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CEO Tevin Tobun shares personal journey and government support Platebox offered during lockdown on New Thinking podcast

 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.

Click below to listen to the full podcast

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Platebox CEO Tevin Tobun shares business journey with The Times

The CEO of Platebox, Tevin Tobun recently spoke to The Times enterprise network, sharing his personal business journey and the growth of his subsidiary companies.

Tobun graduated from Middlesex University London with a degree in health studies and a desire to take the unconventional route to becoming an entrepreneur. After being denied funding by The Prince’s Trust, a charity founded by Prince Charles to help disadvantaged young people with opportunities, Tobun shared how it affected him. “I started to think maybe… I better should just get a job like everyone else. But by the time I got home I’d decided I was made for this and was going to go for it anyway”.

Despite facing an initial rejection for investment, Tobun persevered and was determined to gain financial support elsewhere. He was granted funding by the Walworth Academy principal, Elizabeth Hanham at the time. This opportunity strongly influenced his decision to establish The Tobun Foundation, which is a charity part of GV Group that organises scholarship programmes and supports disadvantaged young people in their education and career opportunities. Tobun stated “I was 22… There were groups of men in their 40s and 50s huddled together in groups”. He went onto explain to the investor “If you’re looking for experience, I clearly don’t have as much as everyone else. What I do have is the desire to win”. The school’s principal granted a young aspiring Tobun a chance with his business idea and this is mirrored in the work of his foundation that was established in 2020. “As a leader, it’s incumbent on you to create future leaders.”

Tobun’s first business venture was a one-stop-shop service supplying building maintenance and support services for schools. After acknowledging the dilemma distribution firms faced in transporting meals to schools around central London, due to the lack of mobility of the large HGV’s, Tobun moved into the food transport industry. As an entrepreneur does, Tobun identified a problem and created a profitable solution. Platebox now delivers over 10 million school meals across the country using smaller 3.5t vans which enables the service to remain agile and more suitable to deliver in urban areas such as Central London. The decision to use smaller sprinter vans proved again to be beneficial during the pandemic due to the shortages of HGV drivers..

Tobun suggested one of the factors of success of the Platebox was based on the flat organisational system that “helped the firm to stay nimble”. He also went onto to say “the idea doesn’t have to doesn’t have to come from the guy at the top because you’re not the only one that has all the ideas… so you create an ecosystem where ideas can flow very quickly and people are not afraid of trying”.

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Prince Charles hosts Tevin Tobun and Powerlist delegation at Clarence House

Tevin Tobun discusses Platebox with Prince Charles at Powerlist reception

This week, Tobun alongside other notable awardees – Baroness Amos, David Harewood and Kwame Kwei Armah to name a few – were invited to attend a Powerlist reception hosted by The Prince of Wales at Clarence House.

During the reception at Clarence House, The Prince of Wales made a keynote speech addressing attendees, networked with guests and spent some time speaking with Tobun about GV Group and his Tobun Foundation.

Tobun shared how GV Group subsidiary company Platebox, supported Bidfood to deliver over 350,000 food parcels to clinically vulnerable people who needed to shield during COVID enforced lockdowns. Prince Charles also seemed surprised to know that Platebox safely delivers over 10 million lunches to school children across the UK annually.

The Powerlist celebrates 100 of the U’s most influential people of African, African Caribbean and African-American heritage, who act as a role model for young people.

Now in its 16th year, the network honours people across a wide range of industries including business, science, technology and the arts.

#diversityandinclusion #leadership #entreprenruship #EvaOmaghomi #ClarenceHouse #PrinceCharles #PrinceofWales

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Platebox continues to support grassroots football through sponsorship of local football club, Long Lane Lions.

Long Lane Lions, which recently named Hayden Mumford (under 9’s) as their player of the year, makes up part of Long Lane JFC, a charted standard club recognised by The FA, comprising over 40 different teams and more than 350 players.  

The club, which is also a registered charity, has a rich history dating back to 1981 and has since developed its facilities into some of the best in the southeast. 

During the London 2012 Olympics, the club was chosen as a training facility and hosted many of the world’s best footballers. 

Emma Watkins, divisional business director, Platebox, said: “We are proud to sponsor Long Lane Lions for another year as we know the value that sport and physical activity has on the wellbeing of young people.” 

Tevin Tobun, CEO of GV Group, the parent company behind Platebox, said: “As a company, we believe in and are proud to be able to support grassroots football as part of our impact on the wider community.  “Although a lot of supporters are missing games due to COVID restrictions, we are looking forward to welcoming fans, parents and children back to cheer on the next generation.” 

