Interview with Kam Hussain, UCL alum and entrepreneur. Written by Joe O’Brien
Hi Kam, tell us about where you are in your career and how you got there?
I work in an AI tech startup and was head-hunted as I impressed at an Edtech startup which was based in the same co-working space. I interned (and freelanced) at said Edtech startup in three stints, across 15 months between penultimate and final years at UCL. In between, I also interned at a FoodTech startup. These opportunities were provided by UCL Careers (via the Santander Scheme).
Can you tell us what services you used during your time at UCL?
I found UCL Careers Extra super helpful and have worked with UCL Changemakers to improve UCL Careers services. I also visited a Careers Consultant to get my CV checked.
What path did you take to start your own business?
I started at UCL Innovation and Enterprise in October 2016. I began with their 8 week programme called ‘Bright Ideas phase 1’ (Now, ‘Explore’). I began ideating my business idea. In term 2 of my first year, I completed another 8 week programme ‘Bright Ideas phase 2’ (now included within Explore). I developed a prototype using sewing machines from Institute of Making! I pitched at the end of both programmes. In summer of 2018, I completed ‘Launch’ – Another 8 week programme. I had to overcome my fear of selling and began speaking to retailers and potential buyers to assess whether people would buy my bags. Now that I’ve graduated I have a clear vision. I genuinely went from no business experience and no fashion background, with only a picture in my head, to a full fledged business with real people buying and using my products every day!
What’s been the most challenging thing you’ve had to learn in creating your own business?
Understanding that no matter how much support I get from family, friends, peers, investors and other businesses, I will always carry the ultimate burden and risk. So it’s important to ensure that your mental health is prized, and that you make the decisions to keep you happy. You have to make sure you never lose sight of your vision or integrity for others, as you’ll always be the one to face the repercussions. After a while make sure you recruit a co-founder! Going solo is the toughest I have found.
If you could give 1st year Kam some career advice, what would that be?
If you get rejected, it’s because you’re not right for that role in particular at that time. Perhaps there isn’t a culture fit at all. At the end of the day, it was never meant for you. It doesn’t mean that you’re not as educated, or as competent as those who got the role. It’s all relative, learn from the rejection, and pivot to a different industry or role if needed. Your time will come, so be gracious.
Can you tell us why having a social impact is important to you as an entrepreneur?
If there was no social focus to my brand then I would become what I hate. I’d become a money-motivated business man. I’m in pursuance of something much greater than money alone, that’s why I care as much about HOLSTRAP Foundation as I do with the brand itself. I’m of Bangladeshi origin and in 2013, there was a collapse of a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It killed around 1100 people, and injured a further 2500. It hit home. I want to change the narrative. It’s not all about the big heritage brands, or the newer fast fashion brands that pay pennies to children and don’t care for the wellbeing of their outsourced workforce. This is the alternative. Beautifully handmade luxury in London, with sales proceeds empowering workers in developing countries. It’s deep rooted within me to make people’s lives easier or better.
Where was your favourite place on campus when you were a student at UCL?
My favourite place on campus was the Paleography Reading Rooms in Senate House! The tobacco sofas contrasting with the clean white desks; the surrounding walls neatly filled with books of palaeography, with beams of sunlight shining through. Inspiration. Far away from the hustle and bustle of main campus. Peace. The UCL Senate House Hubs were a good spot too.
Finally, where can readers find your products?!
My Products are available to pre-order through my crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The campaign ends 11:59pm on 6th December 2019. Thereafter, it’ll be available through www.holstrap.com | @holstrap on all socials.