Life @ EA
A spotlight on: Peter McLean (EA 1990-2001)
In this blog we interview Peter McLean, an entrepreneur and recently appointed Chair of Young Enterprise Scotland team in the Lothians. With a passion for developing entrepreneurial skills, find out more about Peter’s role now as well as advice on starting a business.
1. You have recently been appointed Chair of the Young Enterprise Scotland team, how did you get to have such a role?
I have been involved with Young Enterprise for many years while running my own business, as a judge, speaker and more recently joined the Lothian Board. I am very passionate about the important role Young Enterprise plays in schools and relish the chance to help develop the strategy for enterprise education over the next few years as Chair.
2. Why are you passionate about the Young Enterprise Scotland programme?
Developing an entrepreneurial mindset in our kids as early as possible is crucial for their success in the “real world”. This doesn’t mean they have to set up a business when they leave school, but these skills will give them a significant advantage in the workplace.
They Young Enterprise programme allows them to hone skills like; accountability, curiosity, problem solving and confidence. The Company Programme challenges them to start a real business, build a team and experience the real highs and lows entrepreneurship brings.
I am very passionate about giving our next generation the skills and best start in their career. Enterprise skills are just as important as Maths and English.
3. You launched your own food and drinks business while at university, what inspired you to become an entrepreneur and is there anything you would have done differently when you first started out?
I’ve always wanted to run my own business. The ability to create something someone was willing to pay money for gave me a real buzz. Launching your own business is open to all, you don’t need permission, so I thought, let’s have a go and that led to a 15 year business. I actually launched it at the Academy Christmas Market!
There are so many things I would have done differently. But here are my top three:
- I would have employed people earlier. It’s scary being responsible for someone’s wage but it allows your business to grow.
- Think bigger. Quite often we cap our ambition. Have a big dream and go for it.
- Be kind to yourself. You don’t need to work 24 hours a day to run a successful business. The fitter and healthier you are both mentally and physically the better your business will do.
4. What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?
After I decided to sell my business in 2018 I felt a bit lost. It was all I had known as a professional. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.
After some rest with the family I just started meeting my network for coffee with no specific agenda. Soon opportunities started to come in and now I have a great mix of jobs. One of the most enjoyable roles is working at Edinburgh Napier University as a Business Growth Adviser, helping staff students and alumni set up and grow their businesses.
I also don’t think the entrepreneurial bug ever leaves you and have been working on another start up called Hyr Me. A CV and cover letter platform pairing candidates with expert industry specific advisers.
5. Do you feel your time at the Academy prepared you/helped you for your career and if so how?
Yes, my time at the Academy was a very happy one. I wasn’t particularly academic so naturally gravitated to all the extracurricular activities, of which there are many. This allowed me to travel to countries like, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and Japan and have some amazing experiences. A lot of these experiences can then be pulled on when being interviewed for a job or university.
I also think the encouragement to step outside your comfort zone stood me in good stead for the future. I remember having to do the assembly readings in front of the whole school shaking like a leaf. I can also tell you it is not a dissimilar feeling standing in front of investors!
Finally, the close network of Accies you build up over time is a real asset when building your career. I have reached out to many Accies over the years for help and have always been met with a very warm welcome.
6. Do you have any advice to other Accies or current pupils at the Academy who are looking to start or grow their business?
- Get experts around you and don't be too proud to ask for help.
- Don’t use “I don’t have the money to setup my business” as an excuse. There is always a way to get things going.
- Get out and talk to people face to face. To many people hide behind emails and texts. People buy from people. Get out and build those relationships.