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Category Archives: Black History Month, Oct 2020

Pain-less: Living with Pain, Finding Joy

Alumni Stories, Black History Month, Oct 2020.

Anne WelshNever one to shy away from breaking down barriers, Anne Welsh (MSc Investment Management, 2008) – who has established workplace practices for ethnic minorities and people with disabilities – has now penned her story detailing what it is like to live with an invisible illness. In Anne’s recently published memoir, Pain-less: Living with Pain, Finding Joy, she lets her readers know that life can still be wonderful, no matter the challenges they may face.

Find out more about Anne here:

Instagram: @ladyannewelsh
Facebook: ladyannewelsh
Twitter: @ladyannewelsh
YouTube: annewelsh

Can you tell me about your time at the Business School?

Attending the Business School was a wonderful experience. I was challenged by the study programme but felt a great sense of community with the professors and students. The support I received as a sickle cell student was tremendous, and this helped me achieve strong academic results regardless of how sickly I was.

The environment was very friendly and encouraging for studying. I made lots of friends from different backgrounds and still keep in touch with them. During my time at the Business School I found it very useful when I engaged with my fellow students. This helped me learn different viewpoints, exchange ideas and discuss issues that were taught in class. An important life learning for me is that there’s no shame in acknowledging when you need help and the staff were always accommodating and supportive.

What happened after you graduated?

The leap into work was not easy. However, doing my MSc at the Business School made applying for City jobs easier, as attending this prestigious school opened doors and gave me access to a much broader set of opportunities. During internships, I worked with colleagues in similar positions as myself and we were able to share understanding of issues and help each other grow.

Upon graduating in 2008, I was hired by Lehman Brothers Asset Management for the Investment Management Division. After Lehman, I continued in the same role for another investment company before taking time off to have my first child. I then focused on charity work as Chairperson of the Sickle Cell Society UK and other organisations before starting my own consultancy company focused on business development and branding in 2014.

In June 2019, I launched my memoir Pain-less: Living with Pain, Finding Joy and will continue to be an advocate for improving awareness of sickle cell disease and sharing experiences of how to improve quality of life while living with invisible illnesses.

How did Pain-Less come about?

Since I became an adult, I have felt it is my duty to raise awareness of the sickle cell condition. It is a testament to many dear friends that I have lost from the disease. Also, as I travelled to many locations in Africa and the Middle East where sickle cell is highly visible in the population, this reinforced my view that there was a need for a global voice for the disease.

Becoming an author was very time consuming, but I was driven to succeed. My book was developed over about five years and it took a focused hard push over a nine-month period to complete it. I turned to writing because I was passionate about my story and believed it was one that needed to be told. I had a difficult time growing up, being sick and not getting the help, which I needed. I always thought I was the cause of my pain and that suffering from having sickle cell would always keep me from the joy in life. At times, I blamed myself for my failings and by putting them down on paper, these experiences could then be shared to help others in similar situations.

What have been the biggest challenges?

As an author , it was the challenge of frequently finding the internal discipline that was needed to complete the task of the next paragraph of the next chapter being written; and you never get the prose correct the first time. So, punishing yourself to go through many iterations until you get as close to perfection as you can – this really tests one’s stamina.

My company is about placing investors and projects together in difficult operating environments around the world. Therefore, the greatest challenge from a business viewpoint, is the constant refreshing of relationships. To do this job well, you must constantly travel, attend events and forever be researching details. Some of the countries I have worked in have been devastated by war and regime changes which makes doing business very difficult and where even simple logistics and accommodation is of a very basic quality.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

On a personal level, being part of a loving family has been the ultimate reward and in some small way the personal knowledge I gained by writing the book has helped me appreciate this aspect of my life even more.

The individual accomplishment I hold dear, has to be having my book launched in London and frequently getting positive comments about how my book has helped people dealing with health issues.

