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Jonathan Strauss

  • Programme: Sloan Msc
  • Nationality: British
  • Job Pre-programme: Owner Enila
  • Job Post-programme: Founder, Deviehl Ltd

I felt a fair amount of trepidation about immersing myself in a high-level course like Sloan − after all, it had been 25 years since my undergraduate studies − but after spending most of my career in the luxury watch industry it was definitely time for a change. London Business School’s Sloan programmeseemed to offer the perfect opportunity to reflect on the specific drivers and motivations that were important to me. The great thing was that as the journey progressed, I gained much more clarity about the types of work I enjoyed doing and about my own skill set. I’ve always been reasonably entrepreneurial and I’d got used to running businesses with relatively little outside involvement. Even so, it was hugely enabling to realise that I no longer wanted to work for anybody else.

Academically, Sloan broadened both my strategic expertise and thought processes, but the real revelation was working on projects with a group of truly extraordinary people. Being aware of different teams and personalities and learning how to work with such a diverse and inspirational group completely overhauled my leadership capabilities. It also gave me an understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses and the confidence to believe in myself and my ideas.

The idea for Deviehl, the start-up company I’ve cofounded, originally came from bouncing ideas around with a classmate. Both coffee enthusiasts but with different areas of expertise, we are now developing and refining luxury cups to match the high-end coffee machines available and the luxury experience that drinking coffee has become. Faculty expertise have been invaluable throughout this process and we’ve been able to approach academics including luxury and marketing expert Simona Botti and entrepreneurial guru Jeff Skinner for input and feedback. The School’s Innovation in Luxury Business Plan competition (run in association with Walpole) provided us with access to an amazing network in our arena. We’ve already been in touch with the Editor of the FT’s How To Spend It magazine and next week we have an appointment with the MD of Harrods.

Building a business is tough and it will always be a rollercoaster, but ensuring that you are developing the right team of people to achieve your objective is immensely satisfying. In a true 21st century manner we are already incredibly global, sourcing materials and using suppliers and service providers across the US, Canada, Finland, Germany and Switzerland. The very nature of business today is fast and flexible; I believe that Sloan has given me the knowledge and contacts to make this business work and have a great deal of fun doing it.