Just over two years after Nigel Lambe bought a brewery, he’s going back to college.
He’s going to be the first entrepreneur in residence at City College Brighton and Hove.
What does the role involve? Mr Lambe is honest enough to admit: “We’re not a hundred per cent sure about how it will work.”
It’s likely to mean spending between half a day and a day a week with students and staff.
So how did he land the role? The credit rests with principal Phil Frier, who is about to retire.
Mr Lambe said: “Phil Frier is very persuasive.
“Education is something I’ve been committed to and passionate about all my life.
“I was a non-executive director of the Learning and Skills Council for six years, both in Sussex and the South East.
“Phil approached me because he knew I was interested in education.”
Itziar Leighton, City College’s head of enterprise and business, said: “Having Nigel here to share his expertise is quite a coup for the college.
“We believe that his presence here will not just ignite a passion for enterprise and innovation with students and staff but also in the wider community.”
Mr Lambe, chief executive of WJ King, the brewery responsible for Brighton Best, and chairman of the Small Batch Coffee Company, said: “It’s great to show young people how entrepreneurship can be a career option and it involves skills that they can develop at quite a young age.
“I’m hoping that we’ll see a few success stories of students who’ve put the ideas into practice and started their own businesses.”
The 42-year-old father of three was born and raised in Dublin. In his own college days there he completed a degree in management and a masters in international business and negotiation.
“He joined the Irish paper and packaging business Smurfit as a graduate trainee and before too long he was asked to take on a job that involved moving to mainland Britain.
He said: “I’m very fortunate that I was never really good at anything but quite good at most things.
“Smurfit gave me experience of sales, operations, finance. I ended up going to work for one of my customers, Pepsico.
“They asked me if I knew anything about logistics and I said no and they said that’s perfect and gave me a job.
“They wanted a fresh pair of eyes. I ended up running their logistics all over Europe in 31 countries.” He was responsible for the supply chain that fed KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and their customers.
His next substantial job was with Grampian Foods. He said: “They moved me down to Uckfield to run a business down there.
“I had a car crash one night. Someone drove into me head on. It was my first brand new car. I’d had it less than 12 hours.”
Rather than continue a tiring commute, he looked for a more local home and soon settled for Hove where he still lives.
“As luck would have it, within a year I was working back in London!
“I just got fed up commuting. I gave myself a year to find a business to buy. I found this brewery. I tried to buy it but I was outbid.
“Then at a business networking dinner, I met someone who knew Ian Burgess (now his business partner in WJ King).
“We met and before we were halfway through the first pint I knew I wanted to work with him. It’s just pot luck really!”
Mr Lambe talks with passion about the craft and artisan aspects of his brewing and coffee businesses, about ethical supplies and sustainability.
Brighton and Hove and the wider Sussex market has plenty of customers who actively support a profusion of local and sustainable food and drink producers.
His wife Orla, a marketing expert, helped ensure the brewery and its beers rapidly gained a good reputation.
On top of all this, Mr Lambe said: “I’m looking to spend more time advising and consulting businesses, which I really enjoy.
“It’s about finding the key things which make a difference.”
It’s not hard to believe that Mr Frier wanted to harness those skills in advising.
When it comes to influencing a new generation of City College students and potential entrepreneurs, whatever his role entails, Mr Lambe is expected to make a difference.
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