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How can the FM Industry Attract and Nurture More Young Talent?

As appeared in TWINFM.

Tevin Tobun, CEO, GV Group (Gate Ventures)

Facilities management (FM) firms have in some ways been the unsung heroes of the covid-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the outbreak, FM businesses have played a vital role in the nation’s efforts to suppress the virus and will continue to do so going forward. And as always, this is a sector that in many ways operates in ‘secret’. It goes on behind the scenes and is most likely to get noticed only when things go wrong.  

But given its crucial role in keeping people safe and businesses moving, now is the time to double down on efforts to preserve the future of FM and encourage the best into our sector. We must embrace this chance to encourage more young people into the industry by showcasing both the value of FM to wider society and the incredible career opportunities on offer. 

According to the Office of National Statistics, there were an estimated 763,000 young people (aged 16 to 24 years) in the UK who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) in December 2019. Many of these young people can be our FMs of tomorrow. However, they need to be aware of what we do and the positive impacts we can have.

FM companies can start by making sure they are communicating these and other positive messages to the wider world. Good FM goes far beyond managing and maintaining the buildings, people and assets of a business. Within its own sphere of activities, FM encompasses cost-effective working processes, improved efficiency, adhering to industry sanctioned health and safety regulations and increasing the lifespan of a business’s assets. FM impacts everything.

But this impact stretches far beyond the buildings in which companies operate. FM not only keeps us safe, FM keeps businesses open, FM also aids productivity. The significance of FM activities are often understated and these benefits are what we are need to be communicating more to you young people. 

There are well documented examples of how FM can directly impact success, such as the study at Cornell University where it was found that raising the temperature in an office from 20oC to 25oC resulted in employees making 44% less typing errors. These are real impacts.

The generations are changing, there is plenty of evidence to support the argument that young people want to make impact. A salary isn’t good enough anymore. We all need to ensure that we demonstrate the value young people can add to the sector, and wider society.

The breadth of roles is often forgotten too. FM isn’t just maintenance people. FM can encapsulate front-of-house hosts in a building, it can be chefs, it can also be senior management within an organisation.  

Few industries provide career progression that is as meritocratic as FM. Ours is a sector that thrives on and rewards the ambition, can-do attitudes and proactive contributions of its workforce. Today’s young people will be tomorrow’s leaders because good FM companies help their people to develop and reach their potential by investing both time and money in their futures. 

By taking advantage of these opportunities, which exist from entry level to graduate, young people can look forward to a long and fulfilling career. But first they new to know about them. So how do we as a sector go about getting these messages across? 

Let’s start by maintaining the momentum of collaboration that has been a positive consequence of the pandemic. The FM industry came together as a community to maximise its resources in combatting covid-19 and it should continue to work together to attract the next generation of workers to the sector. 

And it must do this at grass roots level. FM companies must work with schools to help young people know about the exciting opportunities that exist within our industry before decisions about future careers have started to settle in their minds.  

The ageing workforce and impending skills gap may be less of an immediate concern than something like Covid-19, but it remains a massive issue for our sector and it will cause real problems if action is not taken now. 

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Tobun supports youth organisation at House of Commons debate

Our Group CEO, Tevin Tobun was one of a number of high-profile business leaders to speak to young people at a special event held at the House of Commons last week.

Introduced by Diane Abbott MP, the ‘Young Men – Letter to My 15-Year Old Self’ discussion focused on the career paths of professionals in competitive industries, including legal, tech and entertainment.

Produced by London-based social enterprise Inspirational YOU, of which Tobun is chair, the event was aimed at students and graduates aged 14 and over.

Tobun was selected to offer advice on how to climb the ladder and succeed in business, as well as insight into what it’s like to work in the hospitality industry.

The young delegation also heard tips on balancing work, personal life and wellbeing and the importance of having a career mentor and sponsor.

Formed in March 2010, Inspirational YOU is an award winning provider of inspiring, educational, informative and networking events.

Its programme of activities are designed to motivate and inspire participants by connecting them to leaders and businesses, with events attended by SME’s, community groups, enterprise agencies, charities, schools, colleges, universities and regulatory bodies.

GV Group works across the commercial and public sectors to deliver food and food-related based supplies to restaurants, cafes, hotel groups, as well as schools and healthcare establishments.

Tobun said: “I welcome any opportunity to help young people achieve their career aspirations. It is really important for business leaders to spend time with young people to show them that there are a multitude of roles within hospitality which can enable them to build and develop a successful career.”

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