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Sustainability Matters

09 Jun

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In the first of a series of articles about sustainability for, freelance writer and translator Sonia Trubia examines the increased awareness of environmental sustainability in Italy, the UK and other countries. She looks at some global data about energy use as well as the European situation. Although Italy has one of the best records in terms of renewables, among businesses in the country there is still some catching up to do with other European countries. Sonia also highlights a project in Italy which seeks to reduce the impact of cultural events on the environment, and a WWF report proposing a zero emissions model of development for the Italian region of Liguria.

Edited by Robert Dennis.

Does Sustainability leave you cold?

Many readers will grumble as soon as they read the title of this post and guess that this is just another article about renewable energy and “going green”, because, let’s face it, it’s not a very entertaining or even interesting topic for most people. Whenever someone admits that they’re not really interested in environmental issues, there is always another person who reacts in the most predictable way and asks “How can you not care about the planet we live on?”

Well, indifference is often the natural consequence of ignorance. In 2013, Ucilia Wang, a contributor to the American magazine Forbes, wrote a brief article which opened with an apparently elementary question: “Is the centre of the Earth hot or cold?” The question was asked to all those who cared to stop by the booth of a geothermal energy industry group during Earth Day, in Washington D.C., a couple of years earlier. As it turned out, most of them thought that the Earth’s inner core is cold. This answer, besides being indicative of a disturbing level of ignorance in basic scientific principles, points to a bigger issue: the general public don’t know enough to be able to really care about sustainability. Wang writes that one effective strategy to bridge such a gap is to make things more personal, for example by informing people that solar panels are an effective way for them to save money on their utility bills. But of course, that is just the beginning. Raising the public’s awareness is not easy, especially where complex numbers, graphs and technical jargon are involved. So, I have tried to summarise the most important developments in the field of clean energy, which have taken place over the past two years (numbers and percentages are a necessary evil, I’m afraid), with a particular focus on Italy and the United Kingdom.



Who gets gold in the “Green Olympics”?

In 2014, the Handelsblatt Research Institute, in Germany, published a comparative analysis of the energy policy of 24 countries, 19 of which belong to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), plus the five major global emerging economies, commonly known as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The research, entitled “New Impulses For The Energy Revolution” ranked the countries according to two main goals: the avoidance of CO2 emissions (the major cause of global warming and ocean acidification) and the increased use of renewable energy sources. Unsurprisingly, two Scandinavian countries, Sweden and Norway, won both top spots, followed by Switzerland, Denmark and Austria in third place. And while the UK ranked 14th, Italy made the top 10, coming 9th. As the report states, the Bel Paese owes this result to the exploitation of its many natural resources, especially “wind power and solar energy. The country also has modern gas power stations at its disposal,” though electricity costs remain high because of Italy’s reliance on imports. In spite of this, Italy ranked third, behind Denmark and the US, in the “Dynamics” category, which takes into account and compares the progress made over the previous five years in the development of sustainable solutions and renewable energies. In particular, solar energy has gained more and more importance in Italy and today, together with hydroelectric power, is the most prominent clean energy source. Furthermore, Italy was praised in the report for being the first industrial country to abandon nuclear energy after the disaster of Chernobyl (through a referendum in 1987) and the country is thought to be likely to improve even more in the field of sustainability, thanks to an ideal climate for the development of solar and wind power. The United Kingdom ranks 11th: even though it’s considered the best location for wind power in Europe and one of the most important in the world, the rate of CO2 emissions is still very high compared to other countries, and although the research suggests that progress is being made, points were deducted during the evaluation mainly because of rising energy costs.

O sole mio: solar power in Italy

A year later, in 2015, it was reported that in Italy clean forms of energy had increased to cover the whole country, with 800,000 structures contributing 38.2% of total electricity consumption. In addition, Italy is currently the country in which most solar energy is used in proportion to its electricity production. The United Kingdom, as predicted, saw wind power triumph – a source of energy which is gradually replacing gas and coal (the use of the former, in particular, dropped by a fifth in 7 years, from 2005 to 2012). While in 2013, only 15% of the nation’s electricity was produced by renewable means, in 2015 this figure had increased by 10 percentage points, meaning that a quarter of Britain’s electrical energy originated from clean sources. This implies that Great Britain will probably be able to reach the target set by the EU, demanding that by 2020, 15% of overall energy consumption be derived from renewable sources. (Although of course, this commitment to this could subsequently change depending on the result of the forthcoming referendum on EU membership).

