After a gap year, during which I worked in London and then travelled, I arrived in Salford. I had a great love of the hospitality sector from managing a London restaurant, but, having struggled with my A-levels, I was very short of confidence academically. I chose Salford because the hospitality and tourism course matched my desire to challenge myself with both practical kitchen training and business management.
After three wonderful years of studying, sports and just living in the Manchester area (that’s difficult to say for an LFC fan!) I had made life-long friends. I left Salford in 2003 with a 2:1 in Hospitality and Tourism Management, a love for learning, and an even deeper passion for tourism and hospitality.
Post-university, I went backpacking with a friend from the football team at Salford. We went down through South East Asia, worked in Australia, did New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands, and then travelled across the USA.
Back in the UK, I became general manager of a new hostel in London called Wake up! That really gave me the buzz for the hotel and marketing sector. And that’s where I came up with the concept of umi: umi means ocean in Japanese. I wanted my brand to connect travelers from across the world, just like the oceans have done for aeons.
The concept was to create a funky, relaxing, friendly three star hotel for young people, with great service delivered by a young, passionate team. I launched the first umi in London in 2007, with another one in Brighton a year later. Then my first franchise of the brand was in Moscow. It may seem an odd choice, but I have always taken chances, and it has proved to be a great adventure.
In 2010, together with a design graduate friend from Salford, I launched Umi Digital - a niche digital agency aimed at the independent hospitality sector. Fast-forward four years, we now have almost 100 clients across the UK and Europe.
Working in the hospitality and travel sector has given me a lot of satisfaction and opportunities. And it’s also allowed me to give other Salford students opportunities, in the form of mentoring and work placements. Now, I travel for work across the globe. I’ve even been on a skills exchange, running a guesthouse in Cambodia. I have been very humbled with some of the awards that my companies and I have won. I was particularly flattered by my university Alumni Achievement Award.Running your own business is stressful and scary, but also hugely rewarding. If you feel passionately about a business idea, I’d say do it. I use a lot of the skills I was taught, and picked up at Salford; I was even asked to accompany the dean of Salford Business School to 10 Downing Street to collect their Small Business Charter Award, so I must be doing something right. I still visit Salford and my lecturers, and work closely with the university, which gives me enormous pleasure.