What a fantastic way to start my time at Surbiton High School as the Entrepreneur in residence by attending the awards and recognition evening at the King’s Centre in Chessington. I couldn’t help be inspired by the 3 words that I consistently heard – Inspire, Encourage and Empower. These aren’t words just plucked out of the air, but words with deep meaning and represent exactly what Surbiton High School is all about. These words also describe exactly what I intend to do when I interact with every single student – It is the essence of Surbiton High, my company and myself.
As I sat watching and listening to the outstanding achievements of the school over the last academic year, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own journey since I sat 10 years ago in my school assembly room picking up my A Level certificates. I never could have imagined being a business owner in my twenties. I always thought it was something that would come to me, but never knew when and never knew how.
After securing the A Level results I needed for the next adventure in my life, I went to Sheffield University and studied History. Although it was never my best subject, I always had a philosophy that if I picked subjects that I enjoyed, it would lead me to the right path. I went on to learn about the American Revolution, wartime Germany, the difficulties in Russia and then found my specialised subject in my final year, when I spent a whole year dedicated to learning about British Secret History (MI5 and MI6). I absolutely loved it. I remember after all the fun nights out, I would be up early, down to the library and literally spent the day reading about spies!!! It was such a fantastic period of my life, I always look back on my time at Sheffield with a big smile on my face.
As my University days were ending, my mind began to turn to what’s next. This is often a conundrum for many students, but I applied a little logic, which ended up paying off. I knew I wanted to get into a big company and be a ‘businessman’, but I didn’t really know what that actually meant at the time or exactly what a ‘businessman’ did. I decided to print off the Forbes 100 list of the top companies in the world and look at the sectors which kept coming up – Energy, Finance, Retail, etc, etc. I quickly crossed out those which didn’t appeal to me and found out one stood out – Technology. I liked the idea of working for a technology company which was always changing and evolving.
The next thing I did was google ‘Business Organisations’ and began to get a feel for all the different kind of roles in a business – Operations, Finance, Marketing, Human Resources, etc. Again the same thing happened, one stood out – Sales. I loved dealing with people and I loved the idea of representing a company by becoming a seller. From nowhere, I worked out I wanted to go into the technology industry and become a seller. So I aimed high and it paid off. I applied to IBM, went through 6 interviews, was made an offer and 4 weeks after graduating I was on the path to becoming a professional seller working for the biggest technology company in the world. I couldn’t believe my luck – I actually had a job and a decent one too!
I then spent the next 7 years developing my expertise and becoming a senior sales professional for IBM. I loved it and learnt so much along the way. IBM had an appreciation that selling wasn’t just getting someone with the gift of the gab in to do a job, but it was also a professional. IBM understood that a seller needed an abundance of qualities – Negotiating, presenting, hardworking, communication skills, etc. I worked with small companies and graduated to closing multi-million dollar transactions dealing with the biggest companies in the world. I was even promoted to become the youngest Band 9 (which won’t mean anything to any of you!) in the world. However the thrill of walking into a board room to negotiate a $10m+ deal with some of the biggest businesses in the world is hard to match – That is, unless the core DNA in you is to be an entrepreneur.
About 3 years ago, my life changed forever when we generated the idea to create www.7billionideas.com. After a glorious bank holiday weekend, spending the day talking with my friends in a pub garden, it became apparent to me how often ideas were discussed, forgotten and never followed through. My co-founders and I decided to build a platform which would solve this issue and no idea would ever be forgotten again. That decision changed my life. We began by building a social media platform and eventually it evolved in to becoming something with a much deeper impact – An Ideas Company.
We believe that there are 7 billion people on the planet who need help connecting with their own ideas. We formed 7billEDUCATION to inspire students to think big and dream big. We formed 7billBUSINESS to work with entrepreneurs and small businesses to push their ideas forward. We formed 7billCORPORATE to help more established organisations capture the innovation which takes place in their company daily. We’re a long way since our initial conversation in the pub, but what a journey it has been.
Despite being on IBM’s Director Fast Track scheme, they allowed me to go part time approximately 18 months ago. I used this spare time, all of my annual leave, evening, weekends and about every spare minute I had to develop my business and my dream. In August his year, I finally made the jump from being an Executive to being a full time Entrepreneur and the feeling is brilliant.
I now couldn’t be more excited about what the future entails and working with the students of Surbiton High. I live in Surbiton and I’m very proud to now be associated with such a fantastic school. 7billionideas will inspire the students. We will encourage them to think big. We will encourage them to dream big. We will encourage every single one of them to become ambassadors of the word innovation – Meaning that the entrepreneurial DNA which exists in every single one of them is unlocked and developed. Students, parents, teachers, governors, please contact me, use me, challenge me, ask me questions, I’m here to make a difference and ready to get started.