Old Truronian Warwick Royden (CO12) took time out of his busy schedule to offer career advice virtually to Sixth Form students interested in a career running their own business. The talk was informative, engaging and importantly, offered a personal reflection on what being your boss might really entail, and many of the realities involved.
Warwick started by discussing how he got started when he was just a teenager, and the decisions that led him on his way. After studying for his A Levels at Truro School, he was accepted to study at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester for a BSc (Hons) in International Business Management. Warwick shared that despite receiving offers to go to alternative universities due to gaining higher A Level grades than were required for the course, it was the networking opportunities within business that the university would provide that ultimately helped his decision. Interestingly, Warwick was initially sceptical about going to university at all, but with some persuasion from his father, he went.
Before even completing university, Warwick experienced the process of building up his first business venture whilst on holiday in Spain after discovering a soft drink he had a feeling would do well in the UK. At only 19-years-old, he recalled how he took the chance to see if he could strike a deal with the drinks company in importing it to the UK. He was successful and subsequently emailed Waitrose which led to a meeting with the Head Drinks Buyer. A deal was struck to stock the product in 28 stores.
After finishing university and a move back home to Cornwall, the opportunity came up to take over a company called Skylight Cinema who provide equipment to over 1,000 outdoor cinema screenings across the UK. Over the six years that Warwick has taken over the business, the number of events booked has grown from 40 to 340 per year.
Warwick also owns other companies including a start-up Cornish vodka company – Tan Dowr (fire water in Cornish), a nightclub and a mobile advertising company.
During the discussion, students were able to learn the extent of the impact Covid-19 restrictions has had on his businesses. With Skylight, the company is now running mainly open-air drive-in events only, and unfortunately the nightclub is not able to take any revenue at all.
Warwick also talked about the pros and cons of running your own business such as time to yourself, able to take holiday when you prefer and the feeling when business is prospering. Cons included the lack of time when the business is compromised due to outside circumstances and ultimately having no safety net financially in the first years.
Warwick’s tops tip looking back now as an 18-year-old were ‘if you think you have an idea in you – just do it. Life lessons can be more valuable than a degree’. He also acknowledged the benefit of having parents in business already which can offer a safety net for those just starting-up in terms of the advice and practical support you can fall back on.
At the end, the students were bursting with questions:
How did you go from having an idea for vodka to creating a production line and distributing it?
How do you plan your time in between each of the businesses and what takes priority?
Is it definitely worth going to uni and doing a degree in business rather than keeping that on the back foot and taking another lead in something else then coming back to the idea of setting up your own business later on? Will that mean that you will find it difficult to have a successful start-up?