My positive experiences from my business have been focused around being able to deliver unique solutions that will put a smile on the faces of both investor and project owner. Knowing that the advice you gave them will contribute to improving the quality of life for many people is very rewarding.

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

Establishing personal networks that you can trust is key to success. Only by knowing people that can implement business solutions or have access to high quality projects will you succeed. Believe in yourself and do thing things you love. This way even when you are having a very difficult day on the job it will never feel like work.

Thank you to Anne for sharing her story! If you would like to find out more about Anne and Pain-Less, visit Anne’s website here

The Student Hardship Fund

Black History Month, Oct 2020, Cass Future Fund.

Doyin has recently completed an MSc in Insurance and Risk Management at Cass. But without the help of your donations and the student hardship fund this might not have happened. A highly motivated and driven individual, Doyin undertook her Masters in order to bolster the seven years of experience she had already gained in the Insurance sector. Doyin told us that “I felt my career was nearing a ceiling, and the Insurance and Risk Management Masters was my plan to ensure it didn’t and I could move on up to the next level.”

In order to take on the intensive workload of the degree, Doyin made the courageous decision to put aside her full-time position. Her income was drastically reduced, and course-fees, bills, travel and food expenses soon began to eat into the savings that she had put aside to undertake the degree. It was at this point that the Student Hardship Fund stepped in and supplied her with the necessary funds to continue. “It definitely gave me peace of mind and the ability to concentrate on my studies without the daily and incapacitating worries about money.” Doyin was overjoyed to complete her course last month and would like to say thank you to all those who supported the Cass Future Fund.

Doyin has since returned to employment in the City of London, and is back working in the Insurance sector. She will officially graduate in January 2020 and is very much looking forward to it. Doyin’s immediate goal is to utilise the skills and contacts obtained whilst studying at Cass, broadening her experience in some of the areas of Insurance that prior to her MSc were closed off. Doyin is passionate about driving change in Insurance and is incredibly committed to career development, not only for herself but for those around her too. “I belong to an ethnic minority group that is under-represented in our industry and am involved in encouraging some of these talented individuals into the market, regardless of background.” Doyin reiterated: “the London Insurance Market serves a global client base, and in my opinion, the way to achieve success at this is to foster diverse working environments. Education is great. It evokes thinking and contributes to the much talked about diversity of thought in a workplace.”

Doyin also plans to get involved with the Cass Global Women’s Leadership initiative. Learn more about this here.

Without doubt, the Student Hardship Fund has been instrumental in Doyin successfully completing her course. And it will continue, through your help, to do that for countless future students. Thank you so much for your support.

Helping women take control of their finances

Alumni Stories, Black History Month, Oct 2020.

After starting a career in investment management, Davinia Tomlinson (Executive MBA, 2017), soon realised that the number of women actually investing in their future was considerably low. Noticing a gap in the market for a financial advice service for women, Davinia recently launched rainchq.

Here you can read about Davinia’s time at the Business School and how rainchq is supporting women with making financial decisions for themselves and their families.  

Can you tell me about your time at the Business School?

I originally embarked on the Executive MBA because I’d become frustrated with corporate life and felt that I wasn’t really fulfilling my potential. I was desperate to run my own business but lacked the confidence, the resources and the the understanding of how businesses worked.

This is why I chose to study at the Business School. I knew it would provide me with access to the university’s outstanding academic and professional networks both in the UK and overseas, while also encouraging me to build relationships that would stand the test of time. I’m pleased to say that my experiences are among some of my most rewarding and memorable.

The modular programme was particularly attractive because it enabled me to juggle work, study and motherhood simultaneously and gave me an insight into how far I could stretch myself in meeting multiple different commitments. I couldn’t have selected a better launchpad for my transition into entrepreneurship.

What happened after you graduated?

By graduation, I was pregnant with my second child so I went on maternity leave a few weeks later. During this time, my thinking around a concept – that would eventually become rainchq – had started to crystallise.