Italian companies: could do better

Unfortunately, Italian corporations are not up to speed when it comes to environmental sustainability. In January, Corporate Knights, a media and investment advisory company based in Toronto, published its annual Global 100 Index for the year 2016, a list of the hundred most sustainable corporations in the world. According to the report, the company which managed to reduce its environmental impact the most is BMW (somewhat ironically for the German car sector, given the ongoing concerns over emissions testing). The two countries which boast the greatest number of companies listed in the Index are the United States and France, with 19 and 11 respectively. In third place comes the UK with 9 companies (from the Reckitt Benckiser Group in 9th place to Pearson in 82nd), whilst only one Italian company was included in the list: Eni, the oil, gas and consumable fuels company, which ranked 29th.

Sources for this section: and the Report on Renewable Energies by the GSE (December 2015).


Sustainable Italy

It will take time and effort not only to raise public awareness on a global scale, but also to convince people that the problems of waste and pollution are not going to disappear unless genuine solutions are found. Much is yet to be done, but all over the world there are groups of people, companies and organisations which are trying to make a difference. In the final section of this report we present some of the projects that have been established in Italy which are helping to make he country more sustainable…

ZEN and the art of environmental sustainability

In the past two years, though, both the Italian Government and local associations have made efforts to promote sustainability and the use of green energy. An example of the latter is the so-called Zen Project (Zero Impact Cultural Heritage Event Network), an international plan developed by the region of Umbria and supported by other 12 European organisations, which was presented on September 11th 2015 at the International EXPO in Milan. The project aims at analysing the environmental impact of public events, such as concerts, music and theatre festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., and at developing a methodology to reduce emissions and to minimise food and water waste. Chiara Dell’Aglio, the Umbrian delegate, points out that music festivals are by far the most polluting events of all, but that also artistic and literary festivals consume a high quantity of environmental resources. The Hay Literary Festival, in Wales, “consumes on average 260 tonnes of CO2″, without even taking into account the impact produced by the hundreds of visitors attending the event,” she declared. Those who are sceptical of how useful or relevant such an initiative may need to think again: according to an article published in Italian newspaper “La Repubblica”, a recent European survey conducted among public event-goers showed that 50% of them would be prepared to pay more for their entrance ticket if this contributed to reducing the environmental impact; 71% would accept reaching the venue of an event by public transport if the cost were included in the price of the ticket; and 86% would gladly recycle more during public events if there were additional green bins on site.

Zen_project 2

Putting sustainability to work in Liguria

On January 28, 2016, another study was presented in Rome: “Liguria: proposals for a zero emissions model of development.” It was commissioned by WWF Italy from ENEA, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, and its objective is to analyse a series of technological options and proposals for energy storage and transportation as well as to develop proposals for innovative sustainable solutions based on renewable energies. Though the research was conducted in a single Italian region, the model it proposes can be extended to other regions and its main goal is to show that by putting these proposals into practice thousands of new jobs could be created. In Liguria, steering the region towards a low-carbon and green economy would require an annual investment of about 391 million euro, but it could generate up to 4,500 new jobs. From an environmental point of view, this shift would involve cutting 6 million tons of CO2 annually. Half of these potential jobs are connected to the development of electrical and thermal renewable energies, while the other sector with great potential is making existing buildings more green. (The intervention would involve around ten thousand apartments to reduce waste by 60%). Donatella Bianchi, President of WWF’s Italian branch, said: “This study demonstrates clearly that it is possible to transition to a low carbon economy, fight climate change and at the same time generate long-term and sustainable employment.”

You can read and download the complete report here (In Italian).

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INTERVIEW: How Suzanne Beveridge, executive coach and leadership strategist, is helping people to “Get Ready to Lead”

25 Oct

Suzanne Beveridge is  a former international business executive who left her corporate career to help others succeed in work they love. She speaks, writes and coaches about how to be a better leader. She is an executive coach and life-leadership strategist, founder of the Get Ready To Lead Institute and author of the Confident Leader Curriculum. 

