Old Radleians work across as many different businesses and industries as there are ORs and below you can find profiles of those who are making their mark in their chosen field.
It can be hard to decide what you want to be and what you want to do when you leave Radley. Very few people have a chosen career path at 18 and, as a result, when choosing a degree it’s usually linked to favourite A-Levels. Which is exactly what Alex Bruce did.
Alex (2011, J) left Radley with A Levels in English literature, geography, and geology and after a gap year working in Christchurch School, Perth, Australia headed to Newcastle University to study Human Geography. Fast forward to 2020 and Alex is now taking a Master’s degree in Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London. In addition, Alex is building his on-line business, LB Vintage Boxes, which he started while doing his degree.
We spoke to Alex to find out what was behind the change in direction and more about his business.
A Masters in Fashion is not an obvious choice after Human Geography, is there a link?
I enjoyed my degree, I have no regrets in choosing it, but fashion is what really excites me. I had already been selling clothing on Depop - a fashion marketplace app, plus setting up LB Vintage Boxes with a friend from university. My dissertation was on sustainability in fashion, concentrating on whether organic cotton was a viable, sustainable answer to conventional cotton in the fashion industry.
What inspired you to start the business?
Modern fashion is very boring and run of the mill with people wearing the same thing. We wanted to wear unique items and at the same time give old clothes a new lease of life as we are conscious of the gap between sustainability and modern fashion. Having already sold clothing on Depop we knew there were other people out there who felt the same.
How is LB Vintage Boxes different from other vintage clothing websites?
We specialise in everyday garments inspired by 90s streetwear and skate culture, clothes we would wear ourselves. Based on age, height, size, colour preference etc. we put together a personalised mystery box. It makes for the perfect gift!
Is business going well?
Definitely. We have just had our hundredth order. We started LB Vintage Boxes under a year ago and so are delighted with how it’s going. The last two weeks has been very busy with 30 orders coming in. With Christmas less than four weeks away and in the middle of a second lock down we have benefitted from Covid-19, which probably isn’t true for most people.
We had planned to have a pop-up shop back in March but this was cancelled as it coincided with the first day of lock down. However, we now have a pop-up shop planned for Saturday 5th December in Bond Street where there will be one off items and box sets for sale.
How do you juggle your time between a Masters and running a business?
As the course focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation, having a ‘real life’ business already up and running is a bonus. It means I can put everything into practice straightaway. I have access to industry professionals who provide mentoring and teamwork projects with other students such as ‘how to grow a business’.
When you’ve finished your Masters what’s next?
I would like to expand LB Vintage Boxes to a proper brand, but if it isn’t viable then I’m certain I will be doing something fashion related.
Have you thought about using the Radley network to help you?
Yes. When I finish my Masters I will have a clear idea of what we want to achieve and I will be ready to take the business to the next level, then I will approach the network then for advice.
Lastly, thinking back to when you were at Radley are there any standout moments for you?
I played Bigside rugby and when I was a 6.1 Radley celebrated its rugby centenary with a fixture against Sherborne School, who we played against in Radley’s very first fixture. There were about 3,000 people watching the match so walking out on the pitch was quite special. Sadly, we lost.
To find out more about Alex’s vintage boxes click here
While at Radley, Ed was secretary of the JCR. He played most sports: rugby, hockey, lacrosse, golf etc. After Radley. Ed spent four years at Trinity College, Dublin, studying economics and another two years studying for an CFA exam (Chartered Financial Analyst).
Today Ed has six coffee shops, Over Under, which turn into cocktail bars at night and jokes that the JCR proved to be a good training ground for a career in the hospitality sector!
Did you have specific plans when you left Radley?
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school. I thought it be would something to do with economics and finance. My careers advice focused very much on ‘traditional’ careers such as law and banking etc. I did an internship which I didn’t particularly enjoy but from that I at least knew I didn’t want to do pure finance, more in the sales line.
Given your current career do you regret your time at university and CFA exam?
No not all. University prepares you for life in the sense that it builds confidence and gives you a good network. There was a great entrepreneurial community which has proved very useful! Plus it was fun and I made many good friends.
