Claud Williams was one of the first wave of undergraduates who attended the Powerlist Foundation and Deloitte Leadership Programme (PFDLP) in 2011 and since then he has remained so involved with the Foundation that the CEO, Veronica Martin, appointed him as the first Chief Ambassador.
It’s a role he takes “very seriously, which comes with a lot of responsibility because it reflects what the Foundation has done and has accomplished”. Claud devotes much of his time and energy into the Foundation, despite the demands of running his own media consultancy company, Dream Nation.
Being the Chief Ambassador has many advantages, Claud says. “I’ve also grown a lot as a consequence of it because I get to spend a lot of time with the trustees, being in board meetings, working alongside Veronica Martin and really planning and understanding what it takes to build such a Foundation.”
Giving back comes naturally to him. Even when studying at Loughborough University, near Leicester, he dedicated much free time to various students’ union activities. Being self-employed now allows time to be flexible with his commitments. He also realised that Veronica needed help with the volume of work it all entails.
Even though he only turned 26 in February, Claud has run his own companies before starting Dream Nation so long hours and immense responsibility is nothing new. The ambassadorial role has helped raise his profile and another, more tangible plus, is that he will soon receive a contract with a company which is run by one of the Powerlist Foundation’s trustees.
Ken Olisa, OBE, the Powerlist Foundation Chair, has inspired Claud. “I’ve learnt so much from watching how he conducts himself and the way he leads” he says. “And also Janet Thomas (a trustee) and her partner have been instrumental in supporting me. They gave me a lot of great advice and helped me with a lot of issues about being a successful entrepreneur, especially in the black community. And they’ve also been clients of mine as well.”
Claud became the Powerlist Foundation’s Ambassador two years ago and then the Chief Ambassador last year because there is a need to recruit more ambassadors.
Dream Nation began in 2013 with a launch event in Brick Lane, east London. At the time Claud was running two media consultancy companies and although successful he wasn’t passionate about growing them.
Even though financially they were successful and Loughborough University was his main client, Claud’s motivation was low. He went into a period of self-discovery and two autobiographies in particular – by Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X – inspired him, mainly because they literally died for their cause. “As a consequence of the hard work and sacrifices they made, they changed the world.”
Around the same time Claud was invited to give a TEDx talk. TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a nonprofit started in California in 1984 devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED covers many international topics – from science to business to global issues. Bill Gates and Sir Richard Branson have been past speakers.
Giving a TEDx talk was a burning ambition for Claud so he was thrilled to be invited to do so at Loughborough University having won both of its business contests that year, the university’s first ever achievement of that nature. The topic of the talk in 2013 was on ‘Why I Make Friends with Strangers’, to convey why networking is important for not only what you can get out of a contact but also the intrinsic value of connecting with people. Reading the book Think and Grow Rich also inspired him to develop the concept of ‘practical dreaming’.
His TEDx talk also coincided with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech so Claud used that date – 20 August – to launch his event and 120 tickets were sold out in six days. Shrewdly, he allowed attendees to pay whatever they wanted for the tickets and that was a resounding success with the average being £15.50. They also live streamed the event which received plenty of positive feedback.
Loughborough University invited him to become part of their investment programme for start-up businesses. Around that time Claud decided to shut down his two businesses with his best friend and business partner to concentrate on Dream Nation.
Through editorials and events, Dream Nation promotes clients’ businesses. They have three main events a year, attended by mainly aspiring black youngsters aged 18-30 who hear motivational speeches from successful entrepreneurs. Core revenue is generated by advertising and sponsorship deals. Dream Nation’s three biggest clients are in the FTSE 250.
The company’s unique selling point is that they have “a relationship with their audience which most marketing firms don’t have” and also their huge presence on social media. For example, two events Dream Nation organised last year trended on Twitter with a combined figure of six million impressions.
Besides Claud the other full-timers are Tobi Akingbade, the editor-in-chief and Feruza Afewerki, the creative director. Robert Amissah is one of 20 others that contribute to Dream Nation’s set-up.
Claud attended the inaugural PFDLP on the advice of a trusted friend, Yeti, and found it to be an “amazing event to be a part of”. Piers Linney, the former Dragon’s Den investor and Trustee of the Powerlist Foundation, was Claud’s mentor. Veronica Martin became his mentor the following year.
“The key element of the PFDLP was being able to develop close relationships and it’s had a really big impact on me,” he says. “The Powerlist Foundation was the inflection point that changed the trajectory of my career. It opened my mind up to how many possibilities there are in the world and gave me the confidence to know that I can actually go for it.”
His advice to students considering attending the 2016 PFDLP in July is to take their application very seriously because competition for the 60 places has become extremely competitive. Attending the programme – as many can testify – is potentially “a life-changing experience”.
The west Londoner lives in Greenford and makes the trek across town to his offices in Hackney every day. His parents are Jamaican. Dad is from White House, Westmoreland and mother is from Trelawny. Claud has visited Jamaica often and would love to make a contribution there one day.
A keen basketball player at school, his ambition was, if not playing in the pros for a National Basketball Association team in America, to become a coach for a team in that league. His school, Cardinal Wiseman, were national champions and Claud was an outstanding player. A knee injury thwarted his ambitions although he did organise successful basketball training camps and tournaments aged 17 while in the sixth form after his hoop dreams were shattered through his first business, Cosmic Sports. Claud attributes its success to listening intently to those around him and creating the tournament to their specifications.
Sports promotion was his intended career, but in his first year at university, he “fell in love with photography” which he made “a significant amount of money from”. That led to him changing direction to “a media pathway” and Dream Nation eventually evolved from that.
Time does not allow heavy involvement in photography anymore, but he does mentor aspiring photographers. One of his mentees, Ali Foroughi, founded the magazine Jungle which is thriving.
A “big fan of meditation”, Claud relaxes with two short sessions a day. He loves reading personal development books. Maybe one day he might write one himself.
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