Here, she talks to Robert Dennis of Network Milan, the online news magazine of the Milan Business English Network, about her life, work and the passion she brings to her unique coaching and leadership workshops and programmes.

Suzanne Beveridge, Executive and Leadership Coach

Network Milan: Suzanne, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Tell us a bit about yourself: where are you from and how did you end up in Italy?

Suzanne Beveridge: Thanks for the invite! Well, I’m Australian by nationality. But with all the moves I’ve made, I guess I fit the cliché “Citizen of the World”. I came to Italy 10 years ago – at first on a student visa to study  Italian and design when I took a sabbatical year from my work in the United States.

My husband Earle and I planned to return to Australia at the end of the sabbatical year – our household goods had already been shipped there from San Francisco! But then the Italian dream got to us. And we found an old farmhouse on the rolling hills of the Marche region. Correction – I call it an Italian country garden that just happens to have a house in it!

I’m the eldest of four. My Dad is a master builder and he and my Mum ran our family home construction business. I was (I think) the first in many/several (ever?) generations to leave school and go to university where I studied science. That was my first career but my heart really wasn’t in it. My business instincts eventually came to the fore and I left to work in the medical and pharmaceutical industry.

Like many Australians I had a deep yearning to see distant places and experience their cultures. As my income grew, so did my trips abroad. At first in nearby Asia and then Europe and America.

NM: What is your professional background? How did you get into coaching?

SB: I think both my love of travel and my sales and marketing business passions influenced my International marketing major in my MBA. As soon as I completed it, I was offered the chance to run the business development efforts in Latin America for the global company I was working with at that time. It was a dream come true.

My husband and I packed up and moved to the Los Angeles area where the company headquarters was located. After a couple of years, it turned out I was good at telling the story of the business and I was offered a job in investor relations. From there I was recruited to a small biotech company in the San Francisco bay area to run their corporate communications department.

I left following a corporate buyout. And that was when my sabbatical year began.

After buying our house in Marche, I set up a business as a freelance public relations professional and worked in the Milan area for a couple of years. In 2007, I was offered the chance to head up public relations for an international organization in Germany. It was a fabulous opportunity to build on what was already there and expand the function. What made it so great were the people.

After 4 years, I realised that my life balance was out of kilter. And I sadly decided not to renew my contract. It was a major wrench to leave the fabulous team I worked with. As I worked up the courage to tell them that I was leaving, I searched for what it was I would be doing after I left.

It truly was like a bolt of lightning that jolted me into finding the passion that had been underlining all my career moves: I loved seeing other people become great at what they do. And I had worked out early in my management and leadership career that ‘telling’ people what to do did not inspire action. When I included them in the project from the beginning and made them equal partners in our success, that’s when they could find the confidence to let their own brilliance shine.

The very day I worked that out, I enrolled in my coach certification course and started planning my business.

NM: What exactly is coaching? What does it involve?

SB: More and more people are aware of how partnering with a professional coach can help them achieve what they really want, both at work and in life. It’s no longer something reserved for executives from large corporations! In my own coaching business, I work with both corporate clients and with people who choose to partner with me privately.

When you enter into a coaching partnership, you begin an inspiring and empowering journey that helps you connect your deepest internal passions and desires with external strategies and behaviours so that you achieve the success you are meant to have in life.

The reason coaching works so well is due to the powerful synergy that happens in the relationship with your coach. Your coach has only your interests at heart and stays true to what you want to achieve in each session and for the entire length of your partnership.

Coaches don’t give advice – they help you find the answers. Your coach helps you work out how you will achieve what you choose to do; helps you develop plans to do it; and holds you accountable for what you say you will do. Your coach is your biggest champion, cheering you on to success. And your coach is there to celebrate every small achievement with you. 

Network Milan: Who are the sorts of people who benefit from coaching?

Suzanne Beveridge: Professional coaching can help in many situations that people struggle with at work and in life.

It is important to note here that coaching is completely different from therapy or counselling. Coaches are trained to recognize behaviours of people who are best served by psychiatric therapy and counselling. Following treatment, some of these people can and do begin coaching partnerships.

Most coaches specialize in helping people who struggle with specific issues in their life or work. There are divorce coaches, time management coaches and parenting coaches, for example.

I am an executive and leadership coach, which means that I help people who are taking on increased responsibility in more senior roles at work or people who are choosing to step up and expand into bigger roles than they have previously had in their life work.

NM: How do you prepare for a coaching session?

SB: I’m glad you asked this question. Because it’s key to a truly powerful coaching session. I choose to be 100% present for my client in each session, so before each session I take time to put everything else out of my mind. I use practices that focus me completely on the present moment. I think deeply about the person I will be speaking with in a few moments and try to see myself in their position, their situation.

As I begin each call I am then able to ‘listen’ with all my senses to what my client has to tell me and what they want to achieve in our time together. Most people feel no-one hears them properly. Many of my clients tell me that for the first time in their lives they feel they are talking to someone who is really listening, who really gets them.

Staying present with the client and their agenda is a key competency for a coach. My own experience and knowledge are not relevant. If, during my time with a client, I notice my own ideas bubbling up I have a little mantra ‘it’s not about me’ that I repeat in my head to bring me back to my client’s agenda.

NM: What happens in a coaching sessions?

SB: When I partner with a client, I help them understand how every thought they have affects their emotions which, in turn, determines the actions they take. Together we build a roadmap for them to choose a higher level of conscious thought that is constructive instead of destructive. Thoughts drive our energy. So if our thoughts are focused on building, then we are directing most of our energy to creating new possibilities.

And those thoughts can be conscious – we are aware of them – or unconscious. Both drive emotions and actions. I help people get super-aware of both types of thoughts and how they are influencing their actions and the results they may or may not be seeing in their lives and work. Together in the safe space of our partnership, we explore how those thoughts are really serving them and what life would be like if they were to have a different thought.

This is where the magic starts to happen in a coaching session – when you realize what has been holding you back, see another way forward and the commit to action with life-changing and amazing results.

NM: What can people expect to come away with after the session(s)?

SB: Most coaching sessions are 60 minutes duration. We work towards what I call ‘moving the action forward’. Whatever my clients agenda is for the session, I am always looking to raise their energy which means shift them to a higher level of conscious thought so that they leave the session inspired and empowered with an action plan to make the step or steps they choose to make while we are together.

NM: Tell us about leadership: what is it? Why is it so important?

SB: Leadership happens in any interaction where influence occurs. Of course, it can be positive or negative. And we lead both consciously and unconsciously. And our leadership impact can range from minimal to optimal depending on our level of conscious intention for what we want to happen as a result of the interaction.

So, a leader is the person in the interaction who knowingly or unknowingly has the greater influence on the other person.

This leads to my favourite leadership quote from John Quincy Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, become more – then you are a leader.”

Going back to what happens in a coaching session, you can probably now understand how coaching helps people step up and take responsibility for their lives and lead themselves to achieve the success the truly are meant to have.

And this is important because if we are to create a world that works, then each of us has a role to play in some way. By raising our consciousness, leadership that is ineffective or has a negative influence will be replaced. Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  Let’s make sure that change is better!

NM: Are leaders born or can they be made?

SB: We all lead – many people are surprised to hear that. They think of leaders as being public figures or their bosses at work, perhaps their parents. But we do all lead in some way, in some situations rather than others, for a certain period etc.

Sometimes we lead by default, meaning we take on the role when no-one else is available. For example, when your boss leaves and you need to step up to run your department.

The most significant leadership role each of us plays is self-leadership.

Trusting in our intuition is key to leadership. I call your intuitive self your ‘leader inside’. Many external situations in life, at work and in business divert our attention from what our leader inside is telling us. I help people find and get in touch with their leader inside, to trust it like they did when they were children, and allow it to guide them.

Network Milan: Are there any inspirational business leaders or leaders in other fields that you admire?

Suzanne Beveridge: I honour every single person as the leader they are. Wherever, however they lead. And I admire each of them for specific actions that highlight their greatness.

NM: How do you help people develop their capacity for leadership and leadership skills?

SB: I help people step up and lead by raising their awareness of the thoughts that are driving their actions and how they can change to get the results they want. The key way I do that is with the Accelerated Leadership Roadmap – an online assessment that tells you how likely you are to accelerate out of short-term distraction, reactivity and overwhelm & gives you a roadmap to steer your course so that you lead in your full and true potential.

During the personal debrief of your results, you can build your own personal roadmap to help you develop in the areas you choose in order to lead yourself and others like you want to.

It’s an incredibly powerful tool. I use it everyday. My clients get amazing shifts in consciousness just from taking the assessment. And when they choose to continue on with a coaching program over a number of weeks or months, their transformation is inevitable!

NM: What is the Get Ready to Lead Institute and how does it help people develop their leadership skills?

SB: The Get Ready To Lead Institute is at the centre of how I help people be better leaders. You will find loads of free resources and tips about leadership, especially for people who are new to leadership at work, in their communities or simply want to get better at leading themselves and their lives. My weekly blog articles are there.

The Confident Leader Curriculum is my key and **FREE** resource for people getting started on leadership and also for people to understand a little more how I work with them.

When you register for the Confident Leader Curriculum, you get instant access to a workbook to help navigate your leader’s journey – there’s a Star Wars theme going on, so be ready for it!You will also start to receive the Institute News each week and 12 **FREE** tutorials to help bring out your leader inside and transform in the perfect time and place for you.

NM: Tell us more about the workshops you are organising in Milan.

SB: I speak, write and coach about how to be a better leader – which really means I help people get out of their own way so that they live their calling and succeed in the work they love. They share their gifts to live and lead a life that is more connected, more fulfilled, more meaningful… more loving.

A brand new programme that I have to help people to take the lead and expand into bigger, more wonderful roles in life and work is called re-WIRE-ment: The Start of Something That’s All About You!

It’s two live workshops + 21 days of inspired connection. The workshops will be at the fabulous co-working space piano C in Milan (not far from Porta Romana) on Saturday 26 October and Saturday 9 November.

Here’s where to find out more and sign up:

Network Milan: Suzanne, it’s been great talking to you! We wish you all the best with your coaching and leadership programmes.

Suzanne Beveridge: Thanks! I’ve enjoyed talking to you too – and I’m looking forward to meeting members of your network at our workshops and your events soon.

Interview by Robert Dennis, CEO and Head of Innovation at Riverstone Language & Communications and founder of the Milan Business English Network.


You can find out more about Suzanne Beveridge and the Get Ready to Lead Institute here:

For more information about the Accelerated Leadership Roadmap click here.

There are still a few places available for the Re-WIRE-ment workshops in Milan on the 26th October and 9th November. Find out about the workshops in Milan and book your place here!

The Get Ready to Lead Institute is also on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.





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Comments Off on INTERVIEW: How Suzanne Beveridge, executive coach and leadership strategist, is helping people to “Get Ready to Lead”

Posted in Contact



11 Feb

This month on Network Milan we are focusing on people whose businesses are connected to wine. We talk to Isabella Poggesi, a freelance translator and young mother whose uses her background in winemaking to provide a specialised language service for her clients. We also chat to Bradley Mitton, a man who has built a successful career from bringing the wines of the New World to Europe. Bradley has also created a number of wine tasting and gourmet food clubs which host regular networking events. And we will also be speaking to Helen Fish of Riverstone Language & Communications who combines her work at the fast-growing English training and networking organisation with promoting a range of Italian fine wines and luxury holidays.

Interviews by Robert Dennis, Milan Business English Network founder
and Head of Innovation at Riverstone


A Club Vivanova event organised by Bradley Mitton, who talks to Network Milan…


Translating the experience of making wine into a successful language business: Isabella Poggesi talks to Network Milan

Isabella Poggesi, a busy freelance translator who specialises in the wine industry and agriculture, draws on her background in winemaking while balancing her family commitments as a young mum. She takes time out from her work – and her hobby, rockclimbing – to talk to us about her life. 

Click here to read the interview…


Bringing New World wine to Europe: how Bradley Mitton is building networks through wine tasting and gastronomy events

Bradley Mitton, founder and Managing Director of Mitton International Wines talks to Network Milan about his specialist importing business and wine tasting clubs that introduce wine from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to various European trade and private markets.

Click here to read our interview…



Helen Fish of Riverstone Language & Communications explains how she is using her marketing skills to help a traditional family-run Italian winery to access new markets.







The Milan Business English Network is delighted to be involved with Bradley Mitton and Club Vivanova in publicising this exclusive pre-Valentines day event:

Club Vivanova
WORLD CLASS Australian New Zealand Degustation
Chateau Monfort Hotel, Milan

Five Boutique Australian and New Zealand Wines

Wednesday 13th February 2013, 7pm
Exclusive Tasting with Sommelier Michele Garbuio
EUR 48 per person, fully inclusive

Join us for a gourmet night of boutique Australian and New Zealand wines and exceptional Italian contemporary cuisine in the exclusive wine cellar of the charming and deluxe five star Chateau Monfort in Milan, the fashion capital of Europe.

This fun, informal, networking evening is being promoted in conjunction with Riverstone Language and Communications and the Milan English Business Network. Attendees will be guided through a fabulous viticultural journey presented by New World wine professional Bradley Mitton and chef sommelier Michele Garbuio.

Premium Wine Selection
Sliding Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand
Bellvale Chardonnay 2009, Gippsland, Victoria
Sliding Hill Pinot Noir 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
Two Brothers Cabernet Merlot 2010, Margaret River
Hundred Tree Hill Shiraz 2007, Pyrenees, Victoria

Gourmet Flying Buffet
Olives . Amuse Bouche
Cream Cheese . Vanilla Madagascar Pears
Polenta Cubes . Cod Fish Mousse
Parma Ham . Parmesan Cheese
Beef Tartare . Capers and Pickled Onions
Milanese Risotto . Crispy Sausage

Tickets will cost EUR 48 per person. The ticket price is subsidised by the organising partners (normal price EUR 85) and includes all wines, menu, coffee and water. Please book by sending an email to [email protected]. You can also contact Helen Fish ([email protected]) or Robert Dennis ([email protected]) at Riverstone.

Please note that members and non-members alike may book for our events, which are always well attended; early reservations are recommended.
EXCLUSIVE OFFER for members of the Milan Business English Network and friends of Riverstone Language & Communications…
Enjoy a free cocktail or glass of champagne – and an invitation to join us later at a VIP party in the sumptuous Japanese-themed surroundings of the Armani Privé nightclub.

Club Vivanova Membership
Our annual membership fee is EUR 68.00. If you would like to join then please send an email to [email protected]. Membership runs through until the end of 2013 and is then automatically renewed.

Find out more about this event and see who will be attending from the Milan Business English Network and Riverstone Network on the facebook event page:



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Translating the experience of making wine into a successful language business: Isabella Poggesi talks to Network Milan

11 Feb
Isabella Poggesi is a busy freelance translator who specialises in the wine industry and agriculture. With a background in winemaking she decided as a young mum to make the move into translation so that she could balance her family commitments with her work. As part of this special series on people and wine, Robert Dennis of the Milan Business English Network asked Isabella about her work and life.

Network Milan: Isabella, welcome thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I wonder if we could start by finding out a little bit about what you do and your background?

Isabella Poggesi

Isabella Poggesi: Thanks for asking me to do the interview: it’s a pleasure! I am a freelance translator and have been working as such since January 2012. I mainly translate from Italian to English. I do not have a formal translation / language-orientated education but am actually a winemaker. After my Italian Agricultural Sciences degree, I went to Montpellier in France and obtained a winemaking diploma. I then started working as a winemaker’s assistant (cellar-hand) in 2003 and progressed to cellar manager/winemaker in the Azienda Agricola Foradori in Mezzolombardo (TN). It was a small winery and there were actually only two of us working in the cellar – thus I was physically involved in all the winemaking processes as well as being in charge of the cellar under the supervision of the estate’s owner.

Network Milan: So, how does an Italian winemaker move from harvesting, racking and bottling wine to sitting at a desk translating texts from Italian into English?

Isabella Poggesi: Basically, I was finding it hard to manage both work and family and decided that I needed to work in a way that permitted me to stay at home. My son is still quite young and I felt that I was losing out on making the most of him and could not be there for him when needed. Translation seemed the obvious choice for me: having lived abroad most of my childhood, I went to English-speaking schools from kindergarten to A-levels. In fact, officially my mother tongue is Italian but when I learnt to read and write it was in English (an Australian teacher, I still remember her fondly) and I still find it easier to write in English. I had already translated a winery website as well as commercial letters, brochures and information sheets. The solution seemed good as I could easily do it from home by working online