Tevin Tobun recently spoke with Paul Blanchard from New Thinking magazine regarding his career journey and his motivations to aid the younger generation in attaining their aspirations. Tobun also gave insight into his thoughts on entrepreneurship, his work culture beliefs, future plans and more.
How the Journey started
When asked about how the journey began, Tobun brought us back to his origin of residence in Peckham, South London, where he grew up with the likes of individuals such as Rio Ferdinand and Dean Forbes. Tobun stated, “when you’ve come from a place like South London and you’re making strides in life, it’s important to give back and to find ways to help the next generation”. Tobun shared that he attended university to read Biomedical Science, but realised by his final year that he wanted to pursue a career in business. After receiving this inclination, Tobun decided to establish a one-stop shop service for school maintenance after the government had changed regulations and allowed schools to handle their own budgets for their appliances and renovations.
After receiving a £500 overdraft and a credit card soon after graduating, Tobun managed to secure a small makeshift office in a local building next to a boiler room, which he claimed “was so hot, that door had to be left opened to allow cool air in”. This is where he would make phone calls to investors attempting to secure a pitching opportunity for his business proposition.
First investment opportunity
Tobun finally secured an investment pitch at Walworth Academy, where he was the youngest candidate with a business proposal in competition with many older competitors. Tobun jokingly mentioned that this was probably the first time he wore a suit, highlighting the lack of experience he possessed, however he was determined to secure an investment. Tobun told the investors “I don’t have as much experience as these other pitchers, but I do have the determination to make this contract work”.
Despite his lack of experience, the investors took a chance with Tobun and offered him a £250,000 contract for a school maintenance project. Tobun explained how this was a life changing experience that inspired him to support others and impacted the individual he is today. “I was a young 22-year-old that needed an opportunity and the people gave me that…If you’re not given a chance, how do you give one to someone else”.
Rejection from Prince’s Trust
Tobun attempted to attain funding from the Prince’s Trust for his business proposition, but was denied the investment due to their lack of belief in his business idea. The rejection made Tobun temporarily reconsider his dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and contemplated if his plan was a good idea, however, he stated that by the time he had got home he had changed his mind and decided to go ahead with his plan. He recalled thinking “if this doesn’t work then I’ll go and get a job”.
Thoughts and Advice on being an entrepreneur
Blanchard questioned Tobun on his thoughts on whether he believed entrepreneurs are born or if it’s an acquired characteristic. Tobun shared that he believed that the risks and difficult choices included with being an entrepreneur suggests that there are a selected chosen few who can become entrepreneurs. “True Entrepreneurs are born, there is an innate characteristic that people need to find within themselves…there are a chosen few”. Tobun went on to offer advice on being a successful entrepreneur and highlighted the importance of self-belief in your abilities and your aspirations. He made the statement “Entrepreneurship is about believing in yourself”. Another important characteristic that Tobun insisted on was the ability to accept criticism and to learn from mistakes. Tobun also underlined the significance of entrepreneurs constantly remaining innovative to solve issues, “There is always a way to figure things out”. He also advised that they must willing to make mistakes to grow from. “It is important to trust in one’s own mistakes”.
Staying on the subject of entrepreneurship, Blanchard brought forward the idea that despite the fact that many people are inspired by the likes of Elon Musk and Richard Branson, they do not view the idea of becoming a successful entrepreneur as a possibility. Blanchard also suggested that many people on social media have a negative view of entrepreneurs due to the flashy lifestyle and the depiction of some successful businessmen being ‘show off’s’. Tobun offered an alternative view by stating “success isn’t about money; it’s about achieving the personal goals you’ve set out…You have to be relentless in the pursuit of your own happiness”.
The Tobun Foundation Introduction
Throughout the podcast, Tobun granted Blanchard insight into the reasons for his motivations to offer educational support for the younger generation. He also provided details regarding the introduction of the Foundation in 2020, where they became active during the pandemic to offer online classes and laptops for students who lived in households with limited access to computers.
Tobun mentioned how his subsidiary company Platebox, which specialise in food transportation for schools were now involved in supporting the government in delivering care packages to children who received free school meals during lockdown. This led Tobun to look for new ways to support disadvantaged young people during the pandemic and hence the development in operations of The Tobun Foundation.” The Tobun Foundation is focused on supporting the next generation and providing them with the tools to shape their own futures”.
The educational support offered by The Tobun Foundation exceeds the provision of online classes and equipment for the students. Tobun explained that the GV scholarship programme, in collaboration with The Tobun Foundation was offering support to one of the parents of a student who received a scholarship. Tobun shared that the parents were not native English speakers and struggled with communicating, this consequently affected the social life of the scholarship student as they were often required to act as a translator to help the parents communicate. The Foundation decided to provide English classes for the parents to allow them to improve their communication, in turn this also would improve the well-being and social life of the student. “We had to help the parents improve their English, so they could start to make their own friendships and increase their confidence, on top of the scholarship for the daughter”
He went on to add, “The foundation offers all of the additional support needed to help the members achieve their version of success”. Tobun concluded with sharing the success of the student after the extensive support she received. “I’m proud to say that she graduated with first class honours”.
Work culture beliefs
The work culture of an organisation is often instrumental to the level of success that the firm will reach. Tobun signified the importance of creating a working environment that prioritises innovation and allows employees to share new ideas to improve the business in every department. “I am obsessed with innovation and making sure that everybody I work with evolves, this isn’t the Tevin show.” Tobun supported his work culture belief, as he shared a short story where one of his senior members suggested a welfare check system, which had the aim of contacting employees to check on their well-being and health during the covid lockdown. Tobun added “We created an environment that allowed someone to come up with the idea (welfare check system) … and I think this might have been one of my greatest achievements”.
The Next steps for GV
Tobun enlightened Blanchard with some of the future prospects for GV Group including global expansion and improving technology and innovations to operate more eco-friendly. “Our biggest thing now is globalising our business and increasing our footprint”. Tobun expressed his plans to offer GV’s logistic services in developing countries to aid the development of the infrastructure in those countries, he also stated that the company already had involvements in West Africa, offering infrastructure support for railway and road companies. “A big thing for us is focused on how we can support developing countries in their infrastructure to have successful projects”.
Tobun also hinted at the introduction of an innovative software system that will allow the businesses to reduce their stem miles to decrease their carbon emissions, and also his plans to convert to more eco-friendly vehicles. “Our key focus for the next 3-5 years is going to be around climate change and bringing an interest in innovation for ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance)”.
Advice to younger self
When asked about what things he may say, if he had the opportunity to speak to a younger version of himself, Tobun insisted on encouraging himself to persevere and to endure the challenges he faced. “I would tell myself in the moments where I almost lost faith, that these are only teaching moments… and to continue to persevere”. Tobun unselfishly claimed that he would use also use this opportunity to motivate the people around him.” I would remind the people around to keep pushing and not give up”. The GV Group CEO recognised that the rejections and hardships he had faced in his journey had been vital in reaching this pinnacle in his life.
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