What makes your favourite restaurant so special? Is it the food, the atmosphere or the decor? Dionas Sotiriou (MSc Economics & Strategy for Business 2014) believes it’s the details that make the difference. While working in finance he travelled the globe, experiencing the world’s most stylish restaurants and hotels. Wherever he went, he found himself falling in love with the rugs, lamps, candles and ornaments that gave each establishment its unique flair.
He wanted to bring home souvenirs to help introduce some of the same sense of style to his own home. He even asked his favourite restaurant whether he could buy some of their tableware. He was told that it wasn’t for sale.
This was the start of the idea that changed his path.
He met Gabriel Moukhbat (MSc Economics & Strategy for Business 2014) while studying at Imperial College Business School. They shared a love of London. Here, they could study in one of the world’s major financial and technological hubs. Alongside this they enjoyed the cosmopolitan lifestyle on offer in trendy areas like Notting Hill. The city was the backdrop for their experience at Imperial itself, which they believe was unbeatable.
I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world that you find the same energy and environment that you can find at Imperial. Other business schools just don’t have the same ecosystem.
They both embarked on the MSc Economics & Strategy for Business with the aim of expanding their knowledge of business, marketing and finance. Neither of them planned to launch their own business. However, they found that Imperial College Business School was the perfect incubator for new ideas.
“I was not expecting to start a business,” says Dionas, “but at Imperial there was a strong focus on entrepreneurship.”
The pair were open-minded and made the most of every experience on offer: they attended events focused on entrepreneurship; they got to know other people who launched businesses; they discussed the idea with their tutors and worked on practical consulting projects; they used resources offered by the programme tutors.
“Every day you are in a dynamic environment,” says Dionas. “There is always something different to discover. There is always someone to challenge you to bring your ideas to life.”
One thing they found particularly exciting was a three day ‘hackathon’ with students from the Imperial College London Faculty of Engineering. Experiences like this unlocked their creativity and encouraged them to look across disciplines.
At the end of the programme they both returned to the standard nine-to-five. They kept in touch with many of their Imperial classmates to share business ideas and go on holidays together.
Back at his desk, Dionas began dreaming of a new business. It would offer a curated collection of beautifully-designed homeware, sourced from the world’s best hotels, restaurants and venues. After eight months of developing the idea, he reached out to Gabriel, who was immediately interested in joining him as a business partner.
Finally, they both quit their jobs and last summer they launched Maison Flaneur. The e-commerce website allows customers to create unique and Instagram-worthy interiors, where every object has a story to tell.
They agree they would never have reached this stage without their experience at Imperial College Business School. Gabriel says: “My time there shaped my personality. It made me more ambitious and gave me energy. The experience has followed me into the rest of my career and life.”
Imperial gave me an understanding of how important teamwork is. There is so much emphasis in the programme on working in groups. That is great training for the corporate world. The most important thing in any business is the people you work with. Every day I can see how the things we learnt at Imperial taught us that.
Now they spend their days travelling once again. They review some of the world’s top destinations and meet people who make beautiful homeware. Then they find ways to share them with their customers.
They encourage anyone who wants to pursue their passions to study at Imperial College Business School. “If you have an open mind there is so much you can take from the experience,” Dionas concludes. “Go with an open mind and embrace all the different opportunities on offer.”
It certainly worked for them.
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