In the past 12 months, I became a mother, and this experience has changed my life in many beautiful ways. Whilst my husband and I were looking for a toy for our son in our local town, we realised that there was a lack of variety and options for baby goods. This led me to open a baby store called ‘NkanyeziKids’ to serve the severely neglected market town of Newcastle, based in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa.
Alumnus Sine Zulu MBA 2017 – I experienced many challenges in my attempt to procure locally manufactured clothing in bulk for the shop. At the time there were many people, who had experienced COVID-related retrenchment, coming to the store desperate for employment to feed their families. This compelled me to develop our own micro-factory. We now manufacture our own range of African-print baby clothes.
I would like to play my small part in contributing to the revival of our COVID-battered economy in South Africa and to creating jobs.
As we now face firmly towards the end of the year, we are sharing some extra special moments that our MBA alumni have lived through in 2020. In a year defined by separation and anxiety for all, we are sharing magic and hope from across our global CJBS community.
From the birth of new companies to new babies being born. 2020 has seen some remarkable moments in the lives and careers of our Cambridge MBA family.
For 2018 MBA graduates Yigit Akar and Atiqah Zaki, founding the health tech startup Skinlync grew out of the CJBS Venture Creation Weekend held in 2019. But 2020 has naturally brought new challenges for the start up.
Like many ventures, the first lockdown interfered with our development plans. But instead of accepting defeat, we turned it into an opportunity, says Yigit Akar.
One of our proudest lockdown milestones is that we completed our user research within 2 weeks. By the end of the exercise, we had spoken to over 100 individuals with skin conditions, with each call lasting an average of 30 minutes (that’s 50 valuable hours that we cherish greatly!).
In this challenging entrepreneurial journey, even the smallest act of kindness propels us forward.
For MBA 2017 graduate Natalie Shenoy she embraced marriage and a new business in 2020.
Just over three years ago, I packed my bags and bid farewell to everything that was familiar back home in Mumbai and embarked on a new journey with my MBA at Cambridge. With little experience of living alone and being independent, the prospect of this experience in a foreign land seemed daunting. But today, as I reflect back on my journey, I couldn’t have been happier and prouder for taking that first step out of my comfort zone.
I got married in March 2020, two days before the UK lockdown was announced, and we were looking forward to honeymooning across Central America together. Instead, I cancelled all my plans and sheltered at home to while away a pandemic, for which there seemed no end in sight.
It is often said the best ideas are born out of adversity, and that’s how my brand Ghar Ki Chai came into fruition. Faced with a lot of time outside of my day job at Microsoft, and to quench my thirst for authentic chai just like the type I used to have back home, my husband and I started our brand selling instant chai that takes under a minute to prepare.
Ghar Ki Chai aims to plug a gap in the market for authentic chais, made with wholesome ingredients. Since our launch in August, our chais have been hugely well received, and we have won the hearts of our UK customers with our branding and packaging inspired by Indian motifs.
This year has been a bit of a roller coaster of emotions for everyone, and some have had to deal with extreme feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and despair. I have learned that it is always important to try and find positives in any situation, and to tap into that creative energy that exists within every one of us, to overcome any situation, no matter how unforeseen.
I am grateful for all the support I have received in navigating through a challenging year and establishing our business, and I am looking forward to scaling the business in the UK and globally in 2021. Whilst we are in the middle of this pandemic, as cheesy as it may sound, I am confident that even if we’re all apart, we will get through this together!’
During the first lockdown in March 2020, while UK nurseries were closed, MBA 2017 alumnus Oladele Olafuyi and his wife Louisa, started curating content to teach their 13-month-old son more around African themes.
We couldn’t find enough resources in the marketplace that delivered our vision, so we started creating our own content, a process that led to the creation of Kunda Kids.
Kunda kids is a content creation studio aiming to inspire the next generation through stories, songs and animations inspired by the richness of African culture and history.
We want to bring African stories to the world in a fun and educative way and our first project is Africa’s Little Kings & Queens, a collection of four beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture books, inspired by some of ancient Africa’s most influential leaders: Queen Yaa (Ghana), Mansa Musa (Mali), Queen Kitami (Uganda) and Shaka Zulu (South Africa).
All from www.kundakids.com.
Looking through the journey of creating KundaKids, the Cambridge MBA has played a huge role, as the one year spent on the programme prepared me for life as an entrepreneur.
Additionally, while creating the books, I had a very strong support system, made up from the friends I had made during my Cambridge MBA.
Looking ahead into 2021, Kunda Kids is looking to help talented writers and illustrators bring their children’s books to life, watch this space.
We are excited about what the future holds, we believe every child needs to have a library of diverse books and we are excited about inspiring the next generation through our stories.
For luxury retail start up led by MBA alumnus Jacqui Gilbert, 2020 has been more than a remarkable year for company growth.
Jacqui Gilbert ‘ringing the bell’ to celebrate the filing of their company patent back in March of 2020.
This was a moment of hope, joy and teamwork off the back of resilience, determination and courage – values that the founders, Jacqui and Fran, wished to share with their customers as we all battled through such uncertain times at the outset of the global pandemic.
The Cambridge-born luxury bag brand BEAUDUROF began life in 2014 soon after New Zealander, Jacqui, completed her Cambridge MBA.
What started in the classroom as a simple project led to five years of design and development that saw Jacqui and her Chief Operating Officer, Frances Brandon, source designers and artisans from across Europe.
The start up moved from the brand name ‘C1209’ to BEAUDUROF meaning ‘Bold in Battle’ in Old English.
Featured in Vogue and the UK Telegraph, as well as European Design Awards this year alone, 2020 has really seen this female-founders’ venture lift off. Culminating in December with the opening of its first retail space in the prestigious Grand Arcade in Cambridge.
Jacqui and Fran are committed to sustainability in fashion, as well as making a beautiful product that people will cherish for the rest of their lives.
Lastly, for one of our newest graduate Connie Zhang, 2020 meant pivoting away from her plans in the Real Estate sector and exploring a journey into entrepreneurship.
Mocaa was initially a project idea for my Summer Term project at Cambridge Judge Business School.
The idea stemmed from seeing many students with great potential working hard for their dream schools, yet unable to deliver their personalities smoothly and fully on their application. It’s a loss to both the applicants and the universities.
This struggle is no stranger to anyone who’s applied to schools before, and I believe we, as “application veterans”, have the capability to help future applicants strengthen their branding and offer more insights.
During the pandemic, we definitely saw a spike in stress level from those students who had to adapt to a virtual learning environment. There were also changes in the university application process, causing a spike in competition as well.
At the same time, I was concerned about my own future, given that I had focused my MBA studies on the Real Estate sector. But now I am glad that I didn’t oversee the opportunities around me and decided to take a chance on a new venture, with my MBA Class of 2019 classmate Kerry Wang.
Now Mocaa is halfway through its Beta event, and our results were fantastic. Many people believed in what we do, and we received immense support.
We are now preparing for our official launch in early 2021. Our goal is to foster a synergy through better collaborations between the admissions consultants and the university applicants. Through this synergy, we will be able to help provide more jobs to the admissions consultants, better consulting services to the university applicants, and ultimately a more closely aligned applicant pool for the universities.
Special moments of HOPE from across our world wide MBA community, as we share the holiday season with our loved ones, in new and different ways, at the end of this extraordinary year.
Sharing remarkable moments in the lives and careers of our global Cambridge MBA family in 2020.
What have been your remarkable moments this year?
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