Personal Best: My Story returns with Alumni President Oliver Sidwell

Alumnus Oliver Sidwell is the Co-Founder and Director of RMP Enterprise, a business he launched with fellow Loughborough students in the final year of his degree. In the years since, the business has grown, evolved, and developed new offerings. For the first in-person Personal Best: My Story talk since 2019, our Alumni President headed to Loughborough University London to share insights into launching and running RateMyPlacement, with a particular focus on managing money.

Ollie (BSc Geography & Business Management 2007) set out to inspire students who are interested in running their own business. He reflected on his own university experience and how his placement year sparked a business idea.

The early days

With the overarching theme of money, Ollie talked about his first experiences with money, reflecting on fundraising activities as a teenager, how finances worked during university and then in the early days of the business.

As the winners of the Loughborough University Business Plan competition in 2007, Ollie and the RateMyPlacement team secured some funds to begin the launch of their website.

Leaving secure graduate roles and taking a plunge into entrepreneurship was a big step for two of the co-founders, and the entrepreneurs were seeking investment opportunities.

Ollie talked about investigating a variety of investment opportunities for the business, with the RMP team securing an angel investor in their early days.

Growing the business

Since the business got off the ground in 2007, Ollie and the team have seen huge growth. From working in their bedrooms at their parents’ houses as young graduates, to a business employing more than 50 people at offices in Brixton, RateMyPlacement has come a long way.

The company was named 37th in the Sunday Times Top 100 Small Business to Work For in 2020.

RateMyPlacement evolved into RMP Enterprise with multiple product lines offering placements, on campus activities, apprenticeships, and software.

A sister company, Akkroo, was also founded, and was later acquired by Integrate for $34 million.

As well as sharing an insight into the diversity of the business, Ollie was keen to discuss growth and honed in on the business reaction to the pandemic. Students heard about clear budgetary visions, hiring key people and retaining staff, not limiting the market, and cross-selling for growth – an important strategy during the pandemic.

He later added:

“Be very diligent on modelling financial scenarios. Even having done one module at university, it was very helpful to understand what scenarios might play out. How much money do we have? Where is it going to be spent? When are invoices coming in? When do we expect that to go out? Is it on a 90 or 60-day payment plan?

“Once you start understanding the different ways of playing out the costs, that becomes really helpful to understand how you can grow and scale [the business].”

Sharing top tips

As well as sharing interesting insights into his own journey as an entrepreneur, Ollie shared business and money management tips with attendees.

Reflecting on running a business with friends, Ollie said:

“By having a business with friends, we’re even more respectful of each other, because we know we don’t want our friendship to be harmed.

“It definitely can work. You need to find the friends that you want to work with, or to become good friends with any [business] partners.”

A further tip was to be passionate. Ollie added:

“Passion. Really learn what is important to you. I really enjoy the client side and sales, so I could take my experiences from my graduate job and bring that into RMP.”

On becoming an expert for your own business, Ollie said:

“To become an expert in your market I think is really important when starting a business. You want people to look to you to be that knowledge and expertise in terms of what’s going on. For us, that was about what students were thinking and feeling and how we can support them to find jobs.”

He closed the session with a final tip before a Q&A:

“Don’t regret anything. Just go for it. You have to make a lot of decisions; some you’ll be really uncomfortable with. Just making those decisions and trying to make it happen is the best way about it.”

The session took place at Loughborough University London and gave students from both campuses the chance to hear from Ollie. Students from Loughborough travelled down to Loughborough University London for the day, and as well as hearing from Ollie, they also had the chance to tour the campus and network.

The talk was delivered as part of the “Personal Best: My Story” series, where alumni share their career journeys and top tips with students.

Thank you to Ollie for sharing his story.