Muizz Almaroof: ‘How can I find more partners to extend my venture’s reach?’

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Muizz Almaroof

Muizz Almaroof has co-founded Motivez, a business that’s helping young people to embark on careers that best match their abilities. Now he’s approaching other organisations as potential collaborators, but how can he persuade them to get involved? He consults our experienced panel of IoD members

For every young person leaving school or university with a clear idea of their career path, there’s another with barely a clue about where to go next. Furthermore, according to Universities UK, almost a third of new graduates enter jobs that don’t suit them – a costly problem for employers. Muizz Almaroof spotted a business opportunity in tackling this issue while he himself was studying at London South Bank University (LSBU) in 2014.

Along with fellow engineering student George Imafidon, he started Motivez, which offers resources designed to help young people make better career choices. Through its app and website, Motivez promotes free courses and careers fairs, while its small team of students and recent graduates produces careers workshops for secondary schools and colleges.

Now the holder of a degree and a day job as a Crossrail engineer, Almaroof, 22, recalls that he and many of his peers had struggled to find such useful resources when they were undergraduates. But he enrolled on an LSBU business start-up programme called Spark, which offered access to funding, careers advice, legal support and even mentoring.

“George and I started thinking about how we could talk to other young people about the mistakes we’d made and the opportunities out there that they mightn’t know about,” he says. “We can relate to today’s students in a different way from older people, because we’ve had similar experiences. We’re starting to make money for the business with our workshops.”

A national finalist in the Student category of the IoD Director of the Year Awards last October, Almaroof is planning a geographical expansion for Motivez. Having successfully “juggled starting a business and getting a degree, we’re now ready to take things to the next level”, he says, but extending the firm’s reach has been proving more of a challenge.

“We were able to approach schools in our area with the help of recommendations from our local contacts, who might know their headteachers, for instance. We want to form partnerships with a wider network of schools, colleges and organisations running events such as careers fairs, but we’re hitting a barrier with some, even though they wouldn’t have to pay for the first workshop, because the same element of trust is not yet there.” he explains. “How can we convince them of our credibility and secure partnerships that will help us to grow?”

MUIZZ ALMAROOF was studying for a civil engineering degree at London South Bank University in 2014 when he and fellow student George Imafidon launched Motivez, an online service offering career development opportunities aimed at people aged 16 to 25. Almaroof was a national finalist in the Student category of the IoD Director of the Year Awards 2018. The IoD is accepting nominations and entries for this year’s awards. Visit iodawards.com for more information

Over to our expert panellists…

John SheathJohn Sheath
MD, Cornerstone Consultancy

I suspect that young people who don’t know which career path to follow greatly outnumber those who do, so you have an excellent proposition. Student bodies should offer a receptive ear, but educational establishments rightly guard access to those in their care. Your project needs more believers, so establishing credibility is the key here. One way to do this is by telling your story on  motivez.co.uk, just as you have in your question to us. Your website doesn’t do so at the moment. Refining it this way will help you to reach other organisations and work with them to influence your ultimate clients.

John Sheath is a member of IoD Isle of Man

Anna SofatAnna sofat
Founder and MD, Addidi

Many big businesses are seeking to nurture the next generation of talent and/or encouraging their executives to participate in projects with a social purpose. Consider how your venture could help such firms and devote your energy to identifying whom to approach in the organisations you target. It’ll usually be someone in the HR department.

Anna Sofat is a member of IoD London

Dowshan HumzahDowshan Humzah
Independent board director

As a recent graduate, you hold an advantage in having lived through similar experiences to those of your beneficiary audience. You should draw on this to produce video case studies that feature students, headteachers and your current partners to attract interest and build trust. Take a region-by-region approach here, making each video relevant to a targeted local audience. In time, this may give your venture national scale with less risk. You can also write “thought leadership” content on the issue to boost credibility.

Dowshan Humzah is a fellow of the IoD

Debra CharlesDebra Charles
Founder and CEO, Novacroft

It all starts with the clarity of your message. Perhaps focus on what the future will look like for young people and the opportunities and perils created by the digital revolution. Your offering needs to make busy teachers’ lives easier, so you must show them where it fits into the curriculum as well as how it benefits them and their pupils. You could try a pilot with local schools or colleges and use this as a case study to build trust.

If you are passionate about your venture and can talk clearly about it, trust will come. Build a network of people who are influential at various levels – start conversations with those who share your vision and go from there.

Debra Charles is a member of IoD South

Ges Ray
Founder, Speaking in Public

You need to build a model based on targeting the right organisations and gaining the trust of key people in them. To start this, use the IoD’s Business Information Service – it’s amazing – to help you target organisations to which you could be an invaluable partner.

Then focus on their key people. This audience will be interested not in you, but in what you can do for them. The question “what’s in it for you?” lies at the heart of successful pitches and, indeed, networking. Consider what drives these individuals. Take a leaf out of the relationship sales playbook: their hobbies and interests are just as important as their professional motivations. What are they saying on social media? Using personality profiling – eg, the CrystalKnows app – before your first meeting will give you an idea of how that person prefer s to be spoken to, potentially shifting the result from just another chat over a coffee to a real conversation that leads to a trusting relationship. It’s all about people.

Ges Ray is a member of IoD South

To join Director’s reader panel or to seek its advice, email directormagazine@seven.co.uk, quoting your IoD membership number.

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About author

Ryan Herman

Ryan Herman

Alongside his work for Director, Ryan has written for SportBusiness International, VICE Sports, Populous, Audi and Gallop Magazine and was previously editor of Sky Sports Magazine.

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