I began the process of fleshing out the idea in more detail and testing it with colleagues, friends and family. Over a year later and having pivoted the business model twice before launching, rainchq opened for business to help women take control of their financial futures.

How did rainchq come about?

The idea for rainchq came to me shortly after I started my career in the investment management industry over a decade ago. I was shocked by the low numbers of women investing and couldn’t understand why. With data showing that women typically save up to 3 times less than men do for later life and a gender pension gap in the UK of 40%, there was a real opportunity to make a difference to how women plan for the future.

My vision is to help millions of UK women take control of their financial future and ultimately, prevent pensioner poverty through a 3 pillar service. We offer:

  • financial education – designed to demystify the world of investing and unravel the jargon the industry is renowned for
  • access to qualified and regulated financial advice, delivered via video conferences to maximise accessibility to women across the country
  • events focused on all aspects of holistic wellbeing, from financial through to physical

What have been the biggest challenges?

As a bootstrapped business, financed through savings as well as support from family, one of the biggest challenges of course is funding.

Aside from this, there was also a small minority group of people who questioned the validity of a financial services business focused exclusively on women. Some of the feedback I received during the research process, primarily from women, was that I was at risk of alienating or isolating them even further. My response to this is: for many of the population, the current approach to financial services, at least in the UK, excludes many women through poorly targeted communications, inaccessible services and a more masculine and aggressive approach overall.

rainchq is designed to tackle some of these issues by creating a service designed to meet the, arguably, distinctive financial needs of 50% of the population, who have historically been ignored.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

The best part of this journey for me was the research process. During this time, I met dozens of women in focus groups, conducted scores of one-to-one interviews and received survey feedback, which helped me to validate the business idea and gave me greater confidence that there might be a gap in the market for a service like this.

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

Surround yourself with a positive, supportive group of like-minded people who can help keep you upbeat during the inevitable slumps but who can also offer constructive feedback on things you can improve. I would also encourage anyone in a similar position to ensure that they have a good financial safety net before they leave paid employment so they don’t have to worry about paying the bills in the first year. And finally – however long you think it will take to get the business off the ground, double it! Patience is a much needed virtue in this process.

Now for some quick fire questions:

Where is your favourite place in London?
Greenwich Park

What is your favourite holiday destination (that you’ve travelled to)?
Thailand

Which website do you check every day? 
Financial Times

What is your dream travel destination?
Anywhere in the Caribbean

Do you prefer cheese or chocolate?
Chocolate!

To find out more, visit rainchq.com and follow the team on all social media platforms @rainchq

Nearly 60 Minutes with Nicole Young

Alumni Stories, Arts and Social Sciences News, Black History Month, Oct 2020.

60 Minutes producer Nicole Young is an 11 time Emmy winner and a mummy to be*, but before that she was an MA International Journalism student at City.  Here, Nicole talks about her time at City, as well as being an award-winning journalist in our 42 minutes and 57 second interview.

Can you tell us about your time at City?

City was one of those times in my life that shaped me in a way I could not have ever anticipated.  I applied to City because I was in a job at the time in New York I did not really like.  I was working for a PR firm, a private PR firm, out of a woman’s house.  I remember going to work every morning just dreading it, just crying myself to sleep.  I thought you are exhausted one; two, you need to find another job.  I decided to go to school and do my Masters programme, but I had already missed the deadline for all the programmes I really wanted to do in the states.  So, I literally googled, ‘what is the best journalism programme in the UK,’ and City University came up.

I remember after I sent the application to City, I immediately wrote my letter of resignation.  Not knowing if I had gotten in yet, I put it in my drawer.  I got a call maybe two weeks later to have a phone interview with somebody from City, then two or three days after that, I was accepted.  I remember it was around 12 o’clock in the afternoon.  I took that letter I had written weeks before, handed it to my boss and said ‘here are my two weeks’.

What was it like doing the course?

