Tag Archives: enterprise

Kevin McCabe – Cardiff Martial Arts

IMG_3220Cardiff Martial Arts is a martial arts tuition business. The man behind it is Kevin McCabe, and, under his guidance, the company runs approximately 25 classes a week across the Welsh capital. Kevin has also founded two other businesses, Cardiff Sports Massage and TKD Supplies.

It is safe to say that Kevin did not follow the path of the standard Astrophysics graduate, starting Cardiff Martial Arts shortly after graduation: “I don’t regret going to university at all, but I didn’t want to do a postgraduate course or go into research. I’d had my fill of science.” But his current work isn’t such a far cry from his undergrad degree. “I often talk about things like kinetic energy and the principles that underpin the sciences, and apply it to athletic movement.”

Kevin describes Cardiff Martial Arts as something that resulted from a long held interest. “I started training myself when I was eight. This is something I’ve always done, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.” He reminisces: “I remember telling my parents when I was very young that I wanted to be a taekwondo instructor like my teacher at the time. They always told me I could do that, but it didn’t really hit home until I was 22 or so.”

Was starting a business worth it? Kevin clearly thinks so. “The best thing about my job is that it doesn’t feel like a job. I’m very fortunate that I do something I love for a living, and that people are happy to pay me for the privilege. It’s very nice not having to slave away at something I don’t enjoy. I often say to people that the main benefit of being self-employed is that you can so something you’re passionate about.”

Kevin has taken that passion and now serves about 250 people across the capital. Sample classes include Little Dragons, which focuses on early years tuition, and a kickboxing class aimed at teenagers and adults. “My youngest student is 4, and the eldest is nearly 60.” Many of Kevin’s clients are children. “It’s important to me that we attract families and encourage people to do things together,” he explains. “There’s a phrase that I read a few years ago, which says that ‘A family that trains together stays together.’”

Having a diverse client base is a point of pride for Kevin. “There’s one venue in particular in a culturally and ethnically diverse area that I teach classes in, and I’m quite proud of that. It reflects the larger community that we’re in. I think that to bring all sorts of people together into a Taekwondo class where they’re all treated equally and wearing the same uniform is great,” he says. “Sport is the greatest leveller.”

When Kevin started out, he was a member of Puma Martial Arts, who he describes as instrumental in terms of the assistance they gave him in starting his business. “I had seen other friends and colleagues start up clubs and make them a full time business.” He had a small inheritance he used to get started, and now, Kevin is a member of the International Taekwondo Federation, a body that extends far beyond the boundaries of the UK. “Through the ITF, I have regular training myself, and there are instructor courses and organisational courses that the organisation provides.”

Kevin didn’t always imagine himself as somebody who would start a business of his own, let along three, and attributes his success to communication with his clients. “There are plenty of people who are very skilled in their area of expertise, but don’t perhaps have the people skills and charisma to follow through and build a business out of it.”

“I’ve always believe that people buy people. You could be the best martial artist in the world, but if you lack that ability to communicate, you won’t be able to teach.” He continues: “Communication skills and people skills are hugely important, and those are skills you get in most degrees as a result of working in seminars and on collaborative projects. Those are skills I picked up on my degree and when I trained in taekwondo classes as a child, and having that confidence to relate to people and to communicate effectively has enabled me to succeed.”

Fact file:

Name: Kevin McCabe
Business: Cardiff Martial Arts
Martial Arts tuition
Degree studied: BSc Astrophysics
Graduated 2005
Location: Cardiff

Marc Thomas – Plastik Magazine

Marc Thomas is a freelance publisher and journalist based in Cardiff. Marc is a former Cardiff Student, studying European Studies at undergraduate level and following this with postgraduate study in Magazine Journalism. He now runs Plastik, a blog about the city’s culture, and is involved in a number of projects including Swn Festival and the Welsh Music Prize. In his own words, Marc Thomas does lots of different things.

“Really, what I do is a mixture of journalism and design – usually, publishing.” All of Marcs’ work is undertaken on a freelance basis, but “rarely in a conventional sense.” “I don’t write for magazines; I normally make them. An organisation will say to me that they have an event coming up, or that they have a project they need to make sense of [and need a magazine made], and I’ll produce something for them.”

Marc says that he got into design “by accident,” having done a number of pieces of work over the course of his studies. He began to write more about the subject, and, learning a lot through that, took the time to get better at it. He widened his portfolio of skills, and is now able to code and build websites from scratch.

These aren’t skills he learned as part of his undergraduate qualification, but it was his Erasmus year that gave him the idea to start publishing Plastik. “I looked at cities like Paris, that had an established culture of their own, and when I returned to Cardiff, I saw it as a city in a sort of flux.”

Plastik cost “basically nothing” to start, and Marc began his work without contacts. The website is ad-free, and does not turn a revenue, but Marc has built a business off the back of it; Plastik is the first thing that his clients and contacts see. “I wrote to people I thought were interesting and interviewed them, learning all I could. In turn, I ended up building relations with these people that fed back into my work. It was all cyclical.”

Lots of people start websites, blogs, and digital publications; the cost associated with doing so is very low, but competition is fierce. So what’s the secret to trading successfully? Marc explains: “In practical terms, you have to follow the money. People don’t want to fund the creative industries the same way they want to fund science and technology.” But it runs deeper than that. “You can’t try and be someone else. Every publication, every brand is different – they’re for different places and different people. You can’t replicate them.”

He says the most important thing is to produce quality work. “You can be as well-known or popular as you want, but if you don’t produce good work, none of it matters. I never wanted to be the sort of person who produced second rate work to get ahead. Of course, it’s basically an iterative process – it’s inevitable that in six months’ time, you’ll see flaws with everything you’re doing now, but you should be happy in the moment. It’s the only way to reach the point where you start creating things that are enduring.”

Fact file:

Name: Marc Thomas
Business: Plastik Magazine
Freelance Journalist and Publisher
Degree studied: MA Magazine Journalism
Graduated 2011
Location: Cardiff

Graduate Successes

At Cardiff University Enterprise, we’re dedicated to enriching the lives of staff and students and assisting them in bringing their ideas to life. But our work doesn’t stop there: we’re also on hand to offer support and networking services to our graduates.

We’ve reached out to some of our graduates who’ve gone on to start successful businesses of their own, producing a series of case studies. These case studies showcase the achievements of some of Cardiff University’s brightest alumni, both in terms of their current business and the journey that took them there.

Case studies:


Marketing Assistant Wanted

A Cardiff University Graduate business is looking for a Marketing assistance with passion and flare. Candidates should be social media savvy and have an entrepreneurial outlook to help the growth of the business.

This is a fantastic opportunity to get hands on experience with a young passionate company, working an exciting industry, and across a number of disciplines.

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End of the "EVO Triangle"

Adventure Sundays

Any of you who’ve met me will know I’ve got the most Home Counties Accent, ever. This affords me a few funny moments, especially during time I’ve spent in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In fact just anywhere outside of the Home Counties.

I’ve been in Launceston in Cornwall and people have asked if I’m from there. In Dundee people thought I was from Oxford, and in Wales, pretty much everyone thinks I’m from London. In Belfast people thought I was from Edinburgh. I think the best one was in Dundee: an international student on my course told me my accent was “really difficult to understand compared to [my friend from] Yorkshire”. I’m baffled. But it always reminds me that not one section of the UK (or the world) are the same and we can always learn more about somewhere new.

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Femme Fatale

Gone are the days where women were looked down upon, harassed or thought to be incapable to work side by side as men. Patriarchy will slowly become a thing of the past. In honour of Women’s Day, Mother’s Day ( and EVERYDAY to be fair), this blog post is a tribute to inspirational women around the world who have not only established themselves as entrepreneurs, but some of the best darn business people from around the world, side by side with their male counterparts.

The following is a list of the Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs gathered from the interwebz.

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Cardiff Award: It’s a Bit Special…

Having worked at a few universities during my career, I would like to highlight something that I think is a bit special about Cardiff.  Cardiff University has an employability award called the Cardiff Award.  It is endorsed by various internal strategies, but most importantly by an ever growing list of employers.  The Award has been established to recognise the employability skills that Cardiff students can gain through extra-curricular activities.  Within the Award students can volunteer, attend development workshops, or do something close to my heart, like gain an enterprise experience!

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