Short Stories, sunsets and snacks

LightStart presents…

Last Wednesday we grabbed a group of inspirational people from all types of backgrounds and plonked them into the largest armchair imaginable (see pictures to get an idea) at our Short Stories event. To entertain and inspire guests our speakers relayed their tales of success, woe, adaptation, failure and the fun they had along the way. We had a selection of yummy food from our friends over at Eat Art Venues, with beer provided by North Brewing Co. We know what you want! 😉

The event was part of Leeds Business Week and as a result we were delighted to greet many new faces. If you’re one of them, we hope you will come to some more of our relaxed digital networking events in the future!


LightStart’s own Dan Akers – of course with a beer in hand – was first to share his piece with a story about the tendency to overthink things and look at them entirely the wrong way. To create a perfect image of this situation, Dan relayed a time from his younger years when he was walking in a park and saw a football in the middle of a small pond. Deciding that he really wanted that ball, he headed home and painstakingly created a device to catch it. He then returned to the park, arriving just in time to see a young boy wading straight into the pond and claiming his beloved prize. From this Dan learned – and taught the Short Stories guests – that the best way to do something isn’t always the most complicated. And sometimes, it might involve getting just a little muddy…

Natasha Babar-Evans then took a seat, and introduced herself as a mother of two from Harrogate who has an awesome job as an enabler at Entrepreneurial Spark. Amazing! But she then reminded us that it can take many uneasy steps to reach such a point, and twists and turns are okay. Natasha experienced low job satisfaction after many years in a professional banking career, and decided to leave and take an MBA – something that made her feel very vulnerable. She survived and lived to tell us all that we are all a bit like lobsters, which lose their hard outer shell at points in their life and become vulnerable. Moral of the story: being a vulnerable lobster is okay, and sometimes lobster-y times can lead you to the best points in your life.

Mihaela Gruia, the founder of Research Retold, was the next to provide a tale opting uniquely to talk about someone else who inspires her. She spoke of her mother-in-law, who came from nothing in San Francisco to owning an extremely successful real-estate business. She mulled over the reasons for this success and decided that they were this: she had great ethics. In business it can be tempting to do the most  profitable thing, but the most ethical, caring thing will always win. And second: she accepted help in the form of a government grant. Mihaela reminded us that it’s okay to sometimes need help when starting off, and as long as you stand true to who you are and your beliefs, you will succeed. Finally she told us to always remember to be creative and keep personality – business doesn’t have to be formal.

Rowan Denton works on film sets, and got everyone cringing and cackling with weird and wonderful tales of when things just don’t go how you expect at work. Having worked on blockbuster films like Batman Begins and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you’d think he would generally have some pretty sophisticated career stories. Hmmmm. Rowan’s story began with the news that he was going to work on a film with Johnny Depp and Johnny Vegas, and ended with him having to cart some questionably-shaped props around in hand luggage on flights… The moral of THIS story? Your career probably won’t always be glamorous, and you can’t always predict where you’re going to end up – but you’ll have some fun along the way.

Matt Essam was next up to the monster chair and he explored the true meaning of success during his story time. His first job follow his degree at Leeds Uni was at a supposedly ‘cool’ media company, and he instantly thought he had hit success. However after just a year the monotonous and unfulfilling work had him leafing through Tim Ferris’ ‘4 Hour Working Week’ for tips on how to outsource and earn money from his laptop in any location. But even after making money while travelling the world, with people gushing over his lifestyle, Matt didn’t feel passionate or fulfilled in his career. He is now a Creative Consultant, doing work that he feels actually makes a difference, and suggests that all it takes is to step back and question why you are missing things you are passionate about, and decide to be true to yourself and not a generic idea of success. Then you will be the most successful of all!

Jen Mak is a time management coach and founder of A Space For, so naturally we were dying to hear her tale of how to manage the trials of life itself. Jen inspiringly listed many downfalls she has had alongside the things she learned and the ways she achieved from each of them. After leaving a corporate job she was not happy in in 2013, Jen started to recognise and embrace her true skills and interests: people and psychology. She decided to take a stab at the counselling and wellbeing field, and is now a published writer and self-employed time management coach with her own business. One of Jen’s mottos is: ‘Say yes then figure out how’, and maybe if you say yes you will try the thing that you love and never look back.

Sam Leigh, from Sleigh Services, completed a degree in IT and then travelled through several mundane jobs, including acting as ‘minion’ for the Minister for Health (as he described it). During these years a dream of owning a business always took a backseat until Sam decided to create his own CCMP – ‘clear concise mental picture’ – and map it out on a whiteboard above his bed. Once he started picturing how he wanted his life to be and the exact goals that would get him there, he found it much easier to work towards them, and he felt all the more burning desire to achieve them. Sam now runs his own business that works to train companies on recognising mental health issues in their employees and in how to treat these issues. We think that this is an important and fab job, so hats off to Sam for that; and for following his dreams.

Mark Walsh, previous owner of extremely successful Rock’n’Roll bingo and current owner of Kwizzbit, the digital pub quiz guru then took a seat, and swiftly proclaimed that he felt like Ronny Corbett. Secondly, he told a story about not giving up. After underachieving academically, but knowing he had a passion for journalism, Mark wrote an article about how hard it was to get into university, got it published in the Guardian and used it to get a place on a journalism degree. Nice. He then landed an interview at Loaded magazine – his dream job. After being snubbed for a second interview he called the manager and DEMANDED the job and was given it over many applicants. He then went on to create two successful businesses, naturally experiencing some hard times along the way. Mark concluded with his key advice: to “stick it to ’em”, ‘’em’ being anyone who doubts you, and that wrapped up our evening…well, apart from the after party at Bundobust! Classic.

NOTE: Although we run fun, interesting digital networking events a lot, we also do some slightly less social more serious stuff, too. LightStart is a digital design house that specialises in app and website creation and analysis. If you’re someone who has an idea for a digital product, or would like to improve an existing one, we offer free, one-hour, no strings attached workshops in which we will analyse your goals step-by-step, and provide you with all of the components you will need to power forward and create your dream digital product. If you or someone you know needs our help, get in touch with us here or check out our workshops page here. Either way, we look forward to working with you soon!

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