Sofia Skevofylaka and chasing my Entrepreneurial Dream: Dundee shaped me into the person I am today
Published on 8 February 2022
Sofia’s ambition to take advantage of every opportunity that came her way in Dundee has certainly paid off, as she now realises her entrepreneurial dream back in Greece.
“It started with the city - I really wanted something that reminded me of home. My decision was always Scotland, it was never going to be anywhere else. I had never been to Dundee before deciding on it, but I spoke to students there to find out more about student life. It was a decision of a lifetime, but it was so much fun, it was the best time of my life.
“My Dad gave me some advice that I needed to show everyone my true self. From the moment that I set foot in Dundee, I decided I was going to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way.
“Dundee was so international, and that for me was amazing. I was learning something new about different cultures, every day just by attending classes.
“Dundee offered International Business with Marketing as a course, and I really liked that it would give me a broad focus and I could combine the two subjects. I gained a really good understanding of lots of different modules through the course – economics, accounting, business marketing, the different types of markets, market research.
“My favourite year was fourth year - the courses, such as globalisation, were really interesting. I also enjoyed being able to do some real market research that year and choosing a dissertation in a topic that interested me, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which really helped me later too.”
Sofia also found that there was a tremendous amount of extra-curricular activity that she could get involved in and she is certain that all of these opportunities have helped prepare her for life after university.
“Dundee is like my second home, because it made me the person I am today – it turned me into an adult.
“At the University of Dundee, you can really do anything, anything you want to. I learned all of my life skills from everything outside of class. There are so many societies and volunteering groups, so many representative positions that you can run for, so many jobs that you can get within the University – all helping to give you life skills, in combination with academia.”
In first year, she joined the International Society, the basketball team, was part of the gospel choir and worked with the Events office. She was class rep for BSc International Business with Marketing for each year of her degree. Whilst in second year, she took up the Presidency of the International Society and won the ‘Most Active Society’ award, then going on to win ‘Best Society of the Year’ the next year, still as President.
“We held international events, celebrating culture, almost every week. As well as exploring and getting to know Scotland at the same time.
“I then became part of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) and got elected onto the Societies Council so we represented all of the students views to the DUSA Executive for anything that students might need. In my fourth year, I got elected for SRC International. As part of my work in this role, I collaborated with all of the international societies of the University to do ‘continent days.’ We held days every week where we celebrated different continents, breaking stereotypes for each of them, celebrating traditional food, learning traditional dances etc. Everyone found it so much fun learning about different cultures.”
“I also became a Student Support Assistant. We received mental health training, first-aid training, suicide intervention training, and we were on hand to help first years in University accommodation. I became Deputy for the team after two years, and we then started running events to help first years with feeling lonely and get through the change between leaving school and coming to university.
“These experiences are not only about meeting incredible people, it’s also about trying to make a difference in people’s lives, if you can. Everything I decided to do at Dundee, was because it could help people or the community. This is how Dundee is for me, and the University especially – it’s community and it’s people, everything is about giving back. Everything I did was with the motivation to learn and to be able to give back – and that’s what motivates you to do more.”
Given the breadth and enormity of what Sofia got involved in throughout her time as a student, it is no wonder that she thinks her time at Dundee made her who she is today.
“When I came out of University, I realised that I was, by far, more prepared than anyone else who was 22 years old and from Greece, for example. The opportunities that Dundee gives you is what I would always recommend to any student – they should take full advantage of that whilst being there.”
Sofia’s Dundee journey didn’t end after she graduated, she wanted to make a difference and the DUSA Executive gave her the platform to do it.
“I became Vice President of Student Activities, coordinating 1000 volunteers across the 250 or so societies – and this is where I learned my problem-solving skills. I had so many people depending on me, I was solving issues every day as well as running budgets etc. too. But it was a success, for example we won an award for the ‘Best Freshers Fair’ in Scotland, Ireland and Wales that year.”
The following year, Sofia was successful in running for the Presidency of DUSA.
“It was a really good year, it taught me everything I know about businesses and running a business. In a sense, I was a CEO of an organisation of 350 employees at the age of 23. We had to run budgets, I was a member of The Court and of the Finance Committee. It was an incredible experience.”
After her two years at DUSA, Sofia moved to London to study a Masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Imperial College London. Whilst in London, Sofia decided the time was right for her to start chasing her entrepreneurial dream that had been born at Dundee, and started a business with her mother, who was based in her homeland of Greece.
“Whilst I was at Dundee, I was a member of the Enterprise Gym, now called the Centre for Entrepreneurship. As Vice President, followed by President, we organised activities like the Enterprise Challenge and we also created the Venture Challenge. We were helping start-ups, and this is where my whole passion for start-ups really began. It was something I had always been interested in – I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur.”
“On 3rd September 2019, my Mum and I decided to open our own company together, Hatzi Filax Group, in Greece. Originally, I was in London and she was back home in Athens. It was difficult, I was working part-time, in class full-time, we were on different time zones etc. After Covid hit, I returned to Greece and this is where I started to use everything I had learned. It has been an incredible journey, and things are going really well.
“We focus on customer experience, training and consulting and HR – everything from leadership, managerial skills, soft skills. We want to change people, and their mindsets, and be able to help them transition into a change that the company might be going through.
“The consulting side of our business has really taken off throughout Covid and we have grown as a company, as a result.
“Because of my international experience gained at Dundee, I am able to compare the cultures and structures within companies in Greece, with what I studied and learned. When systems have not been well-organised, I have had good ideas of what recommendations to make, and what to start applying in companies, within our consulting projects. It has been a really good combination between my knowledge from abroad and at Dundee, combined with the expertise of my mother.
“Our team is mostly female, something that we’re really proud of. It’s a female driven business and traditionally, consulting and training areas over here, have not been female driven. We are really happy with what we have achieved so far.
Sofia had a habit of winning awards whilst at Dundee, and her winning streak seems to have continued with her business now as it goes from strength to strength.
“We have achieved two awards. The first was a customer experience award in Greece, around changing cultures to focus on customer experience. Then we got a bronze award for strategically reskilling employees during Covid, by offering customer service and customer experience training.
“What I’ve realised is that, I have been able to apply what I learned in Dundee within running my company. You need so many different skills that you are not aware of, when you want to become an entrepreneur. I was out of my comfort zone very early on, due to Dundee and everything that it offered me. Everything I have done, or every experience that I have had, has come back helping me to grow and become the person I am.”
“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t know how I was going to achieve it. In a way, life brought it to me. It really feels like I am dreaming!
Sofia’s advice for those with similar aspirations to her, is simply to do as she did.
“Say yes to every opportunity, because if you do that throughout your time at Dundee, it will take you higher than anywhere else. Say yes to life, even if you want to say no. You don’t know where it will take you. Don’t be scared of trying and failing, you don’t know what is going to come out of it in the end.
“Life will show you the way, and if not, you’ll show life what the way is.”
“Dundee will always be a second home for me. Every time I speak about Dundee, I have a smile on my face. Staying connected with the University, is so important for me too – there is one part of my heart that literally beats for Dundee.”
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