Yesika Aguilera, alumna, BA Marketing with Human Resources
Yesika Aguilera was recently hailed as one of 30 entrepreneurs under 30 to watch by Forbes magazine and is a board mentor for the Queen’s Young Leaders scheme
I never thought of becoming an entrepreneur
Throughout my degree, and after I graduated, my focus was very much on coaching and self-development. I was a lead student ambassador, I ran business summer schools, I supported the admissions team at LSBU and I had my own project helping people with their UCAS applications. Being from a developing country myself – I’m half Bolivian and half Japanese – I felt I had a real insight into the struggles many international students were facing, trying to navigate their way through this alien environment.
I had to choose: stick with what I knew or take a leap in to the unknown. When the other Tespack co-founders approached me, I was really interested but I had a lot to lose. I found the vision of the future of energy was so exciting, but it wasn’t exactly a compelling offer – no salary, no holidays, no security! Plus I was going from a world where I was an expert to one where I’d be starting from scratch, and I’d need to move to a new country too. But the safe option isn’t always the best option, and you can’t plan everything in life.
I believe that mobile working is the future
That’s really what Tespack is about – enabling people to stay connected. Employers talk about keeping employees happy by giving them greater flexibility to choose when, where and how they work, but that’s not much use if you need to be connected to a wall socket every two hours. Imagine if instead of that you could simply carry something that looked cool, felt comfortable and generated all the energy you needed in a totally renewable way, through solar panels? That’s the idea behind our backpacks.
Ahead of the competition
We’re always looking for ways to stay ahead of the competition. Our products might look slick but they’re incredibly tough – we test them in Antarctica, in the desert, at the top of Kilimanjaro with scientists and Astronauts – they generate enough power for a laptop or a projector. That opens up so many possibilities, for example taking education into remote areas. We’re also developing an app that will enable the products to ‘talk’ to the user, telling them how to maximise energy generation and use them more efficiently.
Right now, I spend my life on the road
Tespack is based in Finland, so I’ve relocated there from London. Our R&D centre is in Valencia – you need a decent amount of sun to test products based on solar panels! And I just got back from Saudi Arabia, where I was meeting representatives from the government and various universities that we have added to our network. We’re already working with more than 20 worldwide, as well as with corporate partners including TomTom, Microsoft, Vodafone and NGOs such as Red Cross and Save the Children.
Tespack has grown beyond any of our wildest dreams. When I joined there were only five of us; now there are 15, but we’re achieving so much, it feels like there are more. From selling only in Finland, we now have customers all over the world and we just launched the websites in Spain, the UK, the US and soon Middle East. We’ve just started testing our new solar smart helmet, and we’ve raised more than €2.4m from investors to support our future plans. In five years’ time, I’d like us to be the go-to provider for energy outside the home. That’s the goal.
To be a good entrepreneur, you have to be flexible. You can’t just do what your job title says, you’ve got to be prepared to turn your hand to anything. You need to be 100% committed, of course, but you also need to be yourself. The very things that made me an outsider in the tech sector – being young, being a woman, being from another country, and coming from a non-technical background – are the things that make me stand out from the crowd. They’ve also made the journey a lot more fun and shaped me into the person and entrepreneur I am today.
Take care of yourself
Take work seriously, but don’t forget about yourself
That’s definitely a mistake I’ve made in the past (I can be a bit of a workaholic). But I’ve learned now that if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t give as much to the business. It’s important to take time out for family and people close to you, to go to the gym, to eat properly. I’m more energetic as a result. Do I have the balance right? I think most entrepreneurs would say that’s a work in progress. But I’m getting there.
Tespack was founded by CEO Mario Aguilera (BSc Economics, 2007), along with co-founders COO Caritta Seppa (BA International Politics, 2011), Yesika Aguilera and Chief of Sales Sami Pfaler.