As Victoria Pendleton swaps saddles we look at entrepreneurs who changed course…

posted by 5 years ago in Features

Dual Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton’s set to swap saddles as she trades her bike for a horse on Gold Cup day at the Cheltenham festival this week. She’s been praised for her versatility, risk taking and work ethic so what does it take to change direction from something you’re already successful at and take a risk on another area of expertise?

Here are some entrepreneurs who turned their hand to completely new ventures with impressive results…

Sir Tim Smit KBE, Co-founder of the Eden Project

How do you go from collaborating with the likes of Barry Manilow and the Nolan sisters to creating the world’s largest indoor rainforest? Sir Tim Smit’s the man to ask! He studied archaeology and anthropology before becoming a hit record producer for a decade until he set his sights on creating the social enterprise that’s contributed more than £1billion to the economy in Cornwall.

Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen

Whilst Paul Lindley had vast experience entertaining children he had no retail experience whatsoever when he set up children’s food brand Ella’s kitchen. The former deputy manager of TV channel Nickelodeon quit his job and gave himself two years to get his company off the ground with savings of £25,000. Despite a bumpy ride which involved him having to remortgage his house and offering his former employer Nickelodeon profits for free advertising space, his risk paid off. The company he created now takes around a 20 per cent share of the UK’s baby food market.

Sir Richard Branson – Virgin Group

As the master of re-invention Sir Richard Branson started out creating a student magazine at the tender age of seventeen and then progressed to selling records – within a year he’d opened his first shop Virgin Records on London’s Oxford Street, and moved forward to become a brand which covers everything from telecommunications to space travel. It’s not all been plain sailing though. He states one of his worst mistakes as trying to take on Coca-Cola with his own brand of fizzy drink which ended in his brand getting squashed.

Divinia Knowles – formally Director at Mind Candy

You might think that being Madonna’s interior designer is a far cry from taking the helm as the president and CFO of a successful company – and you’d be right! However, Divinia Knowles has done both. She graduated with an archaeology degree and went into interior design working for famous clients such Mick Jagger, Sharon Stone and Madonna. She decided on a change of direction, answered a job advert in The Guardian and went from studio manager of the hugely successful tech company Mind Candy with its million-pound baby Moshi Monsters to the lady at the top. She’s now the chief operating officer at Pact Coffee.