- Year of Graduation: 1989
- Nationality: British
I'm originally from County Durham and came to Yorkshire to do my undergraduate degree in the 1980s. From a young age I knew that I didn’t want to do something ‘female orientated’ but after spending a few years working in finance – which at the time was very male dominated – I felt that I needed something to set me apart if I was going to progress.
I was fortunate enough to get a grant from the Economic Research Council for people with a few years' work experience to do an MBA. I discovered University of Bradford School of Management’s fantastic campus practically on my doorstep and was delighted to find a friendly, welcoming environment in which to take a step back and study.
The idea of starting my own business was something I had thought about for the future but when I did my MBA dissertation on Anita Roddick (founder of the Body Shop), I was really inspired by her entrepreneurial spirit. After graduating, instead of applying for jobs I booked a round the world ticket. At the time, I felt like a pioneer – gap years didn’t exist then! On the MBA programme, I had become interested in the global marketplace and how business works in cultures where there is a completely different way of thinking.
There were 12 stops on the ticket but on my first stop in Hong Kong, I fell into a lecturing job for a few months and when I reached Japan, I ended up staying for eight years!
I had studied a Japanese theory called ‘Just in Time’ management on my MBA and I wanted to find out more about this way of thinking. I applied for a lecturing job in Tokyo and when I turned up to the interview, they were shocked to find that I was a woman! They don’t use Mr and Mrs and because my name was foreign and I had an MBA (which was very well regarded) they had just assumed I was male. Nevertheless, I got the job teaching English with a business perspective. It was actually really refreshing to get to interview stage without being judged on gender.
As a Western woman who could speak no Japanese living and working in Tokyo on her own, I was very much in the minority! I had to step out of my comfort zone and put myself out there. I quickly made Japanese and Western friends, and at a night club on my first weekend there, I met a Japanese guy who was interested in English music. We got chatting about our mutual passion for dance music and the preservation of vinyl. Not long after that we set up our own vinyl record label!
Sony had got rid of vinyl presses in Japan so we had to get ours pressed in the UK and shipped over to Japan – which meant we were global but non-profit making to begin with. When vinyl became popular again a few years later, Sony wanted to know where we were getting them from!
Nearly 20 years later, I am still working with my original business partner and we are now involved in interactive gaming, which we got into right at the beginning of the gaming revolution. Gaming companies from around the world outsource different elements of their games to our people who are based in the UK, US, Japan, Canada and elsewhere. We are a very flexible business and as well as our regular staff, we seek to attract the best talent by subcontracting people. This helped us survive the recession at its lowest point and meant we were resilient when the earthquake hit Japan last year.
I'm now based in London but travel internationally a lot. I recently got involved in helping to set up Bradford University School of Management’s London alumni group and have really enjoyed getting back in touch with old class mates and meeting new people. I assumed most of the School’s London-based alumni would be from big corporates but there’s a real range of people of different ages from different backgrounds. We all have different ways of thinking, different lifestyles and different knowledge sets, which is fantastic for ideas sharing.
Looking back, my MBA has influenced a lot of the decisions I’ve made and given me the skills and knowledge I needed to create a build a successful international business. It made me think in a different way which helped me open doors for myself and gave me the motivation to challenge myself and say ‘yes’ to new opportunities!