Abdelrahman is the Founder and CEO of Guillam Holdings, London. Here, he shares his memories of multicultural friendships, chairing the judo club and how this helped him to raise a seven-figure investment.
Why did you choose to study at Bath?
I chose Bath for a variety of reasons: it’s one of the UK’s best academic universities; it offers a placement year in industry, which is invaluable in helping students get a taste of their chosen career; and it also offers world-class sports facilities. Not only that, but the city is also wonderful!
Did you have a particular career in mind when you chose to study economics?
I was determined to get a job in investment banking. I felt that it would fulfil my interest in both economics and finance, and would ensure I could be involved with various businesses at critical stages of their lifecycle.
I worked at Morgan Stanley in their Sales & Trading department during my placement and realised that, even though I was very excited to join the team, the day-to-day work didn’t appeal much to me. My experience enabled me to know for sure which team I wanted to be part of, and it was indeed investment banking. My placement also helped me to know which programme to go to for further studies and which subjects to focus on.
Can you tell us about your experience of studying here? Any favourite memories, or places to go on campus and in the city?
I loved my time at Bath. I met some incredible people, many of whom are still very close friends to this day. I made the most out of my time on the judo team, becoming chairman of the club during my second year and winning a gold medal at the British Universities and Colleges championships.
I also enjoyed exploring the local coffee shop scene – Bath has some of the most incredible speciality cafes in the UK. My interest in different single-origin coffee beans was sparked during my visits to Colonna & Smalls in the city, and it eventually led to the creation of Guillam Coffee Houses.
What was your experience as an international student studying in the UK? Do you have any advice for others?
My experience has been incredible. I made friends from all over the world and many others who, like me, came from Egypt to study. The University is a melting pot of cultures and an incredible place to easily make friends from different backgrounds. Everyone is friendly and open – and at the top of their game, academically or in sport.
My advice is to be as open as possible and to get out of your comfort zone. Make friends from different backgrounds; don’t settle into your comfort zone of friends from similar backgrounds. Try new sports and activities, and attend as many taster sessions as possible during your first few weeks. Just embrace every opportunity as you never know where it could lead you or the lifetime friendships it could result in.
Describe your career journey since graduating. What is a typical day like in your current role?
After graduation, I pursued a master's in finance at Imperial College London, followed by an internship in the mergers and acquisitions team at Nomura. I then worked in an incredible boutique private equity advisory firm called Campbell Lutyens. These experiences taught me the importance of workplace culture and how much of a difference it makes to the morale and productivity of a team, which was invaluable when I started my own business.
I always had an entrepreneurial leaning and constantly thought of business ideas. I was always picky with my coffee; I was the guy walking around the office with a hand grinder and a Chemex to make fresh pour-over coffee. I then started to think that others would appreciate enjoying the same experience, so I decided to create the café I would like to go to.
I opened our first Guillam Coffee House location in March 2020, just as the pandemic started. Thankfully, what we offered was distinct enough to resonate with the local community. We gained a loyal following for our takeaway offering in the early days of the pandemic and many of our customers would tell us that the highlight of their day was to come to the café, have a quick chat and grab their coffee.
The first coffee house was shortlisted for ‘most notable new café in London’ at the London Coffee Festival. Thankfully, the business grew as Covid restrictions eased. We pride ourselves on the attention we pay to the coffee, curating a changing menu of different coffee beans from all over the world. All of the beans are from traceable provenance, which ensures quality and that farmers get paid fairly for their hard work.
After growing organically to three locations, we have recently taken on a seven-figure minority investment and plan to expand to six sites before the end of 2022. We are also working on creating two sister concepts: a bakery and a healthy food takeaway.
I credit my experience at Bath for equipping me with many of the skills I used to build the business plans and the pitch book, and to execute the transaction.
How did your studies help to develop you?
My experience at Bath was formative in helping me become the person I am today: without it, I don’t think I would have achieved what I have so far. I was intellectually fulfilled, my curiosity was satisfied and I learned the importance of being well-rounded.
What advice would you give to prospective students thinking about studying your course at Bath?
Go for it! Honestly, I can’t imagine a better undergraduate experience. I have met people from numerous universities and degrees, and Bath’s unique offer is unrivalled.