Margaret Mountford, who starred in the UK version of The Apprentice, hosted the first event, which saw three guest speakers, all of whom Westminster graduates, share their experience of becoming entrepreneurs and answer questions about creating start-up businesses.
Jenny Garrett, award-winning career coach and Business graduate of the University of Westminster, talked about how she turned her passion and side job into a career. She attained a postgraduate certificate in coaching whilst working full-time as a marketer but eventually reduced her hours to start her own company.
She said: “At the time I couldn’t see any full time roles for coaches in existence. I realised that I would have to start a coaching business to do what I was passionate about. So I didn’t choose to run a business. It chose me.”
Jenny is now a published author, has delivered a TEDx talk, and is a Freeman at the Guild of Entrepreneurs in the City of London. She is now working with major clients such as Ernst & Young, American Express, Accenture and Shell. She credited networking as her primary means to find clients when she started out.
Another speaker Peter Paduh is a founder of the social enterprise SocialBox.biz and a former refugee who is making an impact on the London community with a simple business idea – refurbishing laptops to give to homeless people. Peter recalled arriving in London at the age of 15 from war-torn Bosnia and growing up in a children’s home and foster care. He said that the idea for his social enterprise, SocialBox.biz was sparked when he received his first laptop as a gift when he was a teenager.
SocialBox.biz was launched in Camden Town and primarily recycles redundant IT equipment from businesses and then supports social causes through the majority of the profits. There are partnerships in place with a number of charities in order to provide laptops for the elderly, young refugees, homeless people and people recovering from mental health problems. The scheme aims to offer homeless people better access to the job market so that they can find and apply for jobs online and to boost their employability skills through services like web learning tools.
Encouraging students not to despair if they don’t get it right from the first time, Peter said: “Rejection is a form of failure but you can’t succeed without failing.”
Summarising key points from the conversation, Margaret Mountford advised students who are on their journey to become entrepreneurs to get a proper plan, learn from everyone they meet and to not be afraid to ask for help.
The second event in the What It Takes alumni event series, taking place on 22 November, will give students the opportunity to meet with Lucy Earl, Westminster alumna and founder of the YouTube channel English with Lucy, who will be giving the lowdown on her journey to becoming a full-time YouTuber.