The course was fulfilling because I was genuinely getting the most wonderfully international perspective of journalism I could get. There were so many diverse students from so many different places and countries.  I was having conversations with people in ways I never had and I really think that changed how I thought about journalism particularly covering international stories.

What happened after you graduated?

I tried to extend my visas based on me finishing my thesis for as long as the UK government would allow. I think I left London at the last possible minute I could because I absolutely wanted to stay.  I tried getting a job anywhere in journalism in the UK, but they just did not want an American girl like me.

So, I brought myself home and it was the best thing I could have ever done.  I got some freelance work, particularly at CBS news because I interned there.  For about 7 months, I worked for nothing with my Masters degree, wondering if I had made the right decision to spend all this time doing it in the first place.  Eventually, I started interviewing and got a call from 60 Minutes II, it was a sister show for 60 Minutes.  A correspondent who was up and coming named Scott Pelley, needed an assistant.  I raised my nose a little bit at first, being an assistant, because I thought it’s not really what I wanted to be doing as someone with a Masters degree.  But, one thing that I’ve learned is your pride will be the one thing that can step in your way of opportunity.  So, I interviewed for the position and would you believe, I liked Scott.  He was a great guy and I really enjoyed the work he was doing.  I got home from the interview that day and I had a message on the answering machine from Scott Pelley.  It said ‘I’d really like to offer you the position.’  I guess the next 15 years is history.

So in the course of those 15 years you’ve won 11 Emmys?

Yes, 11 Emmys among other awards.  I have now come to a place where I used to say, ‘I was really lucky’ a lot, but I’m actually not allowed to say that anymore.  I got lucky once, when Scott called me and offered me the position, everything after that, I made for myself.

What was it like winning the first one?

It was surreal.  I was blinded by the fact that I still have so much to do.  I am just beginning.  So, I probably didn’t take it in as much as I should have.  I have this tradition that every year I have won an Emmy I kiss it.  I can also see how I have evolved in wardrobe and in my confidence.

With each one, I get people joking ‘aren’t you tired?’  I answer, “I’m not, because for me it’s not about winning.”  For me, it is more about the stories that I have had the opportunity to work on, the ones that have affected change or that have given a voice to the voiceless or that have shone a light into a dark corner of the world that didn’t otherwise have it.  To tell epic stories of human struggle and to tell stories in places where people do not have people listening to them.  That is the real award.

What has been the most challenging part of all of this?

I think the most challenging part of it is really the content.  It is heavy, particularly the last few years with our Syria coverage.  I have never seen death and destruction on this level.  I have read about it and the only thing that compares would be World War 2 and the Holocaust.  So, to bear witness to a war and to atrocities like the ones we have covered in our pieces, have really been something that I never thought in my lifetime I would witness one on one.  That has been one of the hardest things.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

The most rewarding experience is when you know your story has affected change or has affected people in a certain way.  We do not do stories for fundraising.  That is not our goal, but we try to tell as fair and as balanced a story as we can.  We let the audience decide if they want to react to it. When the audience reacts in the right way, it is humbling.  That is the whole point of why you go out there and risk your life.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue journalism or humanitarianism?

Well, the first thing I would say is, that it is hard and to expect it.  You are not going to get paid a lot to do this kind of work, but once you get over that and you’re willing to put the work in, then go and be the best journalist you can be.  There is nothing more important about journalism, for me, than taking your time and doing stories that matter.  Make sure your stories are correct, making sure your stories are well thought out.  For me, that’s what journalism is about. It does not matter whether or not you are the first person to get a story, what matters is that you are right.

