JAMES ADELEKE '15
James Adeleke is Managing Director and Founder of Generation Success.
Before joining them, James spent 4 years as a Business Development Executive.
Generation Success provides a range of trail-blazing initiatives that help thousands of people break barriers to professional and entrepreneurial success, whilst delivering value to their employment, academic and local communities through workshops, talks and networking opportunities.
All information and links were correct at the date of original publication on
28 Mar 2015
What was the catalyst that made you decide to go into business?
We had started this organisation as a student society in October 2011, just after the London riots.
We were a group of individuals whose hope was to do good and make a difference; tackle food poverty and social mobility within our community.
The catalyst for turning our student society into a business was Breaking Barriers in 2013.
It was meant to be our final event, a way to bring all our supporters and networks together. We wanted to make sure we created opportunities for as many people as possible.
Three weeks before the event we had speakers, but no sponsors, no catering and no audience.
I was advised to postpone the event. It was a period of deep questioning, self doubt and the first time I asked myself “can I really do this? How much do I care about this organisation and the work we are doing. And most importantly am I willing to fail? “
Hard work and no sleep for three weeks resulted in 400 people registering, two sponsors who made the event profitable and breaking barriers being featured in 112 links across the world; from Telegraph India to Yahoo business, Bloomberg and PR Wire in the UK.
It was at that moment where my back was against the wall and I had to question if I was capable and willing to carry on the work we had started, that I decided to turn my passion in into a business.
What was holding you back from being an entrepreneur at the time?
Not realising that an entrepreneur is what I wanted to be.
Everything I do is focused on creating opportunities for others, however in order to achieve that aim I have to become an entrepreneur in order to fund that social aim.
I suppose I am what you would call an accidental or social entrepreneur.
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What was the best business advice you were given?
We had just held an event for 200 people, but prior to the event I was worried that no one would turn up and that everything would go wrong.
A fellow entrepreneur said “even if no one comes, no one would be angry with you because you are doing this with a pure heart.”
This immediately put me at ease and I have no longer been sick with nerves before any of our events
What is the most exciting thing happening in your sector right now?
What we are doing is topical. Our organisation focuses on helping people find employment and create their own businesses; something which is currently in demand from people in various stages of their careers.
From school leavers to professionals changing their career paths and everything in between; including university leavers who find themselves stuck between having a qualification with little experience to start the career they desire.
What are your customers demanding more from you at the moment and how are you/the business responding?
Our customers are asking for further support, such as mentoring, webinars and the ability to watch talks which they have missed.
We have started to record our talks and have created a YouTube channel. We will be reviewing the possibility of incorporating mentoring and webinar services in the future but have to ensure that it is commercially viable to do so.
We are also exploring the creation of a member’s intranet which provides bespoke support, access to slides and hand outs from past talks.
What social media tool are you using at the moment?
Hootsuite is the most valuable social media tool that I am using at the moment because it allows me to schedule messages across all our platforms and monitor our performance.
Other social media tools have been invaluable including Twitter which allows us to expand our audience, reach and engage with new clients; LinkedIn gives us the opportunity to connect with professionals; and I use Facebook to engage with my personal network, and at the same time to have a business presence.
What is your take on personal business failures?
It is ok to fail as an entrepreneur; especially in the pre-start up and start up stage there can be a lot of fears. However if you take heed of those fears then you would never take the first step.
I always ask myself these questions; how much do you want this business? What are you willing to give up? And are you prepared to fail and get back up?
The answer is that I want to create a global organisation as much as I want to breathe. I’m willing to give up everything to make it happen, and yes, I’m prepared to fail.
What is difference that is making the difference for success in business at the moment?
The network of people around the business. This includes the team, advisory board, speakers and attendees.
They all support and share what we do and inspire me to carry on with the work we are doing.
Without our network we would not have got this far.
Who are you following on Twitter?
There was a time when I was searching for a mentor and wanted to learn more about creating a business.
At that time I utilised Bloomberg‘s online TV catch up series called “Game Changers” which looks into the stories of successful entrepreneurs.
He was featured and I immediately took a shining to him and constantly follow his developments.
What book would you recommend for entrepreneurs?
If you want to learn how to build rapport with customers, staff and family I would recommend:
Mind Power by James Borg (used to learn how to handle stress, negative self talk and limiting beliefs)
Results (currently reading this book and highly recommend it) – It is about different types of companies; which is the best and how to fix issues by giving real life examples. It is a very good book and easy read; I started seven days ago and I’m on page 120)
Built to Last by James Collins (about building a great company)
4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss (about creating more time)
First, Break All the Rules by Gallup (about different management styles)
What is your favourite quote?
I’d say it was:
“Falling down is part of life, getting back is living.” — Kirsimari Kärkkäinen
Don’t give up on what you are doing. There will be hard times and there will be good times so I try not to ‘let our success’s go to my head & our failures go to my heart'.
It is important to always assess things which have not gone exactly to plan and learn from them. At the same time it is important not to dwell on failures as time does not stop for us to lick our wounds.
What next for your business?
We are always looking for ways to improve the business.
We will continue to create more of a professional structure within our organisation, obtain a core corporate sponsor, continue to establish our brand and find ways to generate more revenue which will in turn increase the support that we can offer to our network and the programs we can take on.
What advice would you give yourself now that you have started?
Trust your instincts and continue to believe in yourself.
Just because the stakes have got higher and the situation is different, always remember that you where the person who drove this organisation this far. It is you and you vision that everyone believes in.
Another piece of advice is to use experts whereever possible, from accountants who can advise you on how to claim back money on VAT, to entrepreneurs who have been there and done it.
Some advice you have to pay for but others you can gain for free.
Tap into your network, identify the skills / services you need and don’t be afraid to ask.
In the words of Steve Jobs “stay hungry, stay foolish” and stay humble.