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Why I gave up the high-rolling city life to help others

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Fast forward five years, I’m earning less than 20 per cent of that running Student@Home, which I set up last year to help bring affordable IT support to homes up and down the country. But I’ll tell you something: I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Don’t get me wrong, life as a private banker was pretty sweet. And I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the skills I gained there. It really prepared me for what was to come, having taught me to be detail orientated, offering only the best quality of service.

I think I was always destined to be an entrepreneur. I wasn’t one of those kids that would say: “When I grow up I want to be a pilot… or a hairdresser”. Instead, I was the child that jumped at every opportunity I got to show off my entrepreneurial skills, be it selling lemonade outside the house in the summer, buying cheap umbrellas and trying to sell them while it was raining or buying lots of sweets for a school trip and selling them to my peers for a profit. I even set up a couple of ventures at university. I knew I always wanted my own business.

But somehow I fell into banking. I travelled a lot in my early twenties and then came back to London to earn money. So, I got a job at AllianceBernstein and grew my skills before moving over to JP Morgan in 2008 at the beginning of the financial crisis. It was a fantastic job because I’m very extroverted and it allowed me to be entrepreneurial within JP Morgan. When I arrived, I had no business contacts, I had to get everything for myself – which involved a lot of cold calling and networking, both of which played to my strengths. It was a job made for me and I think I did well because I saw the role as being entrepreneurial.

Banking is a fantastic job and a very difficult field to get into (I had 18 interviews for my role at JP Morgan!). And although banking gives you financial rewards, you meet amazing and intelligent people, it’s tough training – it’s not something that a lot of people can do for a long time. I would definitely recommend it, however, using what you have learnt and applying it to your own business – it’s a winning formula.

But I’d been there for about five years and all I longed for was to have my own business. I wanted to be the master of my own destiny.

Over this last year at Student@Home, I have worked far harder than I ever did in private banking and while it can be hectic at times, the success we’ve achieved so far makes it all worthwhile.

The entrepreneur lifestyle can be a little lonely at first, but being an entrepreneur is like running a marathon – you need to have both the stamina and the long-term goals. My advice, in the words of Nike, is to just do it. As Abraham Lincoln once famously said: “Remember that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other”. 

It’s your own determination that will decide whether you succeed or not. If you’ve got an idea, you just have to believe in yourself, take the risk and go for it. And the way things have gone so far, it’s given me no reason to regret that.

Kelly Klein is CEO of Student@Home

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