Two themes run through Ravinol Chambers’ life: business and philanthropy.
Growing up in Dublin, Ireland, he had aspirations of becoming a successful stockbroker, but his desire to help others saw him choose to study psychology and spend seven years living as a Hare Krishna monk in East Africa and India.
After moving back into the business world, he sought an MBA to help him with his next move. At Aston Business School in 2007, he was able to combine his two passions, and explore venture philanthropy—profit with purpose became his new drive.
Since graduating, he’s established his own media company focused on social impact. Be Inspired Films produces impact pieces for social enterprises, live streams events and TED Talks, covering themes like corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Ravinol wants to help the organizations he works with develop to their own video strategy—to work out what impact they want to have in the world. He sees feature length social impact documentaries as the next step for his company.
How did the idea for Be Inspired Films come about?
I made two social impact films before my MBA to raise money and awareness of certain issues, one in 1995 when I was a monk working with street children and a second in 2003 when I was working as a mentor with children excluded from education.
These films made an impact and we managed to get what we were doing in front of people who helped, but short term funding wasn't sustainable. It was funding to fail. This started me on the path of venture philanthropy. I wanted to know how you could use business principles in charity work and this was the basis of my research project at Aston Business School.
When I completed the MBA however, I didn’t think of starting my own business straight away. I applied for roles with venture philanthropy organizations, but got frustrated. It was as if they just wanted people from McKinsey or with a consulting background.
It made me ask who is the customer, those you are helping or those who are donating? I started Be Inspired Films with the rise of YouTube and when access to making films had become much easier. The name came from a monk friend’s teaching who passed away—he said find something that inspires you and pursue it and that stuck with me.
How has your MBA helped you develop your business?
The biggest thing it gave me is confidence. This was key—to have confidence to have discussions and operate in an area that I might not have been comfortable in before. I got a better understanding of the components of business.
The research project also connected me with some very senior level people in an exciting emerging area. Some of those relationships stood me in good ground.
CSR was evolving and ideas like sustainable business growing and I was ahead of the curve. The MBA gave me access and a route into an ecosystem of people leading the change through my research project.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at Aston Business School?
People study an MBA for two reasons. There’s a surface reason and a deeper personal reason. For me, I was at a junction in my life and wanted to move to the next level. The personal side was ‘me’ time to help figure out what the next stage was.
I chose Aston for several reasons, the first being location. I Live in Birmingham. Accreditation and reputation were important. The MBA had good standing in the tables and made the investment worthwhile.
I also liked that there was a lot of group work. It wasn’t just about the individual. There was an international cohort. I felt I could learn from the other people on the degree.
Finally, I wanted to research the idea that business and charity didn’t have to be divorced. At the time there was innovation around this and the Aston MBA had top professors and a good ethics element to the degree.
What advice do you have for anyone considering an MBA?
I’d say it’s a wonderful experience both professionally, personally and socially, but it’s not a magic button. It won’t solve all problems and open all doors.
If you’re at a stage where you want to invest in yourself or think about what you’re going to do next, it is well worth the investment. If you know what you want do, a specialized master’s might be better.
Finally, you need to differentiate yourself. There are lots of MBAs. Doing it alone and thinking that everything will change is short-sighted. You have to find something extra to give you that edge.