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Celebrating a milestone with Hugo Shephard

Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.

- Nelson Mandela.

On Role Models’ 5th birthday the team thought it might be fun to take advantage of this milestone and get me to write a little piece on who we are, how we got here and what led me to start a business with a passion for character. So here goes.

How it began

I am Hugo Shephard, a 33-year-old sport obsessed, determined, slightly sarcastic guy who can’t stand writing! I ‘escaped the city’ five years ago to develop a service that’s a bit different. Before starting Role Models I worked as a Management Consultant in the city and did a lot of work in the healthcare sector, which I loved. It involved working with great people, many of whom had worked in the NHS previously and so weren’t overly corporate, which was just my scene. I’d always wanted to start a business so the question was simply ‘what?’ rather than ‘if’. When I boiled it down this business needed to tick three fairly straightforward boxes:

  1. It needed to be a business that I could easily explain to my grandparents. I’ve never wanted to run a derivatives-churning, bond-selling FX trading platform that harnesses the power of bitcoin.
  2. It needed to fulfill an ongoing requirement, not be based on a trend or fad that could drop off a cliff in a year’s time and mean I’d never to be able to sleep at night.
  3. It needed to have a real and positive impact on people’s lives.

Idea

A friend of mine and I initially came up with the concept of Creative Childcare based on our experiences as children and our shared interest in psychology. We were determined to find people who had the ‘joie de vivre’ to go the extra mile with kids and inspire them in what they love doing. My friend and business partner moved on in our first year; we’ve always loved bickering like brothers and it wouldn’t have been the Morecambe & Wise double act that we both were after. Creative Childcare led me to want to provide a more structured, formal way of developing character and our four Life Skills Courses were the result.

People always talk about it but I’ve now realized first hand the importance of developing a great team. For me, it’s critical to find passionate people to work with who love the idea of making a difference, who love a ‘people business’ that facilitates good old fashioned human interaction and who are dedicated and driven.

Running Role Models as a business

Running Role Models has not been without stress. I worry about whether it will ever truly ‘succeed’ in my eyes, about not paying into a pension, the difficulty of scaling the Creative Childcare side, getting a nightmare investor involved, the dangers of too much expensive tech and much, much more. But a fellow entrepreneur and good friend of mine once said to me ‘we’re never going to starve’. It was a penny-dropping moment. He’s right – we’ll be ok. If our businesses don’t work out we’ll find other jobs that we really enjoy and we’ll make sure that we come out on top.

At Role Models, we’ve started running courses internationally and next week I’m meeting agents from all around the world to further our networks abroad. We have an ambitious dream to impact the lives of a million children and we’re only in the early thousands at the moment but that’s fine, we’ll get there eventually.

Would I have started Role Models if I’d known how much work it would be? Probably not. Am I excited about the future now that we’ve come this far? Absolutely but I’d never show it!

Hugo Shephard

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