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News > Life after Hills Road > Mixing Business with Sport

Mixing Business with Sport

Alumnus and founder of Kitlocker, Mike Kent, shares his memories of Hills Road, as well as his advice for starting up a business whilst at university.
Mike Kent (right) with co-founder, Tom Ward
Mike Kent (right) with co-founder, Tom Ward
A catch up with former alumnus and founder of Kitlocker, Mike Kent, who recently donated a new kit to the College's Volleyball team.

1.       What is your fondest memory of Hills Road?
I remember some of my favourite moments of playing volleyball came from my time studying at Hills Road. I guess it’s where my passion for the sport really took over. I had some great times both on court and in practice with the team, which was why I was delighted to be able to provide the current team with kit, in the hope that they enjoy representing the college as much as I did. 

2.       When you were at Hills Road, what did you want to do in life - is this still the same?
Whilst at Hills Road my aim in life was to try and take my sport as far as I could. Sheffield hosted a national volleyball development squad. It was where the majority of good young players ended up studying and training. Soon after arriving, I realised that volleyball wasn’t going to provide me with a career. However, the structure it provided and the friends I made, more than made up for this realisation. I guess like many other undergrads, I really had no idea what I wanted to do!

3.       How did you find setting up your own business whilst still at University? Were there any highlights and lowlights?
As you would expect, setting up in business whilst still in education provided me with some real challenges with regard to time management. At times it was difficult to prioritise my university work, training and getting things off the ground with Kitlocker, especially as my enthusiasm for the business was huge! However, sense prevailed and I managed to juggle my time between commitments. I came out the other side with a decent degree from Sheffield Hallam University, as well as the motivation to keep things going with Kitlocker.

4.       What inspired you to start Kitlocker as a business?
I guess my real inspiration was born out of personal experience of buying kit for my university volleyball team. The service was notoriously bad, often waiting up to 2 months for kit and, as I held a role on the Volleyball committee, it was an issue that was particularly relevant to me at the time. The business plan for Kitlocker itself came from a project I was working on for a 2nd year University module. Whilst I didn’t know I was going to set up in business at that stage, I did feel it was a credible idea; it had the potential to bring about some much needed change in that industry.
Fast-forward to the last 6 months of my University life, and I didn’t really have a clear plan of what to do post graduation. A good friend of mine, and co-founder/current Director suggested we give the business a go, and that was pretty much that! Post graduation I was juggling study towards a professional accountancy qualification and lecturing on my old under graduate degree whilst getting the business off the ground, it was an interesting time!



5.       Is there any advice you would give to someone who is at University or is wanting to start their own business?
It’s never going to be easy but you just have to take the plunge. If you have faith in your business model, it will feel like the right move. You will have to be prepared to work extremely hard and at times it will really test your resilience and belief in your idea. However, university is almost the perfect time to start up, we had very few commitments and enough time to develop the idea and get it off the ground. Most universities nowadays have start-up incubation units too, which should provide invaluable feedback and working space. Unfortunately, we didn’t have this luxury when we started up. So, in a move to keep costs to a minimum, our volleyball coach agreed to allow us to live and work in his attic space - I think we still owe him about 6 months rent!

6.       Where do you see yourself (and your business) in 5 years’ time?
In short, I have almost no idea. Kitlocker is on a great trajectory at the moment, we have some awesome clients, amazing people working within the business and we continually look for ways to improve our offering, so things are very promising. However, I find it tricky to look too far ahead, which I think is because of a fear of complacency!

Kitlocker is in it's 11th year of business and is doing remarkable well! We wish Mike and all of his team and business the best for the future.

Did you set up your own business or participate in a sports team whilst at Hills Road? We want to know! Please feel free to email us: alumni@hillsroad.ac.uk - we look forward to hearing from you soon.

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