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What makes for a better business education? A commerce degree or back-packing around the third world? Andrew Robinson, says he learnt more about budgeting and negotiation as he travelled from India to China.
“I travelled on a shoestring budget around Asia, studying commerce through the Open University, learning what I could and living and eating with the locals. I wanted to see how business worked in the real world whilst hunting for new products and new innovations that I could make a business out of,” says South African, Robinson.
The intrepid backpacker is the man behind the company that has introduced the innovative Sipahh drinking straw to the UK market, having launched the product to huge success in South Africa in 2006.
Areas of Expertise
Andrew discovered Sipahh when he was working at a leading investment bank in London. “Like most overseas visitors, I rocked up in London at the age of 25 with no job, no contacts, no place to stay and headed for a recruitment company. I could tell there was no way in hell I was going to get a job through them, so I phoned the CEOs in the banking arena and secured a cappuccino with all of them. I had only a few dollars so those expensive cups of coffee were the most courageous investment I’d made at that point!”
Having landed himself a job as an analyst at a City-based investment bank, the Australian inventors of Sipahh then approached the bank for backing. Robinson realised it was the kind of phenomenal new product that he had been looking for. So he rushed straight to Australia to meet with the owners of the business.
He quickly secured the rights for all Southern Africa Development Communities (Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe), Indian Ocean Islands, the UK (including Channel Islands) and the Republic of Ireland.
Then, he called around a number of contacts, to raise the £3 million investment needed in the UK market and set about building up the infrastructure and virtual team to support the launch in the UK, whilst keeping a close eye on start up overheads.
Andrew’s friends couldn’t believe he would give up a good career at the bank to sell straws. “I had a great job soon after arriving in London with nothing and knowing no-one. When I told my family I was leaving to sell straws, they called me a nutter.”
Andrew says the key to his success lay in recognising his strengths, and getting help where it’s needed.