Business focus: Carl Hopkins reveals new side to Secret Millionaire
Dec 29 2009 by Henryk Zientek, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
Businees focus: Carl Hopkins reveals new side to Secret Millionaire
BUSINESS is truly a pleasure for Carl Hopkins.
The Brighouse-based star of Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire says: “I like working with enthusiastic people who are starting up or running their own business.
“I enjoy talking to groups of young people about their ideas for new businesses and I enjoy helping people celebrate their successes.
“Work is something you do when you would rather be doing something else. I am really fortunate because what I do doesn’t seem like work to me.”
Carl is keen to help others discover the opportunities that a career in business can create. He is regularly invited to talk to classrooms of children.
“When the teacher says they are going to meet a man who has been on television, that grabs their attention,” he says.
“There are plenty of people better qualified to talk to them that me, but being ‘off the tele’ adds a bit of sparkle.
“I talk to kids in schools in less than glamorous areas where they all want to be footballers or the next Jordan. I try to get across the fact that the ‘grey and boring’ people they see in suits and ties actually represent an interesting career option.
“There are only so many people who will become footballers or models, but I believe that anyone can go into business – open a nail bar or a garage, for example – if they have the right support.”
His enthusiasm for encouraging ambition among the young stems in part from his own experiences.
“I wanted to be a fireman when I was small,” he says. “We had a visit to school from the fire brigade when I was five. I was quite big for my age, so I got to wear the fireman’s outfit. That was my ambition at the time – until I suddenly realised ‘I could be killed doing this job’.
“When I was a bit older I wanted to be Peter Lorimer, but I didn’t have the ability.
“I realised the thing I was a bit better at than some of the others was art and drawing.
“Only by accident – at the age of 13 or 14 – I met a girl who said she went to Leeds College of Art. I didn’t even know such a place existed.
“I went out to find it and once I was in that environment everything I wanted to talk about, everyone was talking about.”
He also recalls standing in his school playground in Leeds and thinking: “I can see my house from here, I can see the high school I went to – and I can see Armley prison, where I thought I might end up!”
For Carl, taking a route into business meant broadening those horizons.
With a background in commercial art, Carl began his career in earnest in 1984 when he joined Bradford-based marketing agency Judith Donovan Associates.
He rose through the ranks and took over the business in 2000 as managing director following a successful management buy-out.
From 2000 to 2005, Carl expanded the agency from 48 to 75 staff, taking turnover from £9.6m to more than £19m and tripling its profits.
In 2003, he co-ordinated the takeover of Warrington-based advertising and PR agency Blueprint and became chairman until the sale of the business two years later.
Then he took two years out of the business limelight. During that time he married his wife, Stefanie, and the couple now have a six-month-old son, Zachary. Carl also has a 14-year-old son, Adam.
“I took the time to set myself some new goals,” he says. I had enjoyed a 23-year career in marketing and advertising, but I wanted to reinvent myself.
“I wanted to invest in business, start new businesses and take up a non-executive role. I completed all that in three months.
“I spent a lot of time visiting businesses and I find myself on the road a lot. My only rule is I don’t do business before 10am or after 4pm.”
Now Carl runs kloog – a business “angel” service where he shares some of the experiences he has garnered during his career with other businesses – and heads web-based recruitment business agencybods.co.uk.
He is also a non-executive director of regional businesswomen’s networking group Forward Ladies and has investments in other businesses, including fundraising site JumbleAid.com, Joblink Systems, M&H Wellbeing and Parties Around the World.
He takes his responsibilities equally seriously when it comes to the subject of “corporate social responsibility” – and urges other business people to commit to supporting worthy causes.
As one of the subjects of Secret Millionaire, Carl spent 10 days in the once-thriving north-east colliery town of Easington – and ended up giving £42,000 of his own money to support worthwhile projects, including the colliery brass band, a city farm and the local miners’ welfare club.
Carl recalls some criticism from people who viewed his appearing on the programme as an exercise in self-interest.
“That programme wasn’t about me,” he says. “It was about raising the profile of causes that need support and those fantastic people who get up every day to help their communities. I hope it makes people ask questions about the needs of their local community.
“If I am helping Easington’s colliery band, who’s supporting Brighouse and Rastrick or Black Dyke Mills? And if organisations can use their brands to get publicity for those causes, what’s wrong with that?
“I went back to Easingwold last month to volunteer to do some digging on the allotments.
“There were 12 volunteers from Northumbrian Water because that company has a policy of encouraging all employees to do voluntary work.”
Carl appears contented with his lot.
“A third of my time is spent promoting business and enterprise at schools, colleges and universities – speaking at conferences and presenting prizes at awards nights.
“A third of my time is involved in businesses that raise money for charities.
“And a third of the time I spend with businesses in which I have invested, giving advice to enthusiastic, ambitious people with fantastic ideas.
“I am fortunate to have the opportunity to make choices about the things I want to do. I talk to kids about what being successful.
“My advice is that being able to make choices is as good a measure of success as any.”