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Entrepreneurship: Jim Shaikh


Jim Shaikh explains the entrepreneurial journey that lead him to create yoomi (the first self-warning baby bottle). Jim provides details of the key problem solving, selling and people skills needed to become a successful businessman and entrepreneur.

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I started off as an engineer so I did aeronautical engineering as a degree. Worked in a consultancy for a little while then felt the call to do something a little bit more research oriented and went and did a PhD.

After the PhD, I followed with a fairly routine academic career and became a Lecturer at Queen Mary University, University of London, Lecturer in Engineering. But found that I was quite good, I was ok at it. Probably wouldn’t have been scintillating and I didn’t use my full skill set, I found it quite limiting. So, I moved into hardcore engineering with BMW, worked there for 3 or 4 years. Really enjoyed the experience but, again, I was a technologist and I wanted to do more. Moved into engineering consulting, again, added a bit more of the business element to things. But, I really wanted to explore the business element of combining engineering with business and so, started up my own engineering consultancy. That led to my current, where I am now, which is, I’m running yoomi, which is a self-warming baby feeding bottle that we invented. The whole concept was invented in the engineering consultancy.

The yoomi is the first self-warming baby feeding bottle in the world, I think. We invented it because my first son, Daniel, was premature. I was always feeding around the clock; my job was to go downstairs and take the express breast milk from the fridge and warm it up in a pan of boiling water. I wasn’t very good, so, I’d always over heat it and then have to put it under the tap to cool it down again, fall asleep and over heat it, over cool it, over heat it. One day, my wife said “you’re an engineer, can’t you do something about this?” Throwaway comment really but it sort of stuck. Maybe it was my research background, but it was something that warbled around my brain for a little while and I set it as a fun project within our engineering business. After about a year, we just hit upon a concept and I could see there was some value in that concept, there’s something there and that’s what set us on the path of designing the product and then taking it to market.

I’ve had quite a few varied roles now and I think the three key skills that I would suggest would be; number one would be people skills. Being able to work with people within in a team or leading a team, across the piece really. Ensuring the team you work with deliver on the results you’re trying to get to, the objectives you’ve got.

Number two would be selling. I don’t mean selling as in used cars salesman selling. It’s actually selling yourself, selling a concept, selling an idea. That’s where I am now with the entrepreneurial side of the things. But also, selling that you get people to engage with you, they understand what you are trying to do and will able to help you along the way.

The third one, I would say would be problem solving. Being able to define a problem and find ways of solving that problem across a range, not just academic but really you hit a problem and you need to get around that problem somehow.   

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