Wanna be an entrepreneur in 2016?

Two hundred and fifty entrepreneurs and wanna-be entrepreneurs shuffled excitedly into their seats, absolutely packing the place out. There was an excited silence as the minute countdown began on the displays – everybody joined in for the last ten seconds in anticipation for the day ahead.

10… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…

Lively music began to blast from the speakers. If you’re not usually a morning person, the loud music would certainly have woken you up. A slideshow played in the background, with words to inspire us suggesting actionable changes that we can make to better our lives. Things like making a stranger smile and calling our mum more.

Baiju Solanki @ Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

Baiju Solanki, organiser of the Wanna Be An Entrepreneur events and Southend Business Man of the Year 2010, gave an introductory speech, welcoming everyone and hinting at what to expect for the rest of the day.

Still clutching at our goodybags, we were told to open them and rummage through the book, magazine and pamphlets for the Brights Locksmiths keyring. If there was a key on your keyring then you win a prize! That’s the thing about luck. You need to be in it to win it. Sometimes you make your own luck just by turning up. People aren’t just lucky. You need to buy a lottery ticket for a chance to win the lottery.

Efe Udugba at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

Our first guest on stage knows that better than most… Efe Udugba, whom you may recognise from last week’s Blind Auditions episode of The Voice, could be heard singing from the back, as he quickly made his way through the audience onto the stage. Efe has been more than successful in life. Happy family, good career in London… But his big dreams were to become a singer. He decided to go for it, and applied to be on The Voice. And guess what! Not only did he make it through to the televised Blind Auditions out of approximately fifty thousand other entrees, but he has also made it into Team Ricky! So we’ll be seeing a lot more of him on TV. And all because he made the life-changing decision to enter the contest.

Action Jackson: Say Yes & Take Action

Action Jackson at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

Action Jackson is on a mission to get more people to just say yes. Sometimes “yes” can be the scariest word to ever leave our lips. It can leave us vulnerable to rejection, disappointment and failure. But, on the other hand, all good things start from the decision to say “yes”. You just need to have the courage to overcome the fear that prevents you from saying “yes” in the first place. The emotional impact of Action Jackson’s own words brought tears to his own eyes, as he spoke of how fear alone can destroy a person’s life.

He demonstrated how we are how we perceive ourselves to be, and held up an apple. “What do you see?” The obvious answer, of course, is an apple. But we need to look beyond the obvious exterior and see the apple’s potential. Within the apple is the potential to become a tree. Similarly, in ten year’s time you may become a millionaire. You just need to see the potential within yourself and think like a millionaire. Don’t see yourself as an apple; see yourself as a tree.

Sacha Bright: Diary of an Entrepreneur – The Pub Scrub

Sacha Bright at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

Sacha Bright is the epitome of a serial entrepreneur. Having been taught a strong work ethic from an early age, he started his first job very young. He went from business to business, chasing the money. But ultimately, does money buy you happiness? It’s not just about the money, it’s about whether doing what you’re doing makes you happy. Sacha started his first business, Pub Scrub, at the age of seventeen. Before he could even legally set foot in a pub, he ran a business where he was cleaning them. The money was very good, he said, and by the time he was twenty one years old he had a team of sixty people working for him. But, by his own admission, he didn’t really know what he was doing and just learnt what he needed to know as he went along.

Penny Power & Thomas Power: The Social Couple (Making It Online)

Penny Power at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

One half of the ultimate Power couple, Penny Power is a social media evangelist who first began her social networking journey back in 1998 when she and her husband founded the UK’s first social network for business, Ecademy. During Penny’s talk, she emphasised the importance of each person’s reputation as a digital citizen and how in this age of social media, we have to compete for people’s attention online. Attention is your biggest asset as a digital citizen – how will you use it?

Thomas Power at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

Thomas Power followed up on stage shortly after with his talk centred around how we can use social media to promote our personal brand by sharing our personal values, ethics and passions. He spoke of how many businesses complain that you can’t make money out of social media, and this complaint stems from a confusion about how to view social media as a marketing platform.

Erkan Ali: Resilience and Why It Matters

Erkan Ali at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

Erkan’s message is simple: be resilient.

resilience (noun):

  1. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
  2. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

We need to learn the power of elasticity in difficult situations if we want to successfully thrive as entrepreneurs. We were shown a clip of the iconic speech from Bruce Lee to inspire us:

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water, my friend.”

Erkan Ali has learnt to become resilient over the years from his willingness to quickly adapt and view things from new perspectives. He discussed the psychology of “cognitive dissonance”. How our human need for consistency causes us discomfort toward beliefs and ideas that conflict with our own. How we can become so stubborn when it comes to protecting our core beliefs, we end up rejecting new ideas when we should be welcoming them with an open mind before we decide whether to accept them or not. This way of thinking can even affect our self esteem. If you have your heart set to “I can’t do it”, then you are likely to become unwilling to think any other way. You will always keep yourself small. So… become like water, my friend.

