Please tell us about yourself
Keen to study at the University of Leeds, Ravi Toor originally planned on studying economics, but changed his mind and applied through clearing for the BA Environment and Business course. The degree programme combines the study of environmental and sustainability issues with sound business and management practice. It is concerned with the pressures and opportunities facing business as a result of the contemporary environmental and corporate social responsibility agendas.
What did you study?
First I studied for A Levels, receiving B grades in Biology, Geography and Business. Then I went on to study for a degree at Leeds University. I received a BA in Environment and Business, Grade 2:1 which was awarded in 2017.
Did you have to undertake any further training during your career in order to progress into your current role?
I’ve been running an online business since the age 14 so I guess you could say i’ve learnt as i’ve gone along. My Dad has his own printing business too so I’ve been fortunate to learn from him first-hand since being young.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
During University I worked part-time as an in-store advisor for phone shop, O2. Not only did this provide some needed cash as a student, but I feel like I gained a lot skills and experience during my 3 years. My communication improved, ability to problem solve, achieve targets and also learn how to work as a team. Perhaps the key skill I learnt was selling; this has no doubt helped me in my current role today with Filamentive.
In my 2nd year of University I gained a place on the ‘Year in Enterprise’ programme, an opportunity to spend a year (before my final year) focussing on a business. This was the right opportunity at the right time; following support from the University of Leeds, as well as external funding awards and grants, I was able to research, explore and develop an idea into action, growing Filamentive from ‘paper to product’.
Ravi explained how he got into the industry: “I noticed a good margin on the 3D printers… so I started selling the printers along with the materials that go with them. However, I noticed a lot of the materials were coming from China, so I saw a gap in the market for European suppliers and decided to go for it.”
“I’ve always wanted to start my own business… I was 15 when I first started buying and selling iPod and iPhone accessories online. I find buying and selling things really exciting. The opportunities are endless,” said Ravi.
Finding the Year in Enterprise advertised on the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies website, Ravi decided to apply and was successful. Following this he has also just been awarded the Enterprise Scholarship, which gives him access to business support and mentoring from Spark along with £3,000 worth of funding.
As part of his degree programme, Ravi has studied two of the Enterprise discovery modules: Entrepreneurship in Theoryand Practice and Understanding Social Enterprise. “The Enterprise modules were really great as they gave me an understanding about the theory behind entrepreneurship; something that I’m keen to implement.”
Looking to the future, Ravi hopes to get involved in the Enterprise society within the students’ union and, after university, hopes to develop and grow his company even further, perhaps even being a 3D printer supplier for PC World or Maplin.
Briefly describe your current role, what do you do?
I am managing director of Filamentive. We recycled plastics and produce high quality 3D printer filament. My overall responsibility includes branding, strategy, product sourcing, sales, marketing, financial analysis, and recruitment. In a nutshell I try to sell as much 3D printer filament as I can, whilst maintaining strong relationships with suppliers and clients, and also ensuring my team is working as a unit.
What skills do you need for your role?
Problem solving – hopefully things go smoothly but that’s typically not the case, as the ‘boss’ I need to ensure that I react quickly and effectively whenever a situation arises
Communication – this is vital. Whether I’m speaking to employees, clients, suppliers or other stakeholders, I need to ensure I am saying the right things.
Commercial awareness – in order to grow Filamentive I need to ensure that I am not only aware of our operations, but also our competition and the industry as a whole. We need to ensure we keep up with the latest trends and customer demands to stay relevant.
Self-motivated – the rewards of self-employment can be high but it isn’t guaranteed. I’d be lying if I said everything we do is a success. I strive for the ‘good days’ but we often have bad days/weeks/months. It’s important to stay focussed and remember why you’re doing this in the first place. As the director I am largely in control of the direction we take and so it is up to me to stay motivated and determined to turn the negative into positive.
Independent working – we’re a small team. I value each and every employee, but ultimately as the day-to-day ‘manager’, it can often mean working alone. It depends what type of worker you are and how you can stay motivated, but if you’re running your own company you need to be prepared to take initiative, be self-directed, and remain focussed. No one is going to do the work for you.
What do you enjoy about your role?
I enjoy the fast-paced nature; no two days are the same and I relish the new opportunities and challenges that arise each and every day. I’ve been wanting to run my own business since a young age and now I have the chance to do it, I am working hard to ensure my dreams become reality. It’s definitely the cliché roller-coaster journey but I wouldn’t change it for anything!
What benefits does the use of 3D Printing bring to your role and/or organisation?
As a filament producer, we essentially make the “ink” that 3D printers need – so without 3D printing we wouldn’t event exist!
How do you feel the future of your industry will benefit from 3D Printing?
As 3D printers become even cheaper and more innovative, more individuals and businesses will adopt the technology. As the market will inevitably increase, this is good news for filament manufacturers in general. However as the industry becomes bigger, so will the onus to become more sustainable this where we have a competitive advantage.
How can our education system best prepare our young people for job roles of the future in your field?
The education system needs to be about real life experience as opposed to grades. Just because a pupil doesn’t achieve an A, B or C doesn’t meant they can’t be a success. There are so many emerging technologies now – 3D printing included – and so focus should be on equipping pupils with the skills, experience and knowledge needed. We also need to see improvement in apprenticeships and internships – of course theory is important but it needs to be implemented in practice.
Also, more needs to be done to encourage entrepreneurship. ‘Start Up Loans’ are step in the right direction but the burden of debt puts many people off. More grant funding and support is needed in order to incentivise and encourage the bright minds of the future to develop businesses that will ultimately stimulate innovation, employment and sustainable growth.
What advice would you offer to students that may be interested in pursuing a career in this field?
Many young people dream of starting their own business, so my advice is simply just give it a go! When you’re young, you typically don’t have the pressures of adult life (family to provide for, bills etc.) so it’s an ideal time to take risks. Also, there are many funding opportunities for young people these days, especially those who want to implement sustainable business.
Whatever the outcome of your business venture, you will undoubtedly gain from the experience. If all goes to plan, you will be able to make a living doing what you do best, and even if you do not see success with this idea, the experience and knowledge you have gained from running a start-up will no doubt place you in a better position to succeed, whether that is in academia, employed work or your next business venture!