In our regular series, leading lights remember when they were still dim nobodies
Hi, Ben! Who are you and what do you do?
Hi, I’m Ben and I’m co-founder of the Avenune group of companies: Stepladder, Beyond, Studio 185 and LongStoryShort. We are a proudly talented, collaborative and experienced collective, all united by the common purpose of building better futures for our clients.
What was your #MyFirstMcJob?
A chef in a Fish and Chip shop in southeast London.
How did you get the job?
I walked in, bought some chips and spotted that the owner — Billy — was rushed off his feet. I offered to lend a hand, and at the end of the afternoon, he offered me a job. It might sound silly, but I felt valued, very grown up for a 16-year-old, and very proud!
What did you have to do?
The first half of the shift was peeling potatoes. I had to lift these huge bags of spuds over my head and pour them into this big, spinning drum. I was quite a small kid so it was a bit of a struggle, but I tried not to show it. The second half was flipping burgers, frying chicken and serving customers.
How long did you work there?
About a year.
What were the perks of the job?
Free chips! On a Friday night I’d regularly turn up at friend’s house with loads of chips, so it made me semi-popular.
What’s the funniest thing that happened?
Billy the boss was a smoker. He offered me a cigarette one out back one evening and — because I thought he’d think I was cool — I said yes. I spent the next hour throwing up behind the bins and Billy sent me home. Very embarrassing.
What skills did you learn that you still use now?
It certainly proved the concept— “don’t ask, don’t get”! Being given a job on a whim has really helped me in business moving forward.
Are you still in contact with any of your old colleagues?
Some, via social media.
Why is alumni important to you?
I left school at 16, so I don’t have a traditional network of educational alumni. My professional network is reliant on relationships I made in previous roles. I’m lucky to have been supported and advised by some really talented and generous people along my professional journey, and even luckier to now call some of them friends.
Why is alumni important more generally?
Having a network you can trust is the most important part of business, especially as a business owner where you’re relied on to make some pretty big decisions. Having people to bounce ideas off or to sense check before you make a move is invaluable.
What would happen if you went back and worked in the fish and chip shop today?
I’d be throwing those sacks of potatoes around like nobody’s business!
If you could do back in time, what advice would you give yourself?
Don’t be scared to show who you really are. I wasted far too many years trying to fit in, to be accepted as an equal. My most enjoyable and commercially fruitful years have been down to being my authentic self.