Notes From Last Night: Founding Members Launch Event With Oli Barrett



Last night 80 Escape School Founding Members joined us at our brand new venue in central London for an inspirational night connecting with fellow escapees and hearing a fun and motivating talk from Oli Barrett (@OliBarrett) founder of Cospa and StartUp Britain


What is your wildest ambition?

This opening question set the tone for a rip-roaring adventure of a talk last night by entrepreneur Oli Barrett. We talked, we listened and riotous laughter filled The Escape School. Oli stressed the importance of talking about your ambitions and sharing them with other people.

Despite finding the term ‘networking’ cringeworthy, he encouraged us all to get better connected by really getting to know the network you are already part of and then building it by taking bold steps. He gave practical advice about how to do this.


1. Contact new people

Write to people, pick up the phone and make a call. Take a long shot because you never know where it will lead. He shared a story about needing advertising expertise but lacking relevant contacts. What is the next logical step? He cold-called Saatchi and Saatchi and managed to get through to their Global Marketing Director. As a direct result of this phone-call he was introduced to all their clients, received a huge £300k investment in his business and even scored his own office at their HQ!


2. Make a list of people you want to meet

Describing this as his “weirdo tip”, Oli encouraged us to write a list of people we would like to meet or work with. Is there a celebrity or a big name locally you admire? Start stalking them (digitally – by setting up a Google alert). This way, you will know when the time is right to pounce!


3. Timing is everything

Oli read a blog post called “Let’s get kids fixing up schools” by the entrepreneurial, media-savvy, and well-connected plumber Charlie Mullins. Oli was inspired to contact Charlie and they ended up arranging a meeting where they launched a project supporting young people to fix their own youth clubs. Impressively the pair managed to secure funding from Wickes, the DIY chain.  The message here is that by timing your approaches, you increase your chances of connecting with people. Oli also gave the tip that the best time to reach busy people on email is between 7 – 8am and 11pm – midnight when then tend to be more available.


4. Be audacious

Really push the boundaries, the scale, and the idea! Be bold and brave. Keep saying “yes” (within reason) and see where it takes you. Be prepared to take the knocks and failures, accepting these as part of the ride. If you’re bored, do something else. Do something you will love remembering. For him, this was quitting university and working in Butlins for a season!


These are his TOP TIPS!

  • Get your own business cards and start giving them to people you meet.
  • Get a group of your friends together and meet socially every couple of months to share successes and failures, and support each other.
  • Team up with genuinely awesome people who have different skills to you – don’t be afraid of telling cool people you want to work with them.
  • Question ‘received wisdom’ – find out what works for YOU.
  • Take a genuine interest in people, on a human level, connect with them. Ask about their interests and passions, look beyond job titles!


Finally, Oli urged our audience to always keep in mind the most common regret people have on their deathbed:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself and not what others expected of me”



Follow Celia’s blog “Dared, Determined, Done!” about making big life and career changes.

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