We enjoyed a memorable night at PHCA on 19 October, featuring the Fitzroy Club’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs. Four guest speakers – all of whom live locally – shared their stories and insights into setting up a business. Although they operate in various sectors and define success differently, the common threads to their stories were their unshakable belief in their businesses, their commitment to the path they had chosen and a desire to embrace every opportunity and challenge that comes along.
Andrew Hunt of Aduna (read our interview with him at here) spoke of how a trip to the Gambia, following an episode of depression, inspired him to develop a business promoting the health benefits of the under-utilised baobab tree. Aduna products are not only a runaway success in the UK, thanks to the baobab’s superfood status, but help develop sustainable livelihoods for the African communities who produce the fruit.
Like Andrew, Flip Dunning of Pâté Moi (a regular at the farmers’ market) also left a job in advertising to develop a business, basing hers on a recipe for mushroom pâté that her brother had invented as a child. Her emotional talk gave the room insight into the hoops she had to jump through to secure her first pitch at Borough Market, while grieving for her father. Selling a single product enabled her to stay focused on her business plan as she mounted this steep learning curve.
For Ricky Knox, entrepreneurship began at an early age when he started selling hot dogs to fellow pupils at school. Whilst at university in Bristol, he developed a range of Airtex clothing for clubbers, and so by the time he set up his own banking business he had amassed a wealth of experience. Funded by crowdsourcing, his digital bank, Tandem, promotes an ethical approach to banking and allows people to stay on top of their finances by guiding them through decision-making via an app.
Nick Leslau, a highly successful investor whose portfolio includes Thorpe Park and Alton Towers as well as Enid Blyton books, spoke of how his insecurity at school drove him to success. He regaled the audience with tales of businesses triumphs and disasters, and said that one of the key paths to success is never being afraid to challenge the person you are dealing with, or to ask questions; sometimes failure to do so can have seismic consequences.
His parting line perhaps best summed up what it means to live an entrepreneurial life: “We’re all leaseholders in life; there’s only one freeholder.”
More about the Fitzroy Club here.
Article by Vicki Hillyard
Photo by Jason Pittock