City gave me a foundation that I did not expect to get and I am grateful for it. I think it has helped shape me to be the journalist I am today and with all the things I have been able to accomplish now, I still feel that I am just beginning.  I do not know what the end for me is or what success means to me.  It does not mean 22 Emmys, it is more about how many more places can I go to that need a voice.  Unfortunately, I do not think I am ever going to run out of list of places that are going to need that, but I sure as heck am going to try to do as much as I can.  Being pregnant, I‘ve never had more of a desire to do it.   Being around children, particular now, I feel blessed for the opportunities I’m hoping I’ll be able to give my child.  If, I can help other children in the world have even a fraction of opportunity, I want to do it now more so than I ever.

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

What is your favourite place in London: Hyde Park

What is your favourite holiday destination: I’m in love with Turkey, Istanbul right now.  Rome is a fantastic city as well, particularly around Christmas time. Those would be my 2 favourite places to go.

Which website do you check every day: Really it’s probably Facebook. It is a plethora of information.

What is your dream travel destination: Namibia, Africa

Cheese or chocolate: Cheese

Click here to watch the Yemen coverage on 60 Minutes.

*Nicole has since given birth to a healthy baby boy.

Getting Flushed

Alumni Stories, Black History Month, Oct 2020.

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

 

 

 

Meet the Principal

Alumni Stories, Black History Month, Oct 2020, Health Sciences News.

 michael-blog-photoAn Adult Nursing graduate, Mike Sonny is now at the helm of London Waterloo Academy. We asked the former health professional what life is like in the Principal’s Office.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I graduated in 2004 with a PG Diploma in Adult Nursing. The lectures were informative, interactive, well-structured, challenging and fun at the same time. We had plenty of opportunities to practice in clinical placements thanks to the faculty. I loved the engagement of academic literature, research and the science of nursing.

All in all, this course was an amazing experience, particularly having to attend lectures in various locations around the city. Not easy at times but it was like an adventure locating the various sites.

What happened after you graduated?

I went into clinical practice and a turn of events took me into teaching in Further Education and Higher Education (FE/HE) colleges – I was actually headhunted! Whilst at City, I had always had this feeling that I would end up in the teaching, research and training UK workforce.

From lecturing, I became Director of Studies for several years. In 2007, I was appointed Principal of London College of Management. I had also obtained an MSc in Public Service Management from the London South Bank University, and so the desire to combine management and leadership was irresistible for me.

During that year I was also invited to Bangladesh by the UK awarding body OTHM, to launch their flagship qualification (Level 4-7 QCF). That success led to my being conferred a Fellowship, followed by another whilst Head of Establishment of Scott’s College

In 2009, I held the position of Associate Professor – Marketing Research at Schiller International University, London, before they relocated back to Florida, USA. Since 2010, I have settled down as the Principal / CEO of London Waterloo Academy; providing education and training to the UK workforce in Dental Nursing, Health and Social Care, Management, Airline Cabin Crew, languages and Corporate Training.

What was the transition from teacher to principal like?

I was actually headhunted again for the position of Principal. For me, the transition was challenging but I had to get stuck in because I was already the Director of Studies across the FE/HE College and leading a team of lecturers and other staff members. This involves upholding quality assurance, leading institutional accreditations, maintaining standards, international student recruitment and maintaining Home Office regulatory requirements.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Keeping up with the breath of regulatory changes across the HE/FE sector has to be my biggest challenge e.g. upholding and maintaining institutional accreditation from regulators like (QAA, BAC, ASIC, ISI, Home Office) all of whom continue to have an impact on leading higher education in the UK. Another huge challenge is maintaining student satisfaction, achievements, retention and funding.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

I would say student satisfaction and achievement. I was again privileged to participate in our 2016 Graduation ceremony and I was moved when children of our graduating students came up to me and requested to wear my graduating hat.

Every year, I see the smile and gratitude from students, parents, friends and families as they graduate. That’s rewarding for me. It means that the Academy under my leadership has added value to their lives and that we have enabled them to achieve what they set out to do when they joined the institution. I most also mention the wonderful and fantastic colleagues I work with.

