The Business School is very proud of the achievements of our alumni. The network has great diversity and one thing our alumni all share is a desire to fulfil their brilliant potential and benefit society and business. Many of our alumni go on to achieve great success as thought-leaders, entrepreneurs and social philanthropists. Tara Mei (MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management 2012) is a great example of this.
Tara has always had a strong social conscience. While still at university she started work as a project manager providing support and advocacy for parents with learning difficulties. She has also always had a love of food which has been incorporated into her working life through various ways such as creating a service to help users develop independent living skills, and launching a quirky pop up cupcake and deli café. She is currently cooking up a storm with her business Kitchen Table Projects (KTP), which she launched shortly after completing her Masters at the Business School.
“I started KTP because I wanted to give budding food entrepreneurs the information, opportunity and support to turn their visions into a reality. Every year, 16,000 food and drink start-ups emerge into the market and yet, 90% of them don’t make it past their first year of trading. Conversely, businesses that reach out for advice and join an accelerator or incubator have an 87% chance of survival well into their fifth year. There is plenty of support and opportunity in the tech sector. I wanted to mirror those advances in food and drink, the UK’s largest manufacturing sector.”
Being at the Business School gave me access to a broader network and opportunities to engage with lots of different kinds of people. After starting up and refining your product, ultimately it is the power of your network that is going to lead you on to bigger things.
Tara’s time with an EdTech social enterprise helped bring her marketing skills to the boil, which have seen her implement innovative and creative social media ideas to help grow her business and connect her with like-minded entrepreneurs. A recent #tweetup saw Tara meet with many of her online community to “shake hands, share hugs and chat the night away!”
“Be authentic, honest and yourself”, is Tara’s advice for creating an engaging online community. “You are the voice of your brand. Engaging communities is hard work and can be pretty labour intensive, so it’s important that it comes naturally to you so that you can keep up the pace. Offline activities are important too – a lot of entrepreneurs think that they can just get away with doing social media only, but you need that face time to really foster loyal connections.”
Tara has continued her ambitious aims to help support new start-ups and last year she got together with a fellow “super passionate entrepreneur” to launch Bread & Butter, a two day conference and bootcamp for food and drink entrepreneurs. The event was a great success, with presentations from new brands such as Hello Fresh and Livia’s Kitchen and preparations are already well underway for 2017.
The future is a busy one for Tara who has also expanded her accelerator programme to Queensland, Australia, helping new food and drink start-ups down under, as well as running an export programme for food and business looking to expand sales to the South East Asia and China.