Julianne Ponan

I am currently CEO/Director of Creative Nature Ltd, a fast growing Superfood company specialising in FMCG and health foods.

The key responsibilities within my current position are to manage the company, and the projections/ forecasts. My roles include managing all of the major retail accounts that the company supplies products to such as Tesco and Ocado. I am also responsible for running a team of subcontracted staff in Wales as well as a team of four in Surrey. I oversee the company’s imports and exports alongside the export manage dealing with various customs. My job role also includes pitching to large retailers to secure distribution and seeking new business. On top of this I manage all of the finances and foreign exchange payments. We are currently shipping to Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia, and UAE.

As a young business woman at the age of 23 I am very proud to have had the opportunity to work in Beijing and also to have taken and expanded the Creative Nature product range with products being sold by major retailers such as Tesco. My company is now multi-award winning in the health food/freefrom industry and is on target to reach half a million turnover this financial year. One of the most rewarding things I have experienced during my time as CEO is seeing my product physically in Tesco and knowing that my team and I put it there. The plan for the future is for our products to be available through all the major multiples plus increase our export to the US and Australia.

Julianne with her product

I am also currently a Start-up Mentor for Virgin, which I think is an amazing programme that Richard Branson has set up for entrepreneurs. My role is to help entrepreneurs aged 18-30 with strategic development in their business. I find managing the company’s foreign exchange spot transactions and pitching to major retailers very enjoyable, along with managing the company forecasts.

I recently won an award for Regional Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the FSB WorldPay National Business Awards. This was presented by Richard Reed (Founder of Innocent Drinks). I have also just been shortlisted for a Women’s 1st Shine Award in the Outstanding Entrepreneur category; I am the youngest to be shortlisted in this category competing against women who have much more established companies.

I have found that running my own business comes with its challenges; everything is definitely not as straight forward as writing a business plan when you are at university. Real business is a risk and you are responsible for it. The challenging aspects for me over the past two and a half years have been the management of cash flow, learning the rules and regulations of import and export, learning how to coordinate each aspect and finally how to market on a budget. You learn from every experience you have in business, whether it be a mistake or a triumph, you just have to remember when you’re about to give up think about why you started.

By doing Business Management and Finance at the University of Northampton I was able to secure a work placement in Beijing. The knowledge I gained from modules such as cross cultural management was crucial when working in Beijing in investment banking. After returning home from Beijing, my journey started shortly after with Creative Nature. My studies at the University of Northampton helped my career, because I learned a huge amount about business during my course through the modules I took. I also used the skills I gained from my Accounting and Finance modules by applying them to real life forecasting.

When I was in investment banking in Beijing I used the knowledge I learnt from Cross Cultural studies to understand the way business was conducted there. My lecturer Adrian was also very helpful in giving me advice before I took the Job in Beijing and It enabled me to avoid any pitfalls when first starting my job. I also use my skills learnt from my Accounting and Finance modules to help provide me with the basic foundations to do VAT returns and various other financial reports I am required to do.

Whilst my studies have helped me a lot, I have to say that it still takes a huge amount of hard work and determination as I believe in this saying ‘Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard’. When I was a student I took part in many social and dance orientated clubs and also attended quite a few ACS events. I believe that the social side of university was very important for me to grow as a woman and a business woman. The University of Northampton creates a brilliant place to study and socialise giving students a good balance, as you do need to let your hair down sometimes.

The advice I would give to undergraduates interested in business or even finance is to prepare to work hard and give up a lot of your time to build a business. It is not going to be a 9-5 job every day, it will start out difficult and you will be working sometimes at 3am just to get a proposal finished or a product line out the door. One thing I can promise though is the satisfaction when you see your product line in store or your business flourishing and the hard work is definitely worth it! Networking is also key in business, start building your contacts from now, use tools like LinkedIn, and attend events at university. You never know some of the contacts that you have made will become useful later on down the line.

University is a great way to gain the knowledge you need to go into either Business or Finance, I loved my course and thoroughly enjoyed my time at the University of Northampton. My lecturers were very helpful and I am grateful for all the support and advice I received throughout my studies.

I went to the University of Northampton with the aim of getting a job in finance, banking or business. Northampton gave me a great platform with my hard work and determination I managed to work abroad and also turn my company into a profiting one.

Julianne and colleague