Emma Sinclair MBE

Build your network and get experience elsewhere before building a business

HOF Entrepreneurs Emma Sinclair 1920X1080

Published: 03/02/2023

Emma Sinclair MBE started young and moved fast. By the time she was thirty, she had floated her first business on the London Stock Exchange. A decade later, she had launched Target Parking, private members club Wakeman Road and tech company EnterpriseAlumni, alongside writing her Telegraph column, Wonder Women. Today, she remains CEO of global software company EntrepriseAlumni, the market leaders in alumni software powering alumni networks for many of the world’s leading companies.

She spreads credit for her success widely – her ‘village’ has been vitally important: “As a result of school, university, the graduate programme I participated in and so many other experiences I had before I started my own business, I already had a big community of people to go to when I needed help. You’ll need them all!”

“When you are trying to build a business, you need a village to help you start, a village to help you grow

However, she reserves the biggest praise for her father, who used their daily school run to build her interest in business: “We played games on the drive to school such as ‘What's the capital city?’, times tables and… guess the share price. My dad held stock in a few companies, and it became part of our morning ritual that I would always check the share price for him in the Financial Times. He used to have a copy of the FT delivered to our house and I have early memories of struggling to open the newspaper because at that point the newspaper was so much bigger than I was!”

As such, there was never any real doubt about her career path. After a stint at McDonalds whilst at school and a degree in Modern Languages at Leeds University, she ran property investment company Mission Capital, with her father as Chairman, taking it to flotation in 2005, her first run at entrepreneurship

How it’s going for Emma Sinclair?

EnterpriseAlumni was built out of some of the challenges she saw in her previous businesses: “Some years ago, contingent labour was becoming more prevalent and whereas our parents held one job, employees were becoming more mobile and were changing jobs more frequently. There were rumblings about GDPR, and privacy and it became obvious when researching pain points relating to people, that large organisations had no good way to stay in touch with people after they left.

“All companies had employee turnover and those employees become customers, prospects, social media advocates and potential rehires - and they needed a solution to help them activate and engage those alumni. The size of the potential market was vast and compelling…!”

EnterpriseAlumni now works with customers such as Google, LinkedIn, Citi, Coca-Cola, JP Morgan, Marks & Spencer, and BlackRock, among others. The group partner with businesses to active and engage their alumni on their software – and develop and execute a strategy to maintain commercial connectivity and community with their alumni community.

The aim is a “happy and engaged alumni”.
Emma Sinclair

Her ventures have all had a pattern: spotting a problem and finding a solution. For Target Parking, she had bought a small car parking firm, but then spotted a gap in the market to provide UK car parks with a range of services including management, security, cash handling and facilities management. The business managed 450 sites across the UK.

Her appetite for entrepreneurship remains undimmed and she still sees plenty of problems that she’d like to solve. For example, the “persistent debilitating problem” for younger companies entering the market to be able to do business with larger companies. “Procurement processes and demands on vendors are very significant and as a small business it’s extremely hard to qualify and do business with large enterprises even if you have the best solution to their problem.”

What she’s learnt

Emma is a believer in the business school mantra that failures can be as useful as successes. “They are all learning experiences. One of my favourite documentaries of all time is called General Magic, which tells the story of a team of people in Silicon Valley who created an early version of a smart phone. When that phone went to market it was a huge flop but the people who made it went on to have huge success elsewhere. I take inspiration from every person who worked at General Magic.

Each of my failures have informed how I do things better next time and failing from time to time is just part of life.”
Emma Sinclair

That said, she admits that if she had had any idea how difficult entrepreneurship would be, she might not have started down the path. On reflection, she is glad she didn’t know. “A dear friend once said to me “this too shall pass”, during a very difficult period which I now often repeat to myself on tricky days.” 

Her biggest tip for emerging entrepreneurs is to create that village:

“Build your network and get experience elsewhere before building a business.”
Emma Sinclair

My first job was McDonalds which taught me work ethic, financial responsibility and professionalism from a young age. You can get good experience almost anywhere.”