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.
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.