Drew Midgely (BSc Banking and International Finance, 2007) loved the buzz of London when he arrived at 18 and now his family business Vendimia Lighting Co. provides vintage-inspired fittings for trendy London restaurants, amongst other places. We caught up for a chat:
Tell me about your time at Cass!
I came to Cass to study BSc Banking & International Finance in 2004 and I graduated in late 2007. What drew me to Cass was first of all that it was in London. I had family in London and I loved the buzz in the city, so I wanted to make sure I was there. Also, I had researched the credentials of Cass and it really drew me in.
Looking back, I moved to London at 18 and all of a sudden I was almost 200 miles from home! I learned a lot academically and a lot of life skills too, which was really good; I couldn’t cook for myself or do the washing, so it was a steep learning curve. The people I met came from all over the world, and it was great to meet people from such different backgrounds and cultures. I’m still in touch with many, they are lifelong friends, and many more are still acquaintances that I am connected with on social media.
What did you do next?
I interviewed for jobs in a couple of major banks in London but I was not successful, so because of the extortionate rents in London I decided to move back to Yorkshire. I actually then went to study an MSc Information Management at The University of Sheffield, which was a one-year course, and whilst I was there I dabbled in e-commerce on marketplaces to supplement my student income.
So I spent a year doing that and then I started work in the Marketing & Communications department in a local government body. I stayed there for seven years, it was very corporate, and I learned a lot about marketing and communications. From there I progressed to my current business.
What is Vendimia Lighting Co.?
We are a leading manufacturer of vintage inspired lighting. We sell directly to customers, trade and through retail partners and work with architects, restaurant designers and hospitality workers. We sell our products all over the globe, and we’ve been in several publications and appeared on TV. We work in particular with bars, restaurants and commercial lets in Yorkshire and have done work further afield like at the Other Palace Theatre London, where we provided the lights for the booking office and restaurant, and for a few other London restaurants too. People have probably seen our lights and never even realised!
If you’re still not sure what we do, it’s the same lighting as those trendy bars in London which have old school lights in cages hanging from fabric. That’s what we produce. We are always focussed on the future and are thinking maybe of branching into homewares or tables and chairs that can accompany our style of lighting.
It’s a family business? How did that happen?
So as I said I dabbled in e-commerce as a student, and at this time my brother was doing a business degree at Sheffield too. He had been doing a range of business things, and had been in property development, when he came to me with this idea for vintage-inspired lighting. I could see the potential for growth and the competitors were doing well. He asked did I want to join? Yes! I jumped in because I was getting very sick of the 9-5 corporate world. So we jumped in three years ago, along with our other brother – it’s a real family affair!
The name is Spanish for vintage. We have a family villa in Spain and spend a lot of time there, and just thought the name was cool – vintage is the vibe.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Right now personally it’s getting enough sleep! My son was born 5 months ago so not to be a zombie at work is the main challenge. Otherwise I’d say it’s spending quality time with my family. It’s hard to switch off when it’s a family business and you’ve got your work email on your phone, it’s hard to get that work/life balance.
Coming from a corporate background now to work in to warehouse with an office in the corner, and spending much of my time picking and packing orders on the warehouse floor – it’s literally a different world! Getting my hands dirty I feel like I’ve done a hard day’s work! I’m also dealing with a much wider range of people, because the clientele includes tradesmen and is a lot less corporate and more relaxed.
Do you have any advice to pass on?
Don’t be scared to jump out of your comfort zone. Looking back to when I went to University I was 18 years old, which seems so young now – it was a massive thing but at the time it didn’t really seem like it. You just go for it! If you have a passion or an interest and want to do it, just do it! You can spend all your time thinking what if, especially about leaving your corporate role, but it really frees you up and creates that flexibility to form a better work/life balance.
Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: Other Palace Theatre
Favourite holiday destination: St Lucia on my partner’s family yacht
Must-check every-day website: vendimialighting.com, Shopify and our social media pages
Dream travel destination: China, we have suppliers there and I’d love to see the country
Cheese or Chocolate: Chocolate