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‘FROM LECTURE ROOM TO CEO’

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Chris Nkwonta

Chris Nkwonta, founder of VROOMO, discusses the fast-track journey in to the business world, what more can be done for others in his position and advice for those thinking of making the plunge.

Chris Nkwonta

Chris Nkwonta

Your years at university are often seen as the most defining in a young person’s life. Trying to figure out which career path to take, trying to perhaps figure out yourself, and attempting to make new friends and all while doing your best to stay on top of exams and essays. They are formative years that are incomparable to anything else in life that we go through – and for the most part, we love it. Graduating and getting used to not seeing your friends on a daily basis as you approach the ‘real world’ can be a tough adjustment for some but others can revel in it.

There are definitely three very different schools of thought upon leaving university. Getting on the rung of the ladder that you want to climb and progressing through the ranks is certainly one. Finding a job, any job is unfortunately one that many fall in to. The third possibility, seldom presented as a viable option, is to take an idea and a passion and make it work for yourself in whatever guise – the fast-track method to the top of a company, which is far more of a risk but can be hugely rewarding.

I actually set up VROOMO in January this year while in my third year at university. A risky strategy given that I had my exams to prepare for but I was keen to get things moving so once I could give it my full attention we had already built up some momentum. Of course, there was the odd occasion when I had to turn down a trip to the pub but it has been so worth it and I would implore others in my position thinking of doing the same, to just take the plunge.  For me, the approach of universities is far too heavily focussed at getting students to graduate job schemes or internships rather than empowering them to start their own ventures. I appreciate that this will be useful guidance for a majority of students but for those who have an idea and an entrepreneurial spark, more should be done. There should be more avocation & support for entrepreneurs at these institutions. At the moment it’s more like ‘you come up with the idea and then we may support you’.

This is not to say that current students should enter the world of starting their own business blindly! A lot of planning and strategy needs to be put in place before you embark on looking to secure funding and support. Naturally, there will be sceptics, be it family, friends or lecturers but this is where sure-mindedness and the entrepreneurial grit is worth its weight in gold. If you have full faith in your idea and yourself then trust your gut instinct and make it happen.

  • Validate your idea – It might be a billion dollar idea to you but worthless to your target market so validation is crucial.
  • Build a support network – gaining the support of experts is a great asset to any entrepreneur- they will bring in-depth market knowledge and critical analysis to anything you lay before them.
  • Be meticulous with recruitment – You are only as good as the people around you but you can be even better by hiring people who are extremely competent in specialist roles.
  • Count every penny!

The journey from lecture room to becoming CEO has been an incredibly enjoyable one but tough to say the least. I didn’t expect it to be easy but it has taken me hugely out of my comfort zone, which has brought the best out of me. It certainly has been an opportunity to challenge the boundaries of what I would have once described as pressure – immensely motivating though when all your work is going towards your brainchild. I think graduates now are wise enough to see through CSR schemes and now want a job which has a purpose and is truly making a difference. Making buyers and seller’s lives easier in the used car market is something I am passionate about and being at the helm of VROOMO is a challenge I am enjoying.

Studies, natural skill, experience and upbringing all go in to making an entrepreneur and it isn’t for everyone. I do wish greater support could be offered to those who want to start a business either during university or straight after. Too many graduates get shepherded in to unfulfilling roles to make sure they don’t increase unemployment stats. The UK is the tech hub of the Europe and a great place to start a business, it is time that the brightest minds and the best talent are encouraged to follow their ambition through guidance and financial backing. Young entrepreneurs making the lecture room to CEO transition can only be healthy, allow them to flourish.

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H&M, IKEA and Stora Enso backed TreeToTextile builds sustainable fibre demo plant

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H&M, IKEA and Stora Enso backed TreeToTextile builds sustainable fibre demo plant 1

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – A venture part-owned by Finnish forestry group Stora Enso, Sweden’s H&M and IKEA said on Tuesday it was set to build a demonstration plant in Sweden for a new, more sustainable wood-based textile fibre after years of research.

To markedly reduce their climate footprint and pollution, large apparel and furniture brands are in dire need of affordable greener alternatives to cotton, traditional viscose and polyester. Several Nordic pulp makers are part of projects developing new clean ways https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nordics-forestry-idCAKCN0WF076 to turn trees into textile fibre.

