Case study

Entrepreneur — Kevin Mansell-Abell

Kevin studied for a graphic design degree at UWE Bristol's School of Art and Design. He now runs his own successful creative design studio

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

An opportunity to compete on a live brief gave me a taste of the 'real world' outside of education. Winning a competition and completing a placement led to future sub-contracted work. I left university with a degree, a growing portfolio and client base together with £10,000 in the bank.

It's the excitement, the buzz, the challenge, the unknown that has made me want to run my own business. As a child, I'd seen the highs and the lows experienced by my parents running a business and wanted a piece of the action. Control of your own destiny is a massive part of it, and the rewards when things are going well.

My mother is my main inspiration, and despite the lack of an academic background she's opened national store chains and built businesses. If she could do it with no formal qualifications, what could I do with a degree and the business experience?

How did your university course inspire you?

The subject I studied is integral to the work I do now. Without that, I wouldn't have the skills and knowledge. However, it's the work outside of my university degree that has taught me about finance, planning and people skills.

Any advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Take every opportunity in front of you. Be authentic, real and honest, even if things go astray - after all, people buy from people, not from businesses.

What top skills do you need?

  • Resilience - remember the good times when things get tough.
  • A long-term outlook - while short term, quick fixes and immediate wins are nice, they won't last.
  • People skills - customers, colleagues and suppliers. Connections can make or break a business, so treat people fairly and exceed their expectations.

What sacrifices have you made?

I gave up nights out, living at university and my free time. Earnings for the first five years were invested back into the business, so while I wasn't getting the reward for it, it was all part of the longer term plan. I managed to lower my risk by not borrowing a penny for the business - ever.

What are the key elements for running a successful business?

  • Attitude - the can do, want to and drive for moving forward, even when it's tough. More action and less talking.
  • Creativity - don't do what's always been done. You should challenge everything.
  • Relationships - look after others and give people an opportunity. Invest in long-term relationships with your clients and partners.
  • Organisation - keep things on track and on schedule. Slip ups can be expensive, complicated and can reduce client confidence.
  • Planning - be clear on what you want, and how much you want it. Think of the lifestyle the business will create for you. You'll need to have a tight grip on the goal when times get tough.

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