What inspired you to open coffee shops and not pursue a career in finance?
During my travels around the world (USA, Hong Kong, Spain, Ireland, New Zealand) I visited many coffee shops and was aware of the different coffee shop cultures. But it was when I worked in New York for as a ‘manny’ (male nanny) that I really got into the coffee culture scene and the way hospitality is done in America. Coming back to London the difference in hospitality style from New York was huge, and not one I particularly liked. That was when I decided to recreate the experiences that I had enjoyed.
What makes your coffee shops different from others?
Our focus is coffee with a friendly service, we don’t take ourselves too seriously but want to ensure it’s the best service you will get anywhere. We’re not like the typical high-street chain coffee shops, plus we have fresh food deliveries and hence all our food is freshly made at reasonable prices.
When it’s not lockdown our coffee shops change to cocktail bars. We create a completely different atmosphere by flipping tables and even the walls are on hinges which change from light to dark. It was fun coming up with the concept and working out how to make it work in reality. It takes 20 minutes to change from one to the other.
How did you set about financing your business?
I managed to save quite a bit of money when working as a manny. Friends and family have invested, plus funding from a Government start-up loan.
Is this the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
I was very set on doing this. While setting up any businesses is risky I was lucky that both parents have set up and run their own business so I had a lot of knowledge to tap into. I knew from my travels and working around the world that an office job wasn’t for me, that wasn’t the work lifestyle I wanted.
All your coffee shops are based in west London, why there?
There was less cool stuff in the area so not much competition. Earl’s Court was my first location back in 2017 and today we have 6 shops, South Kensington being our latest one. We did open one in Manchester but decided that was too far away so sold it, just before Covid hit!
Talking of Covid, lockdowns will clearly have impacted your business. How have you adapted and are you keeping your head above water?
Covid has had a massive impact but we have risen to the challenge and now do deliveries which are proving to be very successful. So much in fact that even after Covid and lockdowns are a thing of the past we will continue to offer a delivery service.
What are your future business plans?
To build on the hospitality brand creating a fun relaxed atmosphere, increase our online consumer platform, and, of course, focus on the coffee.
Lastly, what advice would you give young ORs wanting to set up their own businesses?
100% go for it. Ask as many people as you can about your business. Some people are naturally negative but may have valid points. So listen to all and choose what you want to act on.
To find out more about Ed’s coffee shops, click here
Jack and James have been good friends for a number of years since starting at Radley. Having worked hard at their A-levels, they both started university courses but then both dropped out in the first year. Jack and James are now the co-founders of Sanctuary which is about employee wellbeing and a healthier workforce.
When you started your degree did you have any long-term plans?
James: I had been investing from a young age and was interested in Equity. I thought a career in finance was for me, so I started an Economics degree at Exeter.
Jack: I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and decided to go to university (Internal Relations and Affairs at Bristol) as that was expected. I didn’t know if I was going down the right route. I’d had a bad experience with an internship in London with a well-known consultancy company. Nothing interesting happened because of legal restrictions with what I could see and do. It definitely put me off working for a large corporation.
Dropping out of university is a major decision, how did your parents react?
James: My parents were mainly supportive, it helped that they hadn’t gone to university themselves but had still made a success of their lives.
Jack: My parents too were supportive, though the wider family did raise their concerns!
James: I believe you can be successful without going to university. For certain careers yes you need to go, and if you’re not sure exactly what you want to do then it can be a good opportunity to discover what that is.
Jack: I can’t imagine having continued with university. A big positive is that we are ahead of our peers.
What inspired your business idea for Sanctuary?
James: It wasn’t our initial business idea, that was to set up an up events and activities company for young people (18-30) in London.
Jack: Yes, when we were doing our internships in London we were both bored with what we could do in our free time. The typical London tourist attractions were not what we wanted. If we wanted something else, then other people our age must do too.
James: There was another company who had had a similar idea but failed, even with £30m backing. If they had failed we weren’t sure how we could succeed.
