Entrepreneurship Panel: Anna Gross and Serena Guen share their wisdom
We gathered in an intimate room in Wadham, to hear from two young and extraordinarily inspirational entrepreneurs.
Named the “Mark Zuckerberg of publishing” by Bloomberg and the BBC, multi-national Serena Guen founded the award-winning SUITCASE Magazine remotely while in her third year at NYU. She is often called upon for her expertise in travel and recently launched the media agency branch of SUITCASE. Her accolades include being named as Forbes 30 under 30 in 2017, 25 under 25 most influential Londoners by the Evening Standard, winning a Woman of the Future Award for media and being shortlisted for the UK’s Young Travel Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2016.
Anna Gross is a co-founder and CEO of Project Access, a charity startup that helps bright underprivileged students apply and gain access to top universities in the UK. Since starting out, the organisation has helped 1,900 applicants, recruited 2,400 mentors and engaged over 240 volunteers. Gross’ vision is to build a charity where the impact and the revenue incentives are aligned, to create an agile and impact-driven organisation that brings systemic change to the access sphere.
SUITCASE: the culture of travel
Guen, who last came to Wadham to meet with friends before a party, sat there on an Oxford Women in Business panel, now a multi-award winning entrepreneur.
Immediately it became clear those both Gross and Guen’s drive comes from passion in something they believe in. SUITCASE magazine exists not only to help people with booking and planning, but to ignite inspiration. Guen’s interest in travel inspired her to create a travel guide which helps people to grasp the true culture of a place when they travel, instead of gaining a superficial experience through having to rely on the tourist attractions. She gave the example of people missing out on the “real Paris” by limiting themselves to an Eiffel tower visit.
Simply through Facebook and email, Guen managed to build up much anticipation before releasing her first issue, which, as she later pointed out, was one of her greatest feelings of achievement. Recently, she emphasised, her company’s focus has shifted to the digital. This is crucial, as the first thing people do upon hearing about a company or an entrepreneur, is Google them. Last year, she launched a media agency, which went on to do the brochure for the Orient Express among other projects.
Project Access: a world where passion and potential define your future
“Bright, low-income students are less likely to apply, less likely to receive an offer and less likely to graduate than their higher-income peers - even when they receive the same exam results.” Gross, now a successful social entrepreneur, was moved to find a solution.
What is today a flourishing non-profit organisation began as a simple Google Doc. sheet matching people who should have the opportunity to attend their dream university, with people who go there. When Gross began, she had to fundraise for her own salary. Her determination came from wanting to help as opposed to simply entrepreneurship. There is huge scope for being the one to make changes happen, taking control and “being the grown-up” yourself. One piece of advice, Gross said, is to find those experts who may feel out of reach. Often, they do want to talk and there is a culture of openness amongst experts and those who want to help find solutions to the social problems.
A summary of their responses: