How Wilfried’s undergraduate experience supported him to become a successful startup entrepreneur
13 July 2020
In this blog, BSc International Management alumnus Wilfried Buiron describes how his experience at WBS served as a launch pad for him to enter the world of business and build up his entrepreneurial skillset.
Looking back now, I would say that I have always been an entrepreneur. In middle school, I was class president. In high school, I would lead group projects and always strive to think out of the box. And upon finishing high school, I arranged to go live with a friend’s family in Taipei to learn Chinese instead of staying back for the summer. However, up until then, the notion of building a startup had always felt hazy to me. And that is what made my time at Warwick Business School so pivotal. Indeed, whilst at WBS I learned the tools to catalyse this entrepreneurial energy into concrete outcomes and that served as a launchpad for me to join the Schwarzman Scholars programme in Beijing and start my own ventures in China and Singapore following graduation.
I studied a BSc International Management at WBS between 2013 and 2017. I had decided to study business as I reasoned that learning how to organise the efforts of many behind a common vision is what would ultimately allow me to drive the greatest positive impact in society. Studying at WBS brought me one step closer to this goal. Indeed, courses such as finance and accounting provided me the basic toolkit for understanding businesses whilst other modules such as “Critical Issues in Management” really pushed me to explore and reflect on modern-day management problematics such as workplace discrimination, corporate ethics and sustainability. In addition, the “international” component of the degree strongly resonated with me as I had spent my childhood between Hong Kong and France and attended international school all throughout. In the end, I found what I was looking for at WBS and over four years, I built a global network of friendships that has followed me ever since from London to Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Outside of regular coursework, I also got involved in a number of other activities. I regularly engaged in startup-related discussions in the Entrepreneur Society and in my second year I became President of the Warwick Asia Careers Society - a student society aiming to inform students about and promote career opportunities in Asia. At the same time, I built up my professional experience with internships at McKinsey & Company, consultancies in France and Dubai and two startups in Beijing. This worked hand-in-hand with my studies at WBS by giving me hands-on business experience and a better understanding of what I would want to pursue after graduation. As a side note, I am an avid climber and the climbing gym at the University of Warwick was a great place to sharpen my skills!
The highlight of my WBS experience however, was undoubtedly my year abroad at Peking University, China. Living somewhere so different and exciting alongside students from all around the world was an exhilarating experience and one that allowed me to forge strong friendships that continue to this day. It was also a deeply meaningful experience for me from cultural and linguistic standpoints as I made friends with local students, worked in Chinese startups and improved my Chinese proficiency to the point that I was able to pass the HSK6 – the highest level of this Chinese proficiency test – by the end of that year. Finally, it turned out to play a crucial role in my future development as it strengthened my resolve to apply for the newly-established Schwarzman Scholarship and return to China after graduation.
Thanks to the Schwarzman Scholarship I was able to exchange with inspiring leaders ranging from presidents to CEOs and founders of non-profits as well as learn from and forge ties with fellow students from the world’s most renowned institutions. As such, I could not more strongly endorse taking a year out to work or study abroad during your undergraduate degree.In that same year I decided to embark on my first entrepreneurial journey with a classmate from WBS, Robin Tallendier. In the summer of 2017, we had resolved to launch a direct-to-consumer brand that would embody our passion for China and focus on a hobby Robin had had since a young age – mechanical watches. We called it Atelier Wen or “the culture workshop” (“atelier” being the French word for workshop and “wen” the Chinese word for culture).
After months of work in Beijing with local designers and visits to suppliers all around the country, we finally launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2018 that raised over $100,000 and attracted coverage from global publications like The New York Times, China Daily and France’s Le Figaro. Off the back of this initial success, Robin and I moved to Hong Kong and proceeded with launching the brand in mainland China and further developing our e-commerce operations. The year that followed was marked by great personal growth and learning and in the winter of 2019, we finally decided to turn our brand into a side business once more in order to explore new projects. Since then, I have moved to Singapore to join the venture builder, Entrepreneur First and I am in the early stages of starting a new tech venture. Stay tuned!
I delved into entrepreneurship out of a sense of wanting to create something I could call my own and it would not have been possible without the foundational experiences I built at WBS. Indeed, WBS served as a launch pad for me to enter the start-up world and it could do so for you too. Finally, above all else, regardless of the path you take, remember to strive for excellence in a domain you feel passionate about and always keep pushing towards your ambitions.