Jack: We talked to lots of people about what else we might do, mental health and wellbeing cropped up several times. Companies include gym membership and yoga classes as perks to their employees which provide physical wellbeing, and to an extent mental wellbeing, but they could go much further.
Can you explain how Sanctuary works?
James: Firstly, we do not claim to be mental health experts. Our aim is to make a happier and healthier workforce. We have content on over 30 topics, be it finance, fitness, or sleeping better, from tracking your daily mood to providing inspirational stories.
Jack: We have three sources of revenue:
- We sell an App to businesses for their employees to tap into whenever they want to access content
- We licence content; a library of content resources that people can put in their own products, a monthly/yearly fee.
- Consumer audience: for example, Mumsnet and make the App available to their members.
We don’t deal with the public directly, always via a company/digital platform.
How did you raise finances to get the business going?
Jack: Fund raising is hard and takes time and patience, as does building up contacts. Our first funding round was to friends and families, we were fortunate that they had the funds to support us and/or contacts within Angel Investor networks which we tapped in to from London to Lisbon. From there we started to talk with professionals and in particular the Founder Factory.
What is your biggest success to date?
James: We’re still starting up and finding our feet. Our successes aren’t yet in terms of hitting financial targets. It’s speaking to users on our platform and knowing that we have helped in terms of being calmer, reducing anxiety, sleeping better and eating better. We are also working with more London start-up companies, getting in at the beginning.
Jack: Starting out hasn’t been easy and we both admit to having a high degree of naivety thinking we would be earning millions by our mid-twenties.
Have there have been times when you’ve felt like giving up?
James: We motivate each other. And knowing that you have accountability to employees, to keep going for them, a responsibility to investors to continue, all focusses the mind! We believe we can, and do, have a meaningful impact for our users in what we do.
So what’s next for Sanctuary?
Jack: We started Sanctuary (originally Livitay) three years ago and we feel we are finally started to get more traction. Over the next few months we have some exciting projects coming up. One of which is integrating with Air France-KLM’s loyalty app for their 10 million members, our wellbeing content will be viewed by approximately 2 million people. Plus, we are doing a campaign with Marks and Spencer in collaboration with Fitbit and Bose.
Finally, any fond memories or stories of Radley you would like to recount?
James: I have particular fond memories of H Social, which Jack was in too. George May was our tutor, the BBQs we had, and friendships made.
Jack: Lunch the Chicken. Probably not my finest moment as far as dons are concerned. We had a Secret Santa and I decided it would be a good idea to buy my person a live chicken. I bought it on a Saturday but the presents were to be exchanged on the Sunday, so I put it in Bigside pavilion. However, there was a campus wide message the next morning about a lost chicken and who did it belong to? Somehow my PHM knew it was my doing and I had to retrieve it quick, and then hid it in someone else’s room!
To find out more about Sanctuary click here.
Ed Boase is co-founder of the Young Film Academy (the UK’s leading provider of practical filmmaking education to young people) and the sister production company Magma Pictures (delivering short and feature-length film productions for broadcast and cinema release).
Firstly, congratulations on 15 years of the Young Film Academy. I believe you set up this company with another OR, James Walker (1992), how did that come about?
It was around 2003/4. James and I were working together on films (our production company Magma Pictures), at the same time James was private tutoring via an agency. The agency had been providing a film course but the people responsible pulled out, the agency asked James if he would be interested. They already had 16 people signed up for a 4-days course at £500 each – it was a no-brainer. To think you can have an income from filmmaking when you start out is naïve, you have to diversify.
Our first course had a James Bond theme with the final day viewing the films at Mr Youngs Preview Theatre, an independent trade preview complex in London.
When you started this company did your vision for it match what it is today?
We had no plans at the start, it was such great fun working with the kids that we kept doing it. It gives me a fantastic outlet for creativity while engaging with young people who have a shared passion.
Shortly after that we went into a Reading school for a filmmaking day, working with 60 girls. From then on it just grew. Today we help over 7,500 children per year complete their first film. We have in-house staff and approximately 20 to 30 freelance film makers.