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

It’s difficult to say. For me, it is to enjoy doing what you love. Be flexible and adaptable to changing times in your skills and training. This is inevitable due to external factors beyond one’s control. Finally, I pray a lot. That’s what has kept me going.

 

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

Favourite place in London:  The view from Waterloo Bridge in either direction
Favourite holiday destination:   Disneyland Paris
Must-check everyday website: Any one my email throws up
Dream travel destination:  Island beach
Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate for me

 

 

From Comparing Notes to Comparing Energy Prices

Alumni Stories, Black History Month, Oct 2020, Cass Business School News.

ugonwaAfter feeling nostalgic about abandoning the energy trading knowledge she had gained from Cass Business School, Ugonwa Okolo made the decision to leave her position as partner at an insurance brokerage firm to pursue her dream. She is now the successful owner of Compareenergyprices.ng, an online marketplace for oil trading and supply. Read on to learn how she did it.

 Can you tell me about your time at Cass?

My experience at Cass Business School was a memorable one. I studied for my MSc in Energy Trade Finance in 2010/2011 and I must confess it was one of the most intense periods of my life. I guess we all know that Cass isn’t a walk in the park!

We had lectures five days a week and often had to meet on the weekends. My friends in other schools often asked why I was so busy and didn’t have enough time to hang out as much in London. Others looked at me with admiration saying things like “You must be a whiz”, when I mentioned where I was studying. However, despite the busy schedule, the wealth of knowledge gathered and diversity of people I met made it worthwhile.

What happened after you graduated?

Post graduation I had considered staying behind and getting a job in London, but then an opportunity came up to start an insurance brokerage firm with a partner back in Nigeria. I guess I chose to move back to be a boss and escape the gloomy London weather! While my new career path was interesting and challenging, I still harboured a deep longing for the Energy business as I felt nostalgic about abandoning my energy trading knowledge acquired at Cass. So about a year and a half later, I left to start Viluton Energy, an oil trading and supply business in Lagos, Nigeria. I still run this and it has been extremely rewarding.

How did Compareenergyprices.ng come about?

I realized during the course of my oil trading business that companies and residences lost time and manpower having to call around in a bid to compare prices of petroleum products they purchased. I figured there could be a better way and Compareenergyprices.ng was born.

Compareenergyprices.ng is an open online marketplace, where you save money by comparing prices of various vendors, whilst keeping in mind other factors such as ratings, reviews, payment plans, delivery speed etc. With this platform buyers can compare prices and purchase products from cherry-picked premium dealers with a click of a button and have the products delivered to their doorstep.

The benefits of the business are twofold, on one hand the buyers are able to get more bang for their buck, save time and avoid the stress of visiting different websites to compare prices and pick dealers who would compete for their business. On the other hand the dealers get exposure and grow their business by reaching a wider audience and market which would be made available by our website.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Actually the biggest challenge I foresaw was not what I encountered. Well, “c’est la vie”! I thought it would be difficult to convince the dealers to join, however we have had to carefully select from a lot of dealers. Our major challenge has been convincing clients to place actual orders.

We get a lot of visitors who compare but do not necessarily click the purchase button and we are trying to increase our conversion rate i.e convince window shoppers to become actual buyers.

In addition as a startup, we have had to do a lot of PR to get the ball rolling and this certainly does not come cheap. Getting skilled hands to work with you and help bring your vision to reality is often difficult as well.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

The most rewarding experience has been getting feedback from site users and hearing people say things like “Wow this is such an innovative idea, how come no one had ever thought of this in Nigeria?”

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

With regards to advice, I reckon that you have to be prepared, do a lot of research and have a watertight business plan.  Also seek advice from experienced people with knowledge about the intended business and never take no for an answer.

Lastly dream bigger than your mind can fathom, if your dreams don’t scare you, then they are not big enough!

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!

