The Forbes 30 under 30 lists showcase 600 of the most driven and talented young people who have made waves in industries ranging from finance and education, to technology. Featuring in one of the lists highlights individuals as the ‘ones to watch’.
Charlotte Pearce (BSc Management with Entrepreneurship, 2013) appears in the Forbes 30 under 30 Europe: Technology list. Her company, Inkpact, created a tech platform where clients can upload messages, which are handwritten for direct marketing with a more personal touch, in the time it would take to send an email. After being founded in 2013, Inkpact already has high-profile clients such as Unilever, Macmillan Cancer Support and the luxury brands of Mr & Mrs Smith and Moet Hennessy.
“We help companies be unforgettable, enabling our clients to reach out to their customers in a personal way,” says Charlotte. Inkpact is a tech company, but also a social enterprise. “Our writers are from all different backgrounds – aged from 18 to 80, from Cornwall to Scotland.”
In response to being featured in a Forbes 30 under 30 list, Charlotte says: “It was a big surprise. It has always been an ambition of mine, but to get there by 25 is unbelievable. It shows how much hard work has been put in by the whole team in the company, not just me.”
Promoting social responsibility
Throughout her student experience at Southampton, Charlotte was actively involved in Enactus, an international non-profit organisation that works with leaders in business and higher education to mobilise university students to make a difference in their communities, while developing the skills to become socially responsible business leaders.
Enactus Southampton won the UK National competition in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and most recently in 2017, going on to represent the country at the Enactus World Cup each year. “I was President of Enactus Southampton from 2012–13; winning the national championship was fantastic, but we were also placed second at the 2013 World Cup – we were the first UK team to ever get to a final,” she explains. In 2015 our Enactus Southampton team went on to become the first UK team to win the World Cup in Johannesburg.
Chris Richards (BSc Physics, 1979) says:
It is extraordinary for me to see how much Charlotte has developed from the first-year student at an Enactus committee meeting to a determined business women.
“As one of her mentors when she was involved in Enactus, it is great to see her transform from the pupil into the teacher.”
Chris started his career as a chartered accountant at Price Waterhouse Coopers, later became involved in the privatisation of the water industry in the 1980s, joined Welsh Water (which later became Hyder PLC) as Head of Corporate Strategy, and became a Group Executive Director.
“The company wanted to move into renewable energy, so I volunteered to head up a team that built a renewables business from scratch,” he says. Twelve years later the business was sold for £100m and Chris, with others, then founded another successful renewable energy company – Eco2 – which is still thriving today.
Over the last five years, Chris has become Vice-Chairman of Ospreys Rugby as well as mentoring the Enactus Southampton team. He has also become a University donor through the giving programme, the Hartley Circle. He explains that mentoring the students, who come from a range of disciplines, involves providing support on most aspects of a business including: strategy and planning, finance and project direction.
“As an experienced individual, it could be tempting to dominate when working with the students, but my role is very much as a supporter and to offer guidance from time-to-time and build a trusting and respectful relationship with them,” he explains.
“Being a mentor is about stimulating the students to think and use their own energy creatively, offering advice, but mostly just being there to encourage and support when needed. My role is definitely not to tell them what to do, but to give context and confidence.”
Chris is very good at getting to the fundamentals of a problem or situation. With Enactus, he would help us get to the crux of a problem, and as a result we would come up with the solution quicker.
The mentoring relationship between Chris and Charlotte has evolved over the years into more of a friendship. Moreover, Chris is still in contact with at least five of the past presidents of Enactus Southampton and meets up with them regularly.
“A massive testament to how grateful we are to Chris for his support occurred when he received his Honorary Fellowship from the University in July last year. Six former students that he has mentored, including myself, came down to be present and celebrate with him,” explains Charlotte.
“Charlotte is now in London, developing a reputation for herself based on her ability, communication skills and determination. I have stayed in the background to support her if she needs it and actually decided to invest in her business at a very early stage because I believe in her and her drive to succeed,” says Chris.
“I have all the enthusiasm and energy to run the business, but sometimes you just need someone behind the scenes to reassure you that you are on the right track,” Charlotte says.
Giving something back
When Chris was studying for his undergraduate degree at Southampton, he only did a certain amount of activities outside his course.
“Mentoring has enabled me to come back and be a part of something more, which is really rewarding. The students that I have mentored are so committed and energised; how can I be anything but impressed by what they are achieving? It has been so worthwhile.”
If other alumni are thinking about mentoring, my advice is just to have a go; you can give as little or as much time as you like. It has been so rewarding for me.
As a result of the positive mentoring she has received, Charlotte is now a mentor for the next generation of Enactus Southampton students and other young entrepreneurs. “The best thing is seeing someone you have helped, find the right path or find the solution to a problem. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world, better even than getting onto one of the Forbes lists. I think everyone should mentor at some point in their lives.”
Mentoring allows Southampton alumni to give something back, support the next generation of leaders, and gain a sense of personal satisfaction when their advice is used to move an idea or project forward.
If Charlotte and Chris’s story has inspired you to get involved and become a mentor, find out what opportunities are available by emailing Chris Shank on firstname.lastname@example.org
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