A journey of transformation

Olubunmi Okolosi, founder of Kajola explains the process that has led to the launch of a new consultancy. 
Building a company from a love of the industry.

If someone asked was it your aim or dream to start your own business I would have always answered NO. My ambition wasn’t ever to own my own business, I just wanted to be respected by my peers. It was about eight years ago when the penny began to drop and I began to understand my value and how I felt undervalued.

There is nothing wrong with taking home a salary and working what your contracted to do, I however never worked in that way. Since the age of fifteen when I knew I wanted to be a chef I was always the kid that put in that little bit more – I’d come in early, often just for the thrill of it, I would stay an extra hour no worries. As I made my way up the career ladder, I put in more with the thirst to learn and understand more about the key driving forces of hospitality.

Hospitality is my love and as I began as this skinny black kid down in rural Hampshire my boundless energy and enthusiasm drove that desire to grow. Along my path to where I sit today (Amsterdam at the desk with my daughter playing next to me) I’ve had some incredible role models – from Whitbread pub operators, Hilton hotel restaurant managers, to leading Chefs like Ashley Palmer-Watts, Virgilio Martinez and Brad McDonald to energetic founders of businesses like James Walters and Peter Prescott and legendary college faculty heads like Gerry Shurman. 

All have taught me lessons along this incredible journey but what I’ve realised now is I’m tasked to take the next step and at first I couldn’t figure out how. I’ve now come to a stage where I’ve completed a very corporate European group director role which made me realise that to take the next steps I must transform myself. The biggest answer I had to find whilst pondering this was how do I do that? This role made me move from UK to mainland Europe at the time when the UK started to ask the question of BREXIT. Doing this role made me understand the battle of mind-set – corporate governance vs entrepreneurship, tradition vs innovation and being a conformist vs a disruptor.

In the end, I set about ferociously reading about philosophy’s, management styles, leadership and entrepreneurship. I contacted the CMI, IC and countless other institutes to understand what I could learn and they’re offering. I took in brilliant articles like ‘The Busier you are the more you need quiet time’ by Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz, hbr.org and ‘Creating a Latticework of Mental Models: An Introduction’ by farnamstreetblog.com. The article that really hit home was ‘The Talent Curse’ by Jennifer Petriglieri and Gianpiero Petriglieri published in The Harvard Business Review – The Curse of being labelled a Star. After that a reoccurring thing came back and that was at the top you become more and more isolated and so I set myself a target to complete a personal development plan with the aim of not being old school and isolationist but new school and connecting.

I completed a personal analysis, outlined some clear goals and added some personal objectives. Muted goes the volume of an operator and I increase the innovative to bring balance to my perspective. I’m now at the final stage of bringing together a ten-point philosophy that I’ve already spent five months chewing over and it’s underpinned by all the experiences I’ve had but is modernity personified, as that is me. What I’ve realised on this journey to transformation is that my thinking is not a conformist but more disruptor. I’m part of a new school of thinking and I’m about to launch my international hospitality and restaurant consultancy called Kajola.