Celebrity Entrepreneur Of The Month – Felipe Alviar-Baquero
Tell us about you?
I was born in Bogota, Colombia on 14 March 1980. I grew up in Bogota where I undertook all my primary and secondary education.
When I finished secondary education in 1998, I decided to travel to the UK to learn English. My mother was born in London and as a result I was given British citizenship. However, I had never been to the UK. The plan was to study English for 6 months and return to Colombia where I had a place to study law.
After a few months in the school of English I realized that I was not learning enough and I started looking for a job. I found an advert in a local paper to work for the Benefit Agency (now the Department of Work and Pension (DWP)) and after passing various exams and interviews I was offered a job as an Administrative Assistant.
For three years I worked full time in the DWP and studied at night time at college. In 2001 I was offered a place to study law and business administration full time at the University of Kent. However, I continued working with the DWP (part-time during term time and full time during the holiday period). In 2004 I graduated with First Class honors.
During the third year of my degree I was offered a training contract (starting in 2006) with Slaughter and May. As part of my training contract Slaughter and May sponsored me to do the Legal Practice Course at BPP in London from 2004 to 2005.
In 2005 I was offered a place to undertake the Bachelor of Civil Law (most prestigious common law masters degree) at Oxford University. I graduated with a Distinction in 2006.
I started my training contract at Slaughter and May in September 2006 and qualified as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales in 2008. After qualification I worked at Slaughter and May for 4 years in the finance department (main roles involved the sale of Gatwick Airport, working for Arsenal FC and for the UK government during the financial crisis). In 2010, I moved to Latham & Watkins, where I worked in the Project Finance Department (main roles involved representing the US and Chinese export credit agencies and finance institutions in a number of infrastructure projects, working with the United Nations and working with a number of international charities). While working with Latham & Watkins I undertook a secondment in the Singapore office for nearly 8 months. Since 2014, I worked in INDECS, an international consulting company based in London, which specialises in international project finance insurance due diligence.
In 2010, I opened Tiny Town Football Cinco Limited. Tiny Town is one of the biggest play areas in the country. It is a family business (see www.yourtinytown.co.uk).
I am married with Jennifer and have two beautiful girls called Isabella and Sophia
You were recently featured on The Apprentice, what was the experience like?
The experience is unique. Is an incredible challenge that you are never really prepared for.
Was the process challenging? How does the process work?
You apply on-line
You go through lots and lots of interviews
Then you go and live in the house and the process is filmed.
What was your biggest highlight from the show?
I went to the apprentice for two main reasons:
1- I believe that is one of the only shows in TV that has the capacity to inspire people to start a business.
- I believed that Lord Sugar and I could change and transform the play areas in the UK and have a great impact in communities and children lives.
Meeting people. The people that watch the show have been amazing and it is really good that young people feel inspired to become entrepreneurs because of the show.
Who did you want to win?
I wanted to win but if it was not me I think that Mark is a good winner.
What businesses do you currently run?
Tiny Town. Its a unique indoor play area. See www.yourtinytown.co.uk
What has been your toughest challenge so far?
There are so many challenges when you run a business. I think that the biggest challenge is to built a team of people. Businesses are about people and making sure that you have a great team working with you.
What has been your biggest breakthrough so far?
Designing, building and now operating Tiny Town (for the last 5 years) is a dream. Because we have built it with my family and my daughters have been part of it, I will say that it is my biggest breakthrough
You are originally from Colombia, what is the business atmosphere like over there? Do they have a strong passion for entrepreneurship?
The potential for entrepreneurship is immense in Colombia. However, more needs to be done to create a culture from home and school of entrepreneurship so that it is given the same value as a university degree. I have been involved with a number of universities and schools for a number of year to promote a changes in education. There also need to be changes in legislation and tax systems that assist entrepreneurs.
Will you be moving back to Colombia soon?
England is my home. I will go back to teach and with work. My dream is to ensure that there are closer links between the UK and Colombia.
If you won The Apprentice, what was your business idea?
To build more Tiny Town and change the way play areas work in the UK. I believe that we are failing our children. Play areas can not be just business but be built with educational and integration purposes. All children and parents shoud be able to access the area. The play areas should serve the community and be at the heart of the community
What is your next move, any ideas in the pipeline?
Continue developing Tiny Town
Inspire children to become entrepreneurs (give talks, work with schools charities etc)
What is the biggest piece of advice you could give entrepreneurs?
Never give up. Do what you love and believe in what you do. Work hard and success will follow.
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