most challenging and rewarding years of my life. You’re in London so, although it’s expensive, if you want to be a journalist it can be full of really unexpected and rewarding experiences.

I think the best thing that City gave me would be the skills I’ve needed to do what I’m doing right now. The course put us under pressure in terms of deadlines, and expecting a lot from you. The support from the lecturers was amazing. They really genuinely invest in you as a student of theirs and they want you to do well.

I think City helped me realise that, if you’ve got the drive to do it, you can be a journalist. I came from an arts background so went to university a bit later than most. At the time I really wasn’t sure what I was doing, or if journalism would be right for me. I walked into City’s journalism department and immediately thought, this is exactly where I want to be. Still, to go from making puppets and strange light instillations to journalism was terrifying. Thankfully, in my first week I’d written an article about a homeless charity that got homeless artists’ work up in cafes in central London. It ended up going into City Magazine – I was so excited and remember thinking oh my god maybe I can actually do this journalism thing.

Mickey: One of the great things about City is that the tutors are so well connected and they helped to put me in touch with other people. And I’m still in touch with lots of people from journalism.

Any advice to current or future journalism students?

Lucy: I would say just do as much work experience as you can, take opportunities and really push yourself because it doesn’t get easier. You will never have more time when you graduate and whilst you’re at uni you have a seriously amazing safety net and support network.

Mickey: Make the most out of the lectures and the lecturers because they will help you immensely if they think you want it, talk to everyone and take every opportunity.

Mickey and Lucy are now both journalists at The Economist Educational Foundation.

 

New Year’s Honours 2017

Alumni Notice Board.

Congratulations to the following alumni who have all been named in the New Year’s Honours list 2017:

Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)

• Caroline Miller, MA Cultural Leadership 2009
Executive Director Orlando Ballet, Lately Director, Dance UK.
For services to the Arts.

• Caroline Ross, PG Dip Law 1998 & Professional Legal Skills 1999
Lawyer, Department of Energy and Climate Change.
For Legal Services to International Climate Change Negotiations.

Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)

• Dr Howard Leicester, Measurement and information in Medicine Research 2004
For services to Improving Patient Services in the NHS.

Image credit: ice.org.uk

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.

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