Favourite place in London:  Scotts Restaurant

Favourite holiday destination:  Miami

Must-check every day website: Bloomberg

Dream travel destination:  Fiji Islands

Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate

Olive is the new Black

Alumni Stories, Black History Month, Oct 2020, City News.

morenikeAfter seeing her first anaerobic digester in operation during her time at City, Morenike Idewu (MSc, Energy, Environmental Technology and Economics 2013) has been considering the ways in which energy can be used more efficiently, particularly in her home country Nigeria. She has since created her own energy blog thefutureisolive.com. We caught up with Morenike to find out why olive is the new black.

 Can you tell me about your time at City?
I had an interesting time at City University London. I’m a frequent traveller to the UK so coming to the UK wasn’t new, but studying with lots of students from different countries was. My course mates were from all over the world: Bangladesh, China, Morocco, United States, Iran, Egypt, Brazil, Greece, France, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Portugal. The cultural exchange both in and outside the classroom was a unique experience for me.

I studied MSc in Energy, Environmental Technology and Economics at the School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering. The course covered a variety of topics in the Energy sector including policy, technologies, energy markets, energy purchasing and the transport industry among others. 80 per cent of our modules were taught by industry experts who came in to share knowledge with us directly from real life commercial and industrial experience; all this made the course unique both in delivery and organisation.

What happened after you graduated?
After I completed my course in 2013, I tried, unsuccessfully, to get UK work experience, so after my graduation in 2014 I returned to my home country Nigeria.

How did your idea come about?
During my time at City there were three things in particular that stood out to me. They were the presentation on Risk Management Principles during the course Energy Markets from the Purchasers perspective, an excursion trip to see the Anaerobic Digester at Harper Adam University in Shropshire and the presentation on Combined Heat Power by Paul Gardiner of British Sugar. The visit to Harper Adams University was the first time I had seen an anaerobic digester in operation – the plant supplied the power needs of the University and enabled them reduce their carbon footprint. British Sugar on the other hand have a Combined Heat and Power plant (gas and steam turbine) at their bio-refinery in Wissington; the interesting thing about the plant, apart from improving energy efficiency, is that the CO2 exhaust is channelled to nearby Cornerways greenhouse where tomatoes are grown.

It got me thinking about the many ways energy sources and their technologies can be used in various industries, whilst at the same time considering ways to reduce emissions sustainably and economically. So in 2015, I decided to put my writing skills and my interest in the energy sector to good use by starting my own energy blog; there I write about energy issues and report on events and news in the energy sector and how they primarily affect my home country Nigeria and Africa in general.

My objective is to educate, inform and possibly demystify energy topics and issues. My site’s name is thefutureisolive.com. I chose the domain name based on the colours used to represent the main sources of energy. In my opinion the future of energy is a blended energy mix of both fossil-based (black fuels) and renewable energies (green fuels); the composition of the energy mix for any organization, home or country will depend on what’s accessible and what’s affordable.

I have also had the privilege to attend a number of seminars, conferences and workshops in the last year as a media representative.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to your idea?

This is still very much the early days so I expect more challenges as I expand and add other services, however I would say that the biggest challenge has been the multitasking that administrating your own site entails. My work is not limited to just content writing; I am also editing, networking, advertising, handling correspondence and graphics, researching and being a journalist, as well as learning a good deal of web development to run the site.  It’s like doing 10 different jobs at the same time and being the non-techie person that I was, learning a bit about web development was a challenge. The good thing is that there is a lot of online help for newbies.

What has been the most rewarding experience?
I would say feedback from those who contact thefutureisolive.com about topics and the companies I have profiled on the site.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
I would say go for it! Even if you are afraid. Look for others with the same interests, study how they did it and reach out for help when you need it.

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!

Favourite place in London:  Bar Salsa on Tottenham court Rd
Favourite holiday destination:  Spain
Must-check every day website: Bellanaija.com
Dream travel destination:  Sweden or Manila (Philippines)
Cheese or chocolate: Definitely Cheese

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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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