You produced your first film, TABOO, when you were at school, with the late Desmond Llewelyn (1928). What was it about and how did you managed to get Desmond Llewelyn to be in it?
It was around Christmas 1996 when Tim Rice (former member of Radley Council) gave a talk prior to a film showing and his advice was ‘get the biggest star you can because you need one’.
James Walker and I wanted to make a film and Richard Morgan, then Warden, suggested we went for it and ask Desmond Llewelyn. Fortunately, he agreed. He didn’t charge us his usual day rate, £30,000 per day, but £100 instead. He was the easiest actor I have ever worked with, very nice, extremely accommodating, and didn’t seem to mind filming in a drafty castle in Wales.
Desmond Llewelyn played an evil occultist who writes a letter to his grandson leaving a significant inheritance, but the grandson has to prove himself first by doing something horrid. The genre was horror, quite a dark film.
It premiered at The Phoenix in Oxford in 1997, sponsored by a drinks company that had a drink called Taboo. Eon Productions, who make the James Bond films, came to watch.
Were there any teachers that particularly inspired you?
Max Horsey. It was 1996/97 and he had filming facilities that he was keen for boys to use to make their own films, rather than it sit around and only be used for filming plays and other events.
When you left Radley was your career plan to make films?
Yes, I was hooked. I went to London College of Printing which is now the University of Arts London. Then a BA in Film and TV production. The difficulty was how to start.
You can apply for entry level jobs – I applied as a runner for Love Actually but was turned down – or you can start making films in which case there are no prescribed rules, but it is daunting. James Walker wanted to write films and I wanted to produce them, so together we set up Magma Pictures. We made a number of short films, 2 or 3 minutes long, and sent them to film festivals. You have to put yourself forward and accept that there will be lots of rejections.
Organisers of festivals go to other film festivals and if they see a film they like then you are invited to tour with them. Our most successful short film is One Small Leap made in 2002. We toured for 18 months, around the UK, Europe, Iran and Australia.
Do you have any films that you are working on now?
I had hoped to start one at the end of last year but with Covid it was cancelled. I’m thinking about making a documentary about the British film industry – filmmakers from the 1960s to the 1980s.
How do you manage your time between the two companies?
The quietest time for the Young Film Academy is over the new year and the following quarter. This is when we can start developing ideas for our own filmmaking.
Has Covid had a big impact on your companies?
Like everyone else we moved online which proved successful for the Young Film Academy. Obviously Covid has been a financial nightmare, and of course you are responsible for others, but there have been positives too. It has fast-forwarded development and creative ideas that we wouldn’t normally have had to time to do. The benefit of running your own company means we’ve had the flexibility and freedom to do what we want and not have to wait for others to make decisions.
What are your career highlights to date?
We won the Best Short Film Award at the Bristol Brief Encounters Festival.
Also, the soundtrack for our film Blooded was written by the composer Ilan Eshkeri and recorded by the London Metropolitan Orchestra. The film (visual only) was playing in the background on a big screen at the same time. Amazing.
What would your advice be to current students who want to pursue filmmaking?
You can pick up the technical aspects of filming as you go along so a filmmaking degree isn’t essential. I would recommend choosing an English-based degree at the best university you can get into. Something that will help you with the writing of scripts, how to build characters, and storylines etc. All good universities are likely to have an acting/film club so you can hone your skills there. As a postgraduate you can then apply to a film school in the UK, or better still, in the USA.
Finally, any fond memories or stories of Radley you would like to recount?
I remember walking into Hall one lunch time with Desmond Llewelyn and the buzz of excitement from other boys. He was instantly recognisable as ‘Q’. It felt quite special.
I also remember calling the company that made the drink Taboo from the payphone in Covered Passage, asking them if they would sponsor our film as it had the same name. We felt we had made such a hash of the pitch that we would be lucky if four bottles turned up. However, one morning I was summoned by Rob Holroyd to explain why a truck was making its way up the drive to offload boxes of alcohol. It was one thing to be caught drinking at Radley but quite another to be caught having booze delivered by the boxload.
