Last night I attended and helped out at a rather fascinating soirée held at the Kings Cross Hub, run by Sponge and sponsored by RICS. The Hub comprises three levels with a large skylight and central atrium, the perfect location for entrepreneurial inspirations to occur. Drinks and nibbles (aka networking to the max and swapping business cards) were followed by speeches from two sustainability professionals who have successfully ‘gone it alone’.
The first was Pooran Desai, who founded the BioRegional Development Group in 1995, which delivers practical solutions for sustainability and has since grown significantly. His main tips were networking, whilst seeking out and taking opportunities as they arise. This is how the BedZED housing project had developed: BioRegional had thought it had better have its own eco-friendly offices so asked the local government if there was any land being sold in the area, to which they replied ‘yes, it is quite large though!’ So the upshot of that was that they made use of the land to build (in addition to the originally intended BioRegional office), a 100-home eco-friendly community. This in turn led to the development of BioRegional’s own sustainable property company and One Planet Communities programme.
The second speaker was Robert Corbyn, who with a background as a Chartered Surveyor (a ‘CS’ if you are in the know-how) set up the Low Carbon Energy Assessors in 2008, which are a multi-disciplinary firm of ‘CSs’ providing low carbon energy surveying and expertise. Robert also described the impact that setting up your own company can have on your personal life- his wife and children often get annoyed as he has to work on projects at the weekends. He is making a massive profit despite the recession, but is working very hard at it and advises that as long as you are passionate about what you are working hard for and are so focused on, then you can enjoy the journey immensely.
The talks were followed by two 45-minute sessions where event attendees (all aspiring entrepreneurs) were split into groups, each group having two entrepreneurs in it. The helping out bit mainly involved me pointing people in the direction of their (numbered or colour-coded) tables for the discussion groups and telling people when it was time to grab another beer and bit of pizza before moving onto the next discussion group. I met several interesting people, including Joanna Yarrow, founder Director of Beyond Green, who are the main providers of sustainability advice for the 2012 Olympics among other projects. Also there were the founders of Green Tomato, Parity Projects and Better Generation. To avoid namedropping any more than I already have, I will leave it at that, but just to say that it was a fantastic evening where many built environment professions could have their questions answered by professional entrepreneurs before they take the leap themselves.