Alumni interview with Timea Ella Jonas
How do you remember your IBS studies? How do you remember your IBS studies?
I completed the BABS and IAA certificate in marketing communications in 2014. My professional profile up until today lies in marketing-driven innovation with a focus on business. I have good memories of many professors and looking back I am grateful to all of them. Not all of them were my favourite, mainly because their subject wasn’t my favourite, however, all of the professors that taught me were professionals in their subject and above all knowledgeable and motivated in their field. If I need to highlight a few Prof. Kárász Zsófia is on top of my list for encouraging me to write about a non-traditional dissertation topic. Prof. Alan Godsave for the case study based education approach, teaching us marketing fundamentals through real-life examples. Prof. Gonda György for introduction to change management, one of the most difficult but vital parts of every business. Last but not least, one of the operational staff, Etelka Dombora for support in every matter. My partner Andras Szecskay completed his studies as a BAIBR professional back in 2008, with a major interest in marketing focusing on sport and event management.
What were the major steps in your career before setting up your present business?
After graduation, we both found ourselves at multinationals. I started working for Heineken during my placement year, worked there during my last year of studies and stayed there after graduation for another year. I had many different roles at Heineken working on different brands however the best career shift within Heineken was accepting a position in the innovation department. The work consisted of inventing new brand extensions, brands and categories - a heaven for a marketer. Andras had already been working for a while at E.On in the marketing department, I believe one of his favourite assignments was working on E.On’s sponsorship of the 2012 London Olympics. Andras quit his office job in late 2013 to make a shift in his work-life balance, giving life more space. He made a bold move and moved to Switzerland to follow his dreams and start his own business in the field of outdoor sports.
What is Singetrail? How did the idea occur to you?
Singletrail is a mountain bike coaching and guiding company, providing active getaways in the Swiss Alps. The establishment of Singletrail was a strategic decision in which we reviewed the competition in the resort and after a few business plan scenarios, we decided that investing in mountain biking tourism could potentially bring good returns. We launched Singletrail Verbier in June 2017, after an eight-month-long preparation period of applying for the work permits, setting up the company, defining a competitive product portfolio and creating a visual identity. It wasn’t easy. In the first months of the project, I was still working as a product manager in a local Swiss startup and Andras was pursuing his snow sports instructor qualification. The 2016/2017 winter was full-on: a lot of late working hours, no weekends or holidays.
How is the business going?
We are closing our first season at the end of October, therefore, we have a month and a half to go to achieve our targets. So far we have had clients from all over the world; Brazil, Iceland, Canada, the UK, and Sweden. Furthermore, we already have bookings for next year! The brand performance indicators are great, Singletrail is becoming a “real-brand” on the Swiss summer tourism market. It is fantastic to meet with other mountain bikers at various events and hear that they follow Singletrail on social media, or that they got a flyer or a sticker, that they heard about it from friends etc. Regarding the first year’s financial performance, we break even on the operational costs - which I think is something we can be proud of.
What are your plans for the future?
At the moment we are planning an extended sales strategy for next year, launching a new affordable product line and looking to extend the sales channels. We are also looking into the scenarios of launching Singletrail in other resorts. Furthermore, as the nature of business is seasonal to extend the season and ensure a year-round revenue we are looking forward to launching a snow sports product in the near future. The 5-year plan is aggressive, but achievable: Multi resort summer tourism product with Singletrail and a Winter product in Verbier. As a true entrepreneur, you cannot stop on one project, when I am not busy with Singletrail I am working on a consulting and advertising agency concept called www.pretzelcreatives.com we will launch at the end of this year so watch this space.
In what ways did your studies at IBS played a role in your career and setting up your business?
The education standards of IBS are unique and competitive in the higher education market due to the practice-based approach. IBS provides its students with a good foundation and the degree opens the doors towards the next career step. Unless you have the idea of the next Facebook it is good to finish your education, get into a good trainee program and fight yourself up to the manager level. The education process does not stop when you finish university, the knowledge that you pursue working on real projects with mentors it as valuable as the degree. To sum up, the reputation of IBS degree gave me opportunities. I was well equipped with the CV and motivational letter that I had learnt to write at IBS, and a basic but applicable knowledge. When the interviewers asked questions I knew what to answer. How IBS helped me setting up my own business? For example, we needed to submit a proper 20-page business plan and I learned the basics of writing a business plan in IBS. Every company requires an accounting practise - I learned the basics of accounting in IBS. PR plan? Choosing the right legal form of the company? All thanks to IBS.