James Billot is the Editor at The Post, UnHerd, the UK’s largest new media publication.
The Post - A crucible among key thinkers for the big idea of what comes next. Post-Liberal, post-populist, post-Brexit, post-Trump…
On leaving Radley you had been offered a place at Durham but you turned it down and took a gap year instead, why was that?
I visited Durham on an Open Day and it felt too much like Radley 2.0. I loved my time at school, but I didn’t want another three years of it! I wanted to go to a city-based rather than campus university, which is why I chose Edinburgh in the end.
I was probably too young to fully appreciate the freedom of a gap year, but I still enjoyed travelling and getting my first experience of the working world during that time.
Was that when you decided to pursue journalism?
It wasn’t until the final week of university that I started considering journalism seriously. During the run-up to exams, I engaged in what could charitably be described as constructive procrastination; instead of revising, I did a lot of blogging and the reaction to my pieces encouraged me to think about writing as a career. I was realistic enough about my prospects to know that I probably wouldn’t be writing any best-selling novels any time soon, so I thought journalism would be the next best bet.
Up until that point, all I knew for certain was that I did not want to have a corporate job. While at university I did an internship for a management consultant company for six weeks, and the thought of returning to Microsoft Excel still gives me chills.
Tell me about UnHerd, and how The Post fits within that?
UnHerd is the largest new media organisation in the UK. It has around three million readers per month and our focus is pretty broad: philosophy, politics, culture and religion —as long as there are new and interesting ideas to be shared, we want to hear them.
The Post is UnHerd’s blogging channel. We aim to highlight new and exciting trends from the world of ideas and find an interesting, edgy angle on them. Whether it’s an overlooked detail in the mainstream conversation that’s worth highlighting or a weird and wonderful paper from an obscure academic journal, we want to be bringing these ideas to our readership. Essentially, anything that challenges mainstream (herd) opinion is usually something we go for.
In 2019 I was the only person to be selected for the 6-month traineeship programme which gave me access to all the different parts of the newsroom. I was lucky enough to be employed as the Editorial Assistant and in April this year became the Editor of The Post, which was always my natural home.
How often do you post articles?
My job consists of writing, editing and commissioning blog posts, which are around 500 words in length. I aim to get at least four out per day and usually I’ll write (or ghost write) a few myself over the week.
How do you decide which stories to write about?
I spend far too much time on Twitter, which any sane human would do well to avoid. Unfortunately, it is a big driver of the news agenda and I get a lot of my ideas from there. I’m also constantly reading the news, national and foreign, to see if any interesting stories can be fished out of there.
How do you ensure your work is accurate and factual?
I received formal training in journalism in my masters at City University, so I’ve always understood the importance of fact-checking and accuracy. We never rush pieces up and always take time to ensure that it all checks out. It’s a collaborative process with other editors and the writer.
Have you ever gotten yourself in trouble with what you have written?
I used to work for the MailOnline which gave me all the motivation I needed to apply for better jobs. You were expected to produce an article an hour and mistakes were inevitable. By a click of the button you could post your article without it being checked. I made the mistake of using the word ‘murderer’ instead of ‘killer’ and shortly afterwards, my error was made known to the entire newsroom as my editor stormed through and shouted my name.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Our scope is so broad that I’m not limited to any particular field, ideology or school of thought, which gives my huge latitude in what I can write about and commission. It’s incredibly fun.
What advice would you give to current Radleians who wanted to pursue a career in journalism?
Write for writing’s sake. Even if you’re writing for an audience of one, you are sharpening your own linguistic toolkit and getting rid of the bad habits early. Writing also helps crystallise your thinking and down the line, may encourage you to start your own blog or pitch to publications like mine!
You might surprise yourself with what you discover.
Finally, any fond memories or stories of Radley you would like to recount?
You don’t get the same fraternity at university as you do at Radley. The fact that I could walk down my corridor and get a game of 5-a-side or stump cricket going on our social patch is something that I really miss. Hiding in a pile of cricket bags for a whole hour during Sunday chapel service just to avoid going was also a high (or low?) light.
To find out more about UnHerd click here