Case study

Founder — Michael Millar

Michael earned a BSc in Economics at the University of Nottingham before starting his career on KPMG's graduate scheme. Discover what inspired him to start his own company

How did you get your job?

After leaving university, it took me a little while to decide exactly what I wanted to do. I was lucky to get a position at KPMG where I worked and trained as a chartered accountant, initially working in audit in Glasgow, before moving to their transaction services team in London.

I left KPMG to join the investment team in a mid-market private equity firm, which was a great learning experience. After a few years I had the idea for what would eventually become hoppist, a craft beer delivery service.

As the idea started to come alive, I thought that I was at a good stage of my life and career to start a business, so I took the plunge.

What's a typical day like?

As any business owner will tell you, it's hugely varied. In a small business you really have to be prepared to do it all. I've done everything from packing boxes and driving delivery vans to defining marketing strategies and raising finance. On the best days, I'll be trying some of the beers.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I was born in London and it's fantastic to be part of something that's promoting the independent brewers here. There's a real passion about the brewing scene and it's amazing to be working alongside the people who make London the exciting, lively place that I love to call home.

On top of that, it's amazing seeing something that started as a small idea blossom into a real-life business and seeing that business grow.

What are the challenges?

Being your own boss brings its own challenges but great freedom, which can sometimes be a challenge in itself. Managing your own time and knowing that you don't have someone breathing down your neck can be difficult if you don't find a way to organise your working life.

In terms of the various skills required to run a business, my career background means I'm relatively strong on the finance and commercial aspects, but I have subsequently discovered how specialised and difficult things like marketing are.

In what way is your degree relevant?

An economics degree is a great foundation for a career in business and finance. Less so for the direct application of the theories you learn, (although there are places where that's highly important), and more for the fact that a degree in this subject introduces you to new ways of problem solving.

How has your role developed?

My corporate role developed rapidly, from a junior auditor to an investor in a private equity fund in about five years, and then onto leading my own business.

My ambition is to grow hoppist as much as I can. I love running the business and hope to turn this from a start-up into a much bigger business.

Any advice for other economics students?

  • Start your career in a conventional graduate scheme. While more niche roles in smaller businesses may provide more responsibility and might seem more interesting, it's hard to replicate the benefit of seeing how the big, established companies do things, warts and all.
  • Secondly I would say to remain curious. Find a career path that interests you, and keep looking for experiences just beyond what you're currently capable of. Avoid being the person that doesn't ask questions for fear of sounding stupid, you'll often find that others in the room are thinking the same thing and you'll come across as engaged and interested.
  • If and when you have an idea for a business, try to think objectively about the pros and cons and potential risks and rewards of going for it. I can't recommend that everyone starts a business for every idea they have, but often people put it off because of general fear or anxiety rather than actively deciding against doing it.

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