Sylvia Carmen M'Bemba




Sylvia is an Oxford Launchpad – based entrepreneur who has been working on a social employability venture for the past 18 months.  She wants to give graduates affordable and accessible job and career coaching.  Sylvia has been working in recruitment for many years, and is an engineering graduate, working to promote STEM subjects to girls.

Q: What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
A:  I had been working in graduate recruitment and found that many applicants had very poor employability skills.  Employers were complaining about the lack of good applicants, despite there being plenty of people!  So I decided I needed to find a way to help graduates improve their employability skills somehow.

Q: So what would you say are the top skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A: Fearlessness is a very big part of entrepreneurship, as it is a big shift from being safe and comfortably employed to being out there on your own.  When you’re on your own, lots of things change!  Being resilient is also very important, as is being intuitive, and trusting yourself.  Everyone will have their own opinions, and if you listen too much to others, you won’t be able to move forward.

Q: What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
A:  I love the freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur. . . working for myself on my own ideas!

Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most?
A:. Nike is a good example of a company that started with a story.  Just a runner looking for the right shoe.  They tell the most amazing stories, with a great slogan: Just Do It!

Q: If you could have 5 minutes with Nike, what would you want to ask or discuss?
A: I would want to know why they chose the path they did, and how they knew it was the right one.

Q: What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
A:. Having people from both Oxford Universities understand and get involved in my project.  Taking an idea that was only in my head and showing others the value in it.  And having it make sense to them!

Q: What would you say have been some of your mistakes as an entrepreneur?
A:  Trusting people too quickly, and working with unreliable people.  When something doesn’t work well, cut it loose as soon as you can.

Q: What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxford?  Bad?
A:  Oxford is a great place: with two universities here, there is a wealth of research and knowledge to access.  It is in a great location, and very accessible to London.  However as a great place to live, living costs are high and salaries aren’t quite as high as they should be for the talent that’s here, which leads to a shortage of good people even in the bigger sectors.  The proximity to London is both a good and bad thing (easy to commute to as well).

Q: If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for information or resources in Oxford, where would you send them?
A:  The Launchpad should be the first place to go, as there is so much support for those new to the area and to entrepreneurship as well.

Q: Any last words of advice?
A:  Do something you are passionate about.  The company direction will be lost if you don’t have a clear steer by something that is more than money.