Alex Baker (Woolf, 2013), who graduated from Kent in 2014 with a Master of Science in Advanced Electronic Systems Engineering, works as a systems engineer at Thales Avionics. He has recently set-up his own online business, Sports Travel Guru Ltd, which specialises in offering advice and deals for people seeking to see live sporting events across the globe, and enables individuals to build their own packages and attend these events at a fraction of the cost that other major companies offer. The website includes free city guides to help people get the most out of their trip, a regular blog commenting on weekend games, and provides helpful tips on booking flights. It also acts as a community forum where people can comment and share their experiences.
What have you been up to since graduation?
Since I graduated from Kent I have been working for Thales Avionics as a systems engineer as part of their two and half year graduate scheme. During my first year I worked on numerous civil and military aviation projects ranging from the FSTA Tanker to satellite communications and in-flight entertainment systems. However, more recently I have transferred to Thales Ground Transportation Systems to work as an assistant project manager on the world’s largest rail signalling project (worth approximately £800M) known as 4LM or 4 lines Modernisation. This project involves installing Thales’ driverless train system, ‘Sel-Trac’, across the four major London underground lines such as Circle, District, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and city which ultimately will improve efficiency and passenger throughput.
What inspired you to set up your own business?
Even though I have always been keen to pursue a career in engineering and be at the forefront of technology, I have always wanted to own and run my own business. For example, with your own business you directly get out what you put in and therefore this makes for a very challenging but rewarding experience. The ability to encompass a business idea with your passion is always a very exciting prospect as you find yourself naturally spending hours a week researching or studying a subject which you love; therefore if you are able to monetise and share this passion with others then it is surely a bonus.
The reason I decided to setup Sports Travel Guru Ltd was because I love attending live sporting events, but when researching the best deals I found that a huge amount of companies were charging a fortune for their packages and that was ultimately due to the fact they were adding a huge profit percentage for themselves. At this period I was a student and money was inevitably tight, but not wanting to be discouraged I decided I would rather spend time researching and booking each component of my trip individually therefore bringing the cost down to a more manageable fee. Over time I became very good at finding the best ways to reduce cost or make trips more affordable and I soon found myself packaging deals for family, friends and the next door neighbour!
What is your ultimate goal with regards to the business?
The ultimate goal would be able to run the business full time by becoming a dedicated online sports travel operator. The dream would be able to offer sporting packages to any live sporting event in the world. However for now I just get a buzz out of people using the site and approaching us for advice. Recently I organised a stag-do for 18 in Dusseldorf with the main event being a Borussia Dortmund home game.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who was thinking of setting up their own business?
Firstly, I would say if you have a business idea and have done the necessary market research to see if the idea is feasible then definitely start up your own business and see how things go! At the end of the day you might become the next Uber or Snapchat! Although in order for your business to be successful you need to put in the leg work; don’t think you can just stand back and watch the money pile in without putting in hours of effort.
If you’re unsure on how to register a company or construct a business plan then I highly recommend The Prince’s Trust, which helps young entrepreneurs to get their business up and running. You will be assigned a mentor who will guide you through the important decisions and processes along the way, and the best of it is that it is completely free!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I have ever received was also probably the most simplistic. “Don’t ever think something is out of your reach, at the end of the day, if you want it that bad you will find a way to make it happen”.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
My biggest achievement so far was being awarded a distinction on my University of Kent masters course which in turn helped me obtain a job working for one of the world’s largest engineering firms. However, in time I would like to top this achievement by pushing my career and business to the next level.
What are your favourite memories of Kent?
My favourite memory of Kent is the diverse international atmosphere which provided a fun and ideal learning environment. I was immersed in new cultures which I had never experienced before, which allowed me to form friendships to which I still speak with today. This also means no matter where I go in the world I’m not too far away from a sofa to crash on!