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Catching up with...Richard Walton

Richard WaltonThis month we caught up with Kingston Business School alumnus Richard Walton. Following his graduation in 1998, Richard founded his first successful company at the age of 21. A renowned entrepreneur, Richard is now head and founder of Avirtual, based in South Africa. Due to his insight in the business world and his strong belief in the importance of work-life balance, Richard has been featured in publications, such as the Times, the Financial Times and SUCCESS magazine.

What have you been up to since graduating?

Well it's been a while! Over 20 years actually. I started my first business straight out of university, which is still running today, called GVI. It's a volunteer abroad organisation and we are celebrating our 20 year anniversary in a few months. Since then, I have started a few other businesses including a safari field guide training school, and more recently a virtual PA business which I run from Cape Town South Africa.

Why did you choose Kingston?

Before making my final decision, I visited different universities to get the feel of them and see if I could fit in well. There was no question about it, Kingston was the one for me. The creative and diverse atmosphere that surrounds the whole establishment made me feel at home instantly. Safe to say that I never regretted my choice!

What are your best memories from your student days at Kingston?

I don't think anything will ever beat the incredible group of people that I met at Kingston. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who helped shape me and become the man I am today. This is definitely something I will never forget and always be grateful for.

What are your best memories from your student days at Kingston?

My life at Kingston was very difficult. My father died during my first year, and as an only child I did all I could to help my mother. I had a couple of jobs to help both of us financially, and I went home most weekends to make sure that my mother was well. However, I am still good friends with Professor Upex and Terence Rocca. It is these friendships that give me my best memories. 

Have you been back to Kingston since graduating?

Of course! I always make a point to visit the University whenever I am back in the UK. My children always accompany me during these trips, and I am hoping that at least one of them will become a Kingston student soon.

Are you still in touch with anyone from Kingston?

Yes, very much so but sadly mostly remotely due to having lived and worked overseas for the last 17 years.

What's your greatest achievement?

I am proud of many things but from a business point of view, it's my latest venture, the virtual PA company AVirtual. Setting up a business in a developing country was very tough but I get a huge sense of achievement about creating jobs in a country that so desperately needs them.

What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?

Great question! I recently wrote an article on this very topic for the entrepreneurs' association EO. Here is an extract: "Make the most of your fearlessness. It won't be the same when you're 40 with a family and bills to pay. The best opportunities lie in the unknown, and to find it, you have to get out and do it— don't worry about being younger than everyone else. No one cares."

You can view the full article here.

What advice would you give current students on the Business Studies programme at Kingston?

Two things spring to mind. Find a mentor or mentors, you don't want to stop learning when you leave. People love to help so don't be shy, just ask. Following on from this, start building your professional network now. Attend meet ups, industry events, anything you have an interest in and start meeting people.

Tell us something no one would guess about you.

When I have had a few drinks I can sing Italian opera, I have no idea where that ‘skill' came from!

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