Why I Give to Greenwich

Alumni and friends of Greenwich can support our students in lots of different ways. Whether it’s by donating money  or by providing time and inspiration, you are able to offer invaluable benefit to our students. Byron Cole is one member of the alumni community who has gone above and beyond in giving back to Greenwich.

Byron completed his BSc Business Economics degree at the University in 2008, and has since become a bestselling author, multi-award-winning entrepreneur, and business mentor. He  is also the founder of The BLC Group, Governor of the Harris Academy in Purley, and Co-Chair of Evolve Housing + Support.

In 2020 Byron joined us for the Alumni Showcase, giving an interview about his Greenwich journey and his career since graduating. Since then, he has been involved in the University’s mentoring scheme, donated to the Hardship Fund, and joined the panel of judges at the Enterprise Challenge.

We caught up with Byron to discover what motivates him to give back to the Greenwich community  and find out about his experiences as a donor, mentor and volunteer.

The University of Greenwich  is dear to my heart for many reasons. Number one it gave me some of the life skills I needed to start my first two businesses. In addition, I just loved my time at University. It was a great experience. I went from failures to successes, I experienced so many different things. I failed a module that I subsequently had to retake, which gave me so many life skills that I’ve now come to appreciate later on in my journey that I perhaps didn’t recognise at the time. I give back because I want to be able to share my experiences with students and fellow alumni, to enable them and empower them to achieve whatever they want. I am literally living my dream, and the University of Greenwich  was definitely an important part of that.

In Spring 2020, we set up the Emergency Covid-19 Hardship Fund to alleviate some of the pressures faced by those most affected by the lockdown. For some students lockdown easing hasn’t removed all of these challenges, which is why it is so important that we provide ongoing support. On donating to the Hardship Fund Byron admitted “I’m far from achieving my financial goals, but I am still very comfortable and fortunate. If I can do something – no matter how big or how small – to help somebody else, then I will do that. It’s not necessarily about the amount, but about the action of giving, and I encourage everyone to do the same. We can all help somebody who is having a hard time, and we should give back to those communities that are so close to our hearts.”

Mentoring is an excellent way of staying connected with the University and expanding your network; hundreds of Greenwich students sign up every year to learn from established professionals. For Byron, mentoring is an essential step to success. “I encourage everyone to become a mentor as it serves two things. First, I think it’s a great personal development tool. While mentoring someone you are developing at the same time. So, you’re learning about yourself and common problems that perhaps you didn’t even realise. In addition, you’re giving back to someone else. I believe all alumni should become mentors for themselves and for the benefit of  others: no matter what your career, journey or industry, you should have a mentor – in fact, multiple mentors!”

When asked if Covid had presented a barrier to mentoring Byron said, “We’d actually had the option of mentoring virtually even pre-COVID, so the experience was always virtual for me. There’s no excuse now – technology is so advanced that it makes it so much easier, and everyone is used to the tech! Having these tools available to you makes the mentoring process so easy and fluid. ”

At Greenwich, each faculty have their own mentoring scheme suited to the needs of students and mentors either through Enterprise Mentoring or on Ask Alumni.

Byron’s involvement in the Generator then led to him volunteering to be part of the judging panel for the 2020 Enterprise Awards. “I love learning about practical businesses that solve real-life problems, and hearing some of the creativity that comes out of the Enterprise Challenge is what I really enjoy. I can relate to them: we have existed in the same spaces. So there’s some synergy there in the physical experience of the University, but actually on many different levels. They come to me with a problem, and then working with them to get to a solution and seeing them flourish is great.”