TreeToTextile said in a statement its plant would have a production capacity of 1,500 tonnes and its owners would fund the bulk of the 35 million euro ($42.6 million) investment.

“The novel process is deliberately designed to have low energy demand and low chemical need. It is engineered to suit large scale production and includes a recovery systemfor reusing chemicals,” it said.

“By investing in a demonstration plant, we are finally on the go. With it we are turning years of R&D into reality to increase the biobased share on the textile market to support climate action.”

TreeToTextile, whose fourth part-owner is innovator Lars Stigsson, said the plant would be located at Stora Enso’s Nymolla mill in Sweden, and its construction would start in the near future.

Viscose is the main existing textile fibre from wood pulp – followed by the newer lyocell which has a cleaner manufacturing method. Production is dominated by Austria’s Lenzing, India’s Aditya Birla and China’s Sateri.

($1 = 0.82 euros)

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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IHG books $153 million loss, Holiday Inn softens coronavirus blow

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IHG books $153 million loss, Holiday Inn softens coronavirus blow 2

By Tanishaa Nadkar

(Reuters) – InterContinental Hotels booked an annual loss of $153 million on Tuesday, pummelled by repeated COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, but said a faster recovery in its Holiday Inn Express brand had helped it outperform in key markets.

The company, which previously scrapped its final dividend, said 2020 was the most challenging year in its history as revenue per available room slumped 52.5%, with global travel and entertainment spending remaining under pressure.

Pinning its hopes on the global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and a wider economic rebound, IHG said the industry was unlikely to see a recovery until later in the year but hinted that global travel was starting to recover.

“People want to travel again…It is the thing that people have missed most and so there is enormous pent up demand to travel,” Chief Financial Officer Paul Edgecliffe-Johnson said, adding that “travel will come back very rapidly.”

Shares of the company were up 3.8% at 5,516 pence by 0845 GMT, amid a near 3% rise on the FTSE 350 travel and leisure index as Britain saw a surge in flight and hotel bookings after the government said would-be holidaymakers will be given clarity on making plans for the summer by April 12.

Demand remained stronger in IHG’s Holiday Inn Express business, which represents about 70% of its rooms in the U.S. market and has historically been impacted less and recovered faster than other segments in economic downturns, the company said.

“IHG is at the start of a prolonged period of commercial recovery,” Peel Hunt analysts said in a note.

Still, IHG reported a group operating loss of $153 million for the year ended Dec. 31, compared with a profit of $630 million last year.

(Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Alexander Smith)

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Aviva sells French business to Macif’s Aéma Groupe for $3.9 billion

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Aviva sells French business to Macif's Aéma Groupe for $3.9 billion 3

LONDON (Reuters) – Aviva has agreed the sale of its operations in France for 3.2 billion euros ($3.89 billion) to Macif’s Aéma Groupe, as part of the British insurer’s shift to focus on its core operations in Britain, Ireland and Canada.

London-based Aviva, led by boss Amanda Blanc, said the sale would increase excess capital by 2.1 billion pounds ($2.95 billion) and cash of around 2.8 billion pounds.

Aéma Groupe, formed in January through the merger of French mutual insurer Macif Group and Aésio Mutuelle, has 8 million customers and a turnover of 8 billion euros.

Aviva France has 3 million customers and 7.8 billion euros in revenue. It covers life insurance, property and casualty and asset management markets in France.

Aviva’s share price rose by 1.7% at the open in London.

“The transaction will increase Aviva’s financialstrength, remove significant volatility and bring real focus to the Group,” Chief Executive Officer Blanc said.

Aviva expects to use the proceeds of the sale to support debt reduction, invest for long-term growth and return excess capital to shareholders.

The sale is central to Blanc’s turnaround plan aimed at streamlining its business after prolonged share price weakness has concerned investors.

The insurer, which aims to complete the disposal by the end of 2021, is looking to sell its continental European and Asian businesses, it said last year.

Final bids for its Polish operations that could fetch around 2 billion euros are due on Friday, sources have previously told Reuters.

It is also in the process of selling its Italian business, sources had said.

($1 = 0.8218 euros)

($1 = 0.7108 pounds)

(Reporting by Clara Denina; Editing by Rachel Armstrong, Louise Heavens and David Evans)

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