In today’s blog, we discover how Growth Hub Business Adviser, Adam Lawton, transitioned from a trained chef to business owner via a successful period at the world-renowned Unilever brand.
“I started out as a chef, which I trained for in school, but my degree was in Hospitality Business,” explains Adam. “That led me to my first ‘proper’ job at Carlsberg, where I did telesales and regional account management within the pub trade.”
Following his time at Carlsberg, Adam decided to travel the world, and on his return began working for the ice cream manufacturer Ben and Jerry’s. Shortly after he joined, the company was acquired by Unilever – a move which raised the stakes considerably for his career.
“I was put in charge of their cinema sector, which saw me working with some really big names in that industry,” says Adam. “It involved a lot of training, working with staff at the venues and building promotional calendars. Suddenly finding myself working for a company of Unilever’s size was a real challenge, but I loved it.”
After four successful years at Unilever, Adam spent a brief period at Weetabix, where he was put in charge of their wholesale division. As it transpired, the role was very numbers-focused, and Adam soon started to miss the customer development aspect.
“That spurred me on to start my own business – an idea I’d had in the back of my head since uni.”
At the same time, Adam met his future wife who shared the same idea, and after a year of planning, they launched their cafe/deli business.
“During the planning stage, I attended a lot of seminars and workshops, which is where I first encountered something similar to the Growth Hub,” explains Adam. “Little did I know that the process my wife and I were going through would eventually be something I’d help fellow entrepreneurs with as a Growth Hub adviser!”
The business was eventually sold last year – “we were surviving, rather than thriving” – forcing Adam to consider his next career move.
“I realised quite quickly that I wanted to advise businesses and get involved helping both start-ups and scale-ups. I thought back to my own experiences during that time and realised how much I loved the networking elements and the learning, and decided I wanted to be a part of it again.”
Having spotted an opening at the Growth Hub, Adam jumped at the opportunity and started his role as Business Adviser in early March this year. With only a few weeks to get his feet under the desk, he’s still learning the ropes, but has already thrown himself into the process clients go through when contacting the Growth Hub.
“It all begins with a telephone diagnostic which enables us to work out the best route through the various programs we have, based on their needs,” says Adam. “I’ve spent most of my time immersing myself in that and the workshops.
“The workshops have been fantastic, because I get to meet the guys who deliver the content and I can start to understand exactly what it is we’ll be delivering the clients who attend the workshops.”
When asked what he’s looking forward to most as a Business Adviser, Adam points to the diverse range of clients that seek business support and advice. In his short time at the Growth Hub, he’s already dealt with fifteen diagnostic calls, none of which have been in the same industry!
“I’m really interested in people – what they do and how they do it. As an adviser, I get the perfect opportunity to broaden my own horizons and see what modern entrepreneurs are up to. That’s partly why I’m really looking forward to getting out there and meeting people onsite to get the complete picture and find out how we’ve helped them grow.”
Like all of our Business Advisers, Adam’s own story helps him empathise with clients and offer the best, experience-led advice.
“Since I started at the Growth Hub, I’ve found myself telling people a lot about my own experiences,” says Adam. “I think it really helps if our clients can relate to the adviser they’re talking to. For instance, I was only talking to someone today about how working as a husband and wife team can impact the running of a business!”
Every business goes through similar trials and tribulations, no matter the industry they’re in. Despite this, there’s never been a better time to start a business, as Adam highlights.
“The ability to find information so easily and work remotely has been a great enabler for start-ups. And, while the economic climate is challenging, the government is actively supporting growth hubs like ours and there’s plenty of grants, funds and training to be had if you can find your way to them.”
If you’d like to talk to us and find out what grants, workshops and one-to-one support might be available for your business, please get in touch– we’d love to hear from you!