Enter the Dragon’s Den…

Wanna Be An Entrepreneur Pitch 2016

Before lunch break, there was a live pitch event on stage with five hopeful entrepreneurs competing against each other in a bid to win a £5000 business package designed to kick-start their next adventure with a new logo design, website, financial coaching, marketing strategies and six months of mentoring.

The five Live Pitch contestants were:

  • Mopani Mkandawire aspires to be a motivational speaker for young people, and build his own motivational speaking business visiting schools and universities.
  • Christiana Imafidon used to be 17 stone but has shed 6 stone thanks to healthy eating and wants to encourage others to do the same. Her business pitch is for Good Nourishment, a healthy food delivery service for professionals. She believes that nourishment is key to mind, body and soul, and wants healthy food to become just as cheap, quick and accessible as unhealthy snacks.
  • Lee Sutton has come up with the idea of glow-in-the-dark house numbers to illuminate house numbers at night by using a glow-in-the-dark paint to aid everyone from pizza deliveries to the ambulance. His business will be called “Gl0w Numb3r5”.
  • Laura and Barry Ash want to educate young children on making healthier choices when it comes to deciding what to eat. The entrepreneurial couple’s book series, “Rock Solid Children’s Books”, will teach children about healthy foods and lifestyles in an effort to tackle obesity later on in life.
  • Anastasia Gergova has her heart set on starting a cultural exchange program between England and her home country of Bulgaria. The program will involve volunteers teaching English to Bulgarian children in a summer camp environment with camp activities.


Spoiler alert: Laura and Barry Ash won the pitch and are one step closer to bringing their children’s books to life!

Aftab Malhota

Aftab Malhota at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

Straight after lunch, we were launched right back into the loud and lively swing of things with Aftab Malhota on the tabla (Indian drums). He explained what the tabla was and invited someone from the audience to join him on stage and contribute their vocal talents to his rhythmic drumming. He was joined by aspiring rapper Rnel (who performed later as well). The relevance? Coming from a corporate background, Aftab is a successful businessman who believes that to be successful in life, you need to find your balance. In your career or your life in general, you will be faced with both highs and lows. But when you’re at a low point, you need to have your tabla. It could be yoga, or music, or art… Whatever your passion, it will help to maintain the balance in your life. He urged the audience to find their tabla.

Dan Chambers: The Hero Interview

Dan Chambers at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

Admittedly, it wasn’t much of an interview. Initially too nervous to present a full talk, Dan opted for an interview style talk with Baiju. But Dan quickly found his voice resulting in the “interview” being more one-sided.

Dan didn’t get the most stable start to life. He was born and raised on council estates, moving home a total of forty two times until the age of seventeen. Moving around a lot helped him to develop valuable communication skills as he met new people and made new friends. He moved to Thailand with big dreams. But when things didn’t work out according to plan, did he stop dreaming? No. He dreamed bigger. Now he is the director of one of the fastest growing sales and lettings agents in Southend and Westcliff, his company winning multiple awards and boasting a half million turnover. Now Dan uses his financial success to give back to the local community, sponsoring local schools and clubs. His latest entrepreneurial adventure is the newly launched Boostball, an all-natural, high protein snack product that he has been developing with an aim to establish a successful health brand. Boostball was born out of love, and thankfully he’s in a position now where he can explore and monetise his passions. Dan got to where he is now through the choices he awarded himself, proving that background doesn’t matter if you appreciate that success takes time and effort.

“To be an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to put in the hours.”

Nick Looby: E+R=O

Nick Looby at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

We were graced with a mystery speaker, Nick Looby, who came to present a talk at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur on risk, fear and resilience. Nick Looby is no newcomer when it comes to trying new things and facing your fears. Recently, he started a game of catch on one of the London Underground’s tubes to encourage communication and break down barriers between people. That takes guts to not only break your own routine with something spontaneous, but break other people’s routines too. People become risk adverse due to the fear of failure. But fear of failure is developed, not innate. From an evolutionary standpoint, fear of failure is essential to human survival. But our fear of failure continues to develop past “should I attempt to outrun a tiger for fun?” and affects important decisions that could change our lives if we only had the confidence to overcome our fears of failing. Fear of failure can be paralysing, but some of the biggest success stories have come from that courage to accept that failure is likely (or even certain!) but the willingness to try regardless. It gets even more complex as Nick explained how failure is perceived around the world, and how different cultures respond to failure. In the United States, for example, it is applauded with the view that with every failure you experience you are one step closer to success. In Japan, however, failure is shamed and deters many from getting up and trying again if they fail. So whilst in the US the majority are chasing success, in Japan the majority are merely avoiding failure. Both routes may eventually lead to great success, but they are two very different ways of getting there.

Nick Looby asked for two people from the audience to join him on the stage, with no warning of what they should expect. He then explained that they should surprise call the most influential person in their life on loud speaker through the mic and thank them for all that they’ve done. The result was a very confused mother replying, “Are you taking the mick?”.

Most people live by the equation:

E = O (Event = Outcome)

Entrepreneurs live by:

E + R = O (Event + Response = Outcome)

How will you respond?


Rnel at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

Rnel was on stage again. Having met and discussed with Baiju before about his dreams to be a rapper, he was given the opportunity to rap in front of 250 people at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur. Though you could tell that he was (understandably) nervous, he overcame it to perform a song which he wrote himself for Wanna Be An Entrepreneur.

Julie Bishop: How To Find Your Dream Job Using Social Media

Julie Bishop at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

Julie Bishop, founder of Job Hop, inspired the young attendees to believe that there is always a way to get what you want. Her first dream was to own an Escort Cabriolet. So she decided to get a job with a Ford dealership, and now she has her dream car. There’s always a solution to a problem.

When entrepreneurs are looking for new opportunities, they look around to find things that make them think “I can do it better”. Then they do it. Even if it’s something that you may not necessarily yourself be able to do better at the time, if you see room for improvement or just know that the job could be done better then do it. You can work out the rest later. That’s what it’s all about: finding solutions to problems.

But even if you’re not looking to start your own business, thinking like an entrepreneur when job searching can help you to land your dream job. Julie went on to explain how job seekers can benefit by making the most out of their digital and social media skills. It was revealed to us that recruiters tend to look quite thoroughly into candidates’ online presence. Beyond just the first impressions from social media profiles, and deeper into our attitudes and how we present ourselves online. The saying used to be that you should dress for the job you want. But now it seems, when we are judged more often by how we appear online than how we appear offline, we should be dressing up our social profiles for the jobs we want. If you want to be a web designer, post about your projects and show off your web design skills. If you want to be a professional chef, post your food creations and show off your cooking talents.

An average person will spend an average of 18,000 days working during their lifetime. So why not spend those days doing something that you love? If you put your mind to it and invest in your social media skills, those 18,000 days will never feel like work.

“Use your digital hyper-connection to empower yourself.”

Ketan Makwana: How 1% Change in Attitude can have 100% Change in Results

Ketan Makwana at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

There are two ways to live your life: accepting failure in times of defeat, or turning the loss into a win by making some slight adjustments to your attitude. When Ketan Makwana was told that he was no longer required, he thought he lost everything. But after a sleepless night contemplating his career, he decided that he would only accept their redundancy if they offered him a job in return as a self-employed contractor. A brave move but one that paid off. Realising that many others would be facing the same situation he recognised the opportunity and seized it, creating a large network of unemployed professionals turning to self-employment. He has since became a serial entrepreneur using those same skills of recognising opportunity.

The biggest barriers of recognising new opportunity are pain, panic and fear. You first have to realise that pain is a temporary block. Once it subsides, you can move past it but some choose to let it consume them forever. Panic sets in and you feel a loss of control, but once you regain that control you have all the power. And FEAR is just False Evidence Appearing Real. You can choose to keep being afraid, but fear is just a self-generated feeling. You can let it fester and spread, feeding from your imagination. But the majority of the time, it is just the product of your imagination. You are the one that is creating the fear. So stop being afraid of the possibility that you might fail.

“There are no poor ideas; just poor execution.”

James Sinclair: The Rules for Business Success…

James Sinclair at Wanna Be An Entrepreneur 2016

And, last but certainly not least, the Millionaire Clown himself: James “Jimbo” Sinclair! James Sinclair is memorable, let’s put it that way. His eccentricity makes him a delight to watch on stage, and not only is he informative but he is hilariously entertaining, with the entire audience frequently erupting in uncontrollable laughter. With a wealth of experience in growing numerous businesses, from family entertainment and events to property and recruitment, James is definitely a man to take seriously – despite his comedic demeanour. His first tip was that having a clear, precise vision is key to entrepreneurial success. Then, once you have vision, you need goals. And those goals are for you, not for anyone else.

You just need to follow the rules of OST:

  • Objective
  • Strategy
  • Tactics

But, no matter how big or small your business is, you need to think BIG but act SMALL. Be nimble and quick like a small business, but just think big. As a small business, you should know that customer experience is everything so compete on experience and not price. Only the big brands can get away with competing on price.

In business, there is a pyramid made up of 75% sheep, 20% oxen and 5% eagles. The trouble with the ox is that their tendency to acquire a god complex results in them never breaking out of that category to become an eagle. The phrase of the ox is “if you want a job done well, do it yourself”. This just isn’t realistic. You can’t do everything yourself. If you want a job done well, find the best person for the job. This allows you to focus on your own strengths and talents and what you bring to the table. Whilst surrounding yourself with experts in those fields so that you can then learn from them.

Well done, Baiju!

Well done for putting on another great event that hopefully has inspired a new generation of local entrepreneurs, as well as opening the minds of existing ones. Thank you for inviting Love Southend to be a part of the magical experience.

www.WannaBeAnEntrepreneur.co.uk | @BEntrepreneurCo