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How I Took The Triple Jump Into Entrepreneurship With An MBA At EDHEC

Oliver Lyons is one half of the husband and wife duo behind photographer hiring platform Shoot Social. He took his first startup through an MBA at EDHEC

After five years in finance, Oliver Lyons quit his job, moved to France with his wife, Katy, and took the leap into entrepreneurship. Together, they founded Shoot Social.

Shoot Social is a one-stop shop for hiring photographer talent. The on-demand platform brings a community of world-class photographers together in one dedicated space, making it easier to hire internationally.

The husband and wife duo were set to launch earlier this year. But when the birth of their first startup coincided with the birth of their first daughter, launch plans were put on hold.

Now, they’re ready. And Oliver aims to conquer photography before taking on the entire creative space. He wouldn’t be where he is today without EDHEC Business School’s full-time MBA.

QS ranked the 10-month EDHEC MBA first in Europe for entrepreneurship in 2015. And after moving from London to Nice, it was there that Oliver gained the tools he needed to make the triple jump – changing role, industry and location – and start his first business.

How did the idea to start your own business come about?

Katy used to work for a company that published in-flight magazines and she had to hire photographers all around the world to do shoots in different locations.

She found it was tough to find fresh freelance photographer talent. There wasn’t a centralized, dedicated, global database for freelance photographers to be easily discovered and hired. So we came up with the idea for Shoot Social.

What do you hope to achieve?

Our initial focus is to build a core database of talented freelance photographers. If we get good traction in the photography space, we want to branch out to videographers as well.

Ultimately, whether you want to find a talented producer, stylist, even hair and makeup artists, we want to be the one-stop shop for the hiring needs of the creative industry.

How has EDHEC supported you in starting your own business?                             

Without the EDHEC MBA, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to break out of finance and make the leap into entrepreneurship.

I did the initial business plan for Shoot Social as part of the MBA summer project. And throughout the entrepreneurship track, I got incredibly useful feedback which helped us to refine all these big ideas we had for the company into a minimum viable product.

How have you found having your wife as your business partner?

It can be challenging at times, but it’s worked very well so far. We both bring very different value to the business.

Katy’s got the industry expertise – she worked at Getty Images where she directed a roster of photographers - while I’ve got the business and operational acumen to drive the business forward.

Our first daughter was born earlier this year. The platform was almost ready for launch but it would have taken too much focus away from looking after her. At the end of the day, marriage and babies will always come before business.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at EDHEC?

I was ready for a fresh direction and I wanted to do something more creative. We already had the idea for Shoot Social. I looked into EDHEC, which had a good focus on entrepreneurship, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go and develop the idea within an MBA framework.

EDHEC offers incredible value for money, compared to say INSEAD which charges almost double the tuition fees. It has a startup incubator which is free to use for any EDHEC alumni. And the Location on the French Riviera is a massive bonus.

What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?

Look for value for money, a hands-on learning environment, and diversity of candidates so you can learn from as broad a collective experience as possible.

For those looking to make a career change post-MBA, don't be afraid to take the leap and pivot in a totally different direction. A good quality MBA will vastly enhance your belief in your own abilities and will well equip you with the tools you need to do it.

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