startup-business Les Roches International School of Hotel Management

Why hospitality graduates are the perfect fit for start-ups

26 Feb 2016 | by Mathilde Urena


Career opportunities of Les Roches graduates extend far beyond big hotel chains. But even if many corporations are placing a higher emphasis on promoting their employees’ entrepreneurial spirit, they still do not allow enough flexibility for some of the more innovative minds.

If you do not see yourself becoming a small fish in a big pond, if you are ready to work hard, are not afraid to take a risk in your career and are ready to develop and embrace a new concept, then the start-up world might be the right environment for you.

There are many fellow Les Roches students and alumni who started their own businesses or are working for start-ups and loving it. With this post, I will try to demonstrate why Les Roches people are well equipped for entrepreneurship, but also what to expect when founding a company and what the reality behind a start-up environment looks like.

What does a start-up need?

When I chose start-ups as my dissertation topic during my last semester in Les Roches, I interviewed a dozen of entrepreneurs from various types of start-ups related to the food & beverage industry. Even if other industries might need different sets of skills, I believe that my findings about what it takes to be an entrepreneur are true for all kind of start-ups: perseverance, passion, hard-work, social skills and problem-solving, among others.

But there was another important aspect I learnt from my interviewees: no one did it alone. I am not saying it is impossible or no-one ever did it, but in most cases successful start-ups that grow into real businesses are based on amazing team work.
Start-ups need people full of ideas, aware of market trends, ready to work hard but more than everything, people with great passion. If you truly believe in what you sell and represent, if you are convinced that it can solve a real problem and improve people’s lives then your work, how hard as it may get, will be worth it.

I am not saying it is all rainbows and butterflies, I tried to emphasize the need for hard work because at first when a company is small, you might need to do a bit of everything and as we say if French “mettre la main à la pâte” (get your hands dirty). But after all, isn’t it what semesters 1 and 2 were all about? In start-ups, teams must be polyvalent because the company is still too small to have one person dedicated to one role only, but isn’t it what we learnt from our time at Les Roches? To be versatile and know the basics of everything from marketing to finance, human resources and housekeeping.

Les Roches entrepreneurs

To keep it short, I would like to present some examples of Les Roches people who opened their own business or worked for a startup business:

Dimple, Founder & CEO at Social Belly, London

social belly logoThe concept: a social marketplace that allows foodies to host and attend dinner parties in London by finding others with the same interests to not only share a good meal, but a gastronomic experience.

“It does not matter where you work as long as you’re passionate about what you do. After working in various established companies I developed a core set of transferable skills which could have been applied to either another company or a startup.

I enjoy bringing a strategic and analytical mind to the business, understanding what is missing from people’s day to day lives and figuring out what can be done to fill these gaps, this is why I quit my full time job at Marriott and decided to start Social Belly. There’s an important skill we all learn as Les Rochians, people skills. Never take this for granted, it’s one that can take you really far!

Check it out:

Alessandro, Assistant Account Manager at KAYAK, Zurich

kayak logoThe concept: a global tech company focused on online travel, offering one platform to find and book hotels, flights, car rentals and package trips.

I wish it was my startup! People are real fun and no drama, very independent with flexible working hours.

Even if the company is already getting big, it still feels like a start-up at heart. Flexibility, independence and a fun work environment make it the best place to work!

Check it out:

Christopher, Director at NutriStrength

Nutristrength logoThe concept: a producer of clean and natural lifestyle and sports nutrition

Before graduating from Les Roches I already knew that I never wanted to work for anyone else, I wanted to do my own thing and build my own brand from scratch.

I had no experience in the product industry, only service. But believe me you learn things quicker than you would working for a large corporation.

You have no choice but to solve problems on your own, figure out the insides and out of your industry, you will fail, you have to get back up and find another way.

I work long hours, my brain never switches off, I have a hard time sleeping at night on particular occasions, but absolutely love it and believe it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Check it out:

Abhinav, Country Manager at Hotel Quickly

The concept: an app for last-minute hotel booking with unique deals

hotel quicklyWorking at a start-up is a true roller coaster ride. One day you make huge progress, and think your company will be the next big thing, and the next day you wonder if you really are making a difference in people’s lives.

What is most enjoyable about working at a startup (apart from wearing shorts to work, Beer Pong Thursdays, and Pizza Fridays) is the independence you get in your role. The team has a common vision, and you have goals that work towards that vision, but it’s up to you to figure out how you can achieve them.

Start-ups usually are a fast pace environment, where you can be working on one project, but then suddenly you will have to drop it to work on something else.

This constant change can sometimes leave you frustrated, but at the end it’s all part of the process.

Check it out:

Niall, Owner & Director of Operations and Theodore, Co-Founder & Managing Director at MoBa, London

Moba logoThe concept:
MoBa stands for Modern Banh-Mi (Vietnamese baguette) and is a casual café, combining French and Vietnamese cuisines, cultures and stories.

After just about a year of operating a restaurant and catering company in London, we can say that running your own business is one of the most exciting things we have ever done.

Sleepless nights, hard work and stress are part of the routine but the result is great visibility and brand penetration in a competitive and saturated market, customer satisfaction and consecutive quarterly turnover increase.

Thinking of opening your own company? Just do it!

Their specialty: Banh-Mi with four choices of breads and customized fillings with Asian flavors and slow cooking recipes

Must try: Green Tea croissants, lemongrass chicken Banh-Mi

Check it out:

The list is non-exhaustive and there are plenty of other Les Roches alumni who opened businesses or worked for start-ups but I don’t think I would ever be able to trace them all. By the way, the Les Roches alumni website just created MADE IN LES ROCHES, an alumni entrepreneur map so if you are an entrepreneur, don’t forget to register your business to complete the map full of alumni companies.

The Pros & Cons

If you think you are not yet ready to open your own business but are still interested in working for start-ups and are consider joining as an employee, you might be interested in knowing the general pros & cons:



To conclude, you don’t need to do be in the entrepreneurship specialization to join or create a start-up because entrepreneurship is a spirit and start-ups require a broad skill set. However, if you are sure you want to work with start-ups or open your own business, I recommend you do choose Entrepreneurship as a stream and to choose the Web Design Gen-ed course because it gives you the tools and processes that are useful to start up a business.

One last thing:
If you are interested in entrepreneurship and start-ups and want to meet up with people sharing this interest, you can join the “Startup Mountain” entrepreneurship club at Les Roches. Don’t hesitate to contact Devina to learn more.

Mathilde Urena


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