The Pints with Pope Series is something I’ve wanted to roll out for a while. Why am I doing it?
The aim is to interview students who have become entrepreneurs to show current students who are thinking about setting up on their own, working for a start-up or going against the corporate route post-University (i.e. the majority of students laughing and har-har-ing about how “Blaaaddy fantastic their grad scheme is”) that they are NOT ALONE in their entrepreneurial journey!
I want to create a community of students who are obsessed with entrepreneurship, where we can learn from each other, network with each other and create a wealth of opportunities for current students who want to be entrepreneurs.
My first Interview is with Jonathan Church. Johnathan got a 1st from the University of Bristol, has set up a premium Ice lollies business called Melt and Co.
This is my first interview and so the questions could be a bit all over the shop… so appreciate you helping me out here! I’ve used LinkedIn to do a background research and hopefully, these questions can help out a few fearful, yet budding entrepreneurs!!
I got this from your LinkedIn Profile and wanted to ask some questions around it…
“We help organizations large and small to drive business transformation the entrepreneurial way. We understand the barriers to achieving transformational change and we’re skilled at overcoming these to help businesses adapt and innovate at rapid speed….
We usually work with two types of organisation: CEOs, marketing directors and innovation leaders with a mission to revolutionize their companies to stay competitive”
Q1. There are a lot of modules and academic literature taught at business schools about Transformational Leadership, I took a course at Manchester University called Leadership and Success at work.
I feel there is almost TOO much literature on leadership characteristics and traits.
With the leaders you work with, could you perhaps explain some of the smaller, daily habits and practices they perform every single day to achieve transformational change?
I think great leaders perform/exhibit three key practices/traits/characteristisc – being authentic/exhibiting true self confidence, recognising their limitations and doubling down on their strengths, and possessing a growth mindset (see book recommendation below). Truly authentic leaders understand exactly who they are and are able to translate that into everything they do. It allows them to inspire confidence their team and sell their vision in an extremely compelling way to potential clients or customers. Another characteristic of a great leader is having a heightened level of self awareness, understanding that it is better to double down on your strengths and build a team around you that complements and covers your weaknesses. Finally, and most importantly, is having a growth mindset. By this i mean someone with a mindset that knows that they are never finished learning, there is always more to learn and understand, and that anyone can develop and grow no matter their starting point. There is nothing worse than a leader who thinks he knows it all, no matter how long he has been at the helm.
Q2. With the leaders you work with and in regards to delivering transformational change in the organization’s they lead, what is the one common thing that drives them ever single day? Perhaps something that you wouldn’t find in a text book.
I actually think you’ll find this in most books you read on entrepreneurship, but the differentiating factor that great leaders share is having an extremely clear purpose or mission. When you are faced with two equally determined leaders, with equal skill sets, the one who understands their purpose and consistently works towards it will always come out on top. What people probably won’t tell you is that this purpose/mission/vision doesn’t always have to be altruistic or world changing, for some it’s as simple as being better than you were the day before.
Q3. There is an immense amount of pressure on students to go down the traditional corporate route or enroll on a grad scheme. Whilst you were at Bristol University was there a particular event, activity or moment that made you decide to go on your own (perhaps elements of working within a corporate job that you didn’t like)? What was the scariest thing about going against going it alone? How did you deal with that?
I think there were a selection of moments that left me questioning why I wanted a Grad job, but there was one particular moment that left me knowing that I just had to do my own thing (didn’t have a clue what at the time though). Near the beginning on third year I failed one of those ridiculous online psychographic tests for the Sainsburys grad scheme, and there and then realised that I had had enough of trying to conform to someone’s idea of the perfect candidate. Having passed and failed a few from other employers, I decided that I wouldn’t spend any more time trying to mould myself into somebody that would be only be forgotten in their next intake of corporate automatons.
In all honesty, I think it was scarier to imagine living my life constantly trying to fit in and conform to a set of outdated corporate rules. There is nothing worse than selling your time cheaply and wasting it doing something that isn’t meaningful or fulfilling.
Q3. Setting Goals is important, but achieving them can be stressful, what are the things/practices or habits you do on a daily basis to make help you achieve your longer-term goals? For me its mediation and reading (reduces my stress levels immensely and gives me sense of clarity)
Exercise, journaling and meditation. Exercise is so important to me for a number of reasons. First and foremost it instills the discipline I need to achieve goals, by turning up when I say I am following through on a commitment I make to myself. This accountability to myself feeds into everything else I do, and its very noticeable that I become lazier and less productive whenever I don’t prioritise regular exercise. Journaling is something that I’ve been trying to ingrain as a habit, to a mixed degree of success, but it’s a great tool for getting those thoughts out that are buried deep in your head and holding you back (whether you are aware of it or not). Finally, meditation has been incredible in helping me to cultivate a more mindful approach to daily life and trying to be as present as possible. Headspace is one of the greatest apps ever created.
Q4. The idea for a gourmet ice lollies in Melt and Co was a bloody banging idea! And they looked incredible! Lot’s of students have great ideas but not many EXECUTE them… What were the most important in steps in getting your idea Melt and Co and then executing it i.e. bringing it to market?
Easy. Taking action and figuring it out along the way. Its so easy to pretend and speculate about why an idea may or may not work but until you take action you’ll never know. The best ideas (Youtube, Airbnb, Twitter, etc) started out as something else and evolved into a successful business through constant iteration. 99% of the time your first idea will be wrong and it’s up to you to keep iterating until you find something that works. With Melt and Co, the most important step we took was to buy some moulds and start making ice lollies in our freezers. It was only once we had refined our recipes (around 2 months later), and tested them on different sets of consumers, that we decided to invest money in machinery and a production facility. There is always a way to get something out there without pitching for angel money or taking out a bank loan. Test, iterate and experiment until you find something that works.
Q5. What is the ONE thing that drives you? That gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you moving despite potential adversity and set-backs?
Growth. Knowing that each day offers multiple opportunities to get better, learn more and develop. Whilst it might seem slightly ambiguous, the key is acknowledging and understanding that the skills I need to develop and what type of person I need to become will depend and change according to the specific goals I am working towards at a point in time.
Q6. Are there any life changing books you’ve read in regards to entrepreneurship and business development that you could recommend for a current student who is debating going down the entrepreneurial route?
Mindset by Carol Dweck – this changed the way i thought about myself and should be compulsive reading for everyone that has been through the current education system
Extreme Ownership by Jock Willink and Leif Babin – One sentence to sum it up = it’s all your fault
Lean Startup by Eric Ries
The Sport of Business by Mark Cuban
Traction – great little handbook for how to test and evaluate different channels when marketing your product
Young Money by Kevin Roose – about the indoctrination that occurs at Wall St investment banks and whether grads can get out early or get sucked into the system for life
Q6. Are there any Podcasts you listen to on a regular basis to keep the entrepreneurial drive burning? Perhaps students could listen to these in between lectures or on the commute to and from Uni.
School of Greatness
Art of Charm
How I Built This
20 Minute VC
Guys We Fucked – just because
I hope you have found this interview as valuable as I have. If you are a student interested in entrepreneurship sign up, get in contact, show me WHY you’re interested in entrepreneurship, I have a few things up my sleeve to help you!