Croydon Business Awards ‘Commitment to the Community’ recipient, Yuliana Topazly, is a social entrepreneur and senior lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Kingston University. In 2016, Yuliana was named ‘Top 100 Most Inspiring Mentors in the country’ by The Sunday Times and the Centre for Entrepreneurs. Today, Yuliana focuses on educating the world, including her students, on the benefits of entrepreneurship. She has also helped launch over 500 brands with the focus being particularly on helping women in business.
Her passion has directed her in supporting families with the launch of her ‘Buddy with’ organisation that supports mothers dealing with depression and other circumstances.
“It is very important for entrepreneurship educators to engage with the industry, and bring relevant, practical examples into their teaching practice.”
How would you describe your life as a Social entrepreneur?
Being a social entrepreneur is very rewarding despite all the challenges. Working with families from disadvantaged backgrounds and being able to help them to become financially sustainable makes my day. It is very fulfilling, especially when parents you’ve helped come back and support others in a similar situation.
What experiences would you say led you to entrepreneurship and mentoring?
I have been fortunate enough to have been introduced to entrepreneurship since I was 12 years old. I helped my father develop his business. When I came to the UK, I was very excited to see how much support is available for individuals who are interested in setting up their own social or commercial business.
While I was at the university, I set up an entrepreneur society, volunteered at local communities and was always eager to learn more and develop myself. There were also times when it was very challenging to support my studies, and I had to think entrepreneurially and explore potential opportunities to make money. I used to have a Saturday stall at the Portobello market and sell jewellery. I designed accessories for women, taught children swimming, and I’ve been involved in many other entrepreneurial ventures. I always looked at how I could use my skills and knowledge and turn it into an opportunity. This is something that the UK taught me very well.
Later I completed my MSc and PhD in Entrepreneurship. I then worked with several enterprise agencies, accelerator programmes, and throughout my time, I enjoyed helping people, which led me into mentoring. I was delighted to be named Top 100 Most Inspiring Mentors in the UK in 2016 by The Sunday Times and the Centre for Entrepreneurs.
How long have you been a senior lecturer, and what are some things you do within your role?
I have been working as a Lecturer in Entrepreneurship for over 8 years and most recently as a Senior Lecturer at Kingston University. I enjoy it for many reasons. I lecture in Enterprise, Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Small Business Development and Growth. All of the courses I am involved in are very practical and it is rewarding to inspire and support my students to better understand these concepts, and how they can be applied to everyday life. However, universities have a wider responsibility, and I am very fortunate to be involved in so many different projects in Kingston and other universities to support an entrepreneurial agenda. It is very important for entrepreneurship educators to engage with the industry, and bring relevant, practical examples into their teaching practice.
An increasing number of people are choosing the entrepreneurial path – have you witnessed that as a senior lecturer? Are people still choosing this course?
Absolutely, with all the current challenges in the world, more people are considering exploring a path of setting up their own business or becoming self-employed. Some are due to lack of employment. It is also great to see an increase in the number of businesses set up by women. More and more young people are very passionate about addressing global challenges and making a real change in their communities.
In your opinion, is formal education necessary for entrepreneurship? What’s better: experience or education?
I would say both are equally important. However, it is important to highlight that Entrepreneurship education is not about providing you with the answers, it is about helping each individual to become more entrepreneurial in their lives, work and/or business. The modules I lead are all very practical and are about helping students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. We address real problems and find solutions by turning those solutions into real ventures in a safe, learning environment.
You have spoken elsewhere of being diagnosed with postnatal depression after the birth of your daughter, and how that inspired your ‘Buddy with’ organisation. How important is it for mothers to get support if dealing with depression and other life problems?
It was a challenging time for me however, at the same time, I am thankful it happened. It opened my eyes to the issue and guided me into helping other families overcome them. That is why I started my centre. It is very important to support families with younger children and understand the challenges they may experience. Giving birth should be a celebration and not a punishment.
Not all employers have the right policies and practices to support families, and that leads to parents and children suffering. I am so happy to see that in the last 5 years there has been a lot of work done around the development of flexible working arrangements to support young families.
You’ve helped launch over 500 businesses across 8 different countries within the last couple of years. Can you give us some tips for productivity and time-managing?
My biggest tip is to make sure you reward yourself for every little thing you manage to complete. What helps me is to make a task list for every day and every week. When I create a list, I break all my everyday tasks into smaller chunks, and I make sure I take time and appreciate completing each of those tasks. It is amazing how much it helps me to get through challenging days. I would also say be honest and realistic about what is possible and do not be afraid to delegate. It may not work out well every time, but we must try and build trust with others around us.
What impact do you like to leave on the families and women you’ve mentored and what have been some responses?
The overall response I get is that I inspired people to develop and grow their businesses.
The impact I’d like to leave in the long haul is I hope people are not using our services soon. I am waiting for the day when I’ll not receive any calls, referrals or emails. This is not because we are not good at what we do, but because it means every family is financially sustainable and happy.