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    Past Speakers

    RISK - 'From Bathtub 2 Boardroom' - @ The Adam St Club - 23rd May


    Luke Johnson is one of Britain's most successful entrepreneurs and writers sharing business expertise. He is prolific to say the least, and the range of his involvement is astounding; he sees himself as a 'projector', a 17th C term for a man involved in many different businesses. His involvements range from food, to media publishers, to documentary-production, to dental practices, to car-park Greyhound tracks. It is amazing to think that it all began during his time at Magdalen College, Oxford, when he and his friend Hugh Osmond started running the Era nightclub. By graduation, the two were already serial entrepreneurs.

    Luke Johnson is perhaps best known for his role in the restaurant business, and high-street eating would look very different without him. He took control of Pizza Express with partners in 1993, before becoming chairman. In six years of Herculean leadership, the chain grew from 12 to 250 branches and the share price rose from 40p to over 900p. He sold in 1999, only to start up Strada Italian restaurants from scratch (now 30 branches), as well as Signature Restaurants, which owned The Ivy and Le Caprice. Johnson sold these two businesses in 2005 but remains involved in the restaurant industry, as part owner and chairman of Giraffe Restaurants, Pattisserie Valerie and Baker and Spice.

    Between 2004 and 2010, Johnson was chairman of Channel 4 Television, where he restructured the board and by all accounts turned around the fortunes of the channel, achieving record ratings, revenues and surplus.

    Currently, he is the chairman of Risk Capital partners, which he co-founded ten years ago to formalise what he had been doing for many years – investing in and backing and growing private businesses in Britain. It is a nimble organisation not trying to eliminate risk, but simply to mitigate it.

    All this vast experience was documented in Johnson's The Maverick column for the Sunday Times, while he currently writes a fun and readable weekly column for the FT - yesterday, for example, lamenting the disconnect between the worlds of academia and enterprise. Meanwhile, his book “Start It Up” gives encourage ment and help to anybody taking, or considering taking, the leap. It is a how-to book by someone who actually has.

    A true man for all seasons, Johnson is a patron of theatre and the arts and  has been chairman for the Royal Society of the Arts since 2008.

    Sháá Wasmund is the author of the UK’s Number 1 Best Selling Business Book “Stop Talking, Start Doing …A Kick In The Pants In Six Parts”, which she describes as 'a book for anyone with an itch'. (Everyone!)

    Sháá is a prolific public speaker, digital native and passionate champion of small businesses. Amongst other accolades, Sháá has been voted by the Institute of Directors as one of the UK’s Six Most Connected Women, one of Management Today’s ‘35 Under 35’ and Growing Business magazine’s ‘Young Guns’ and recognised by the London Stock Exchange for her services to Enterprise.

    In 2009 Sháá launched, the UK’s #1 Resource for Small Business. Smarta is a highly innovative business platform providing advice, networking and tools for business owners, backed by leading entrepreneurs Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden.

    In 2011 Sháá launched ‘Smarta Business Builder’, a groundbreaking cloud-based subscription toolkit for small businesses.

    A graduate of The London School of Economics, Sháá’s entrepreneurial career had an unusual start. At 22 she won a competition to interview Super Middleweight boxing champ Chris Eubank and ended up helping promote his next fight to a sell-out 48,000 live crowd and an 18 million TV audience. Shaa remains an ardent boxing fan.

    Soon after she set up her own PR and marketing company and won the then relatively unknown vacuum cleaner company Dyson as one of her first clients. Working alongside Sir James Dyson helping to establish Dyson as a global brand taught Sháá’s more about business than any MBA. To this day, Sháá’s credits James as being one her biggest sources of inspiration.

    She asserts that she has learnt more from the people along the way than she ever could have from an MBA - perhaps it is her early childhood in Silicon Valley which makes her such a good collaborator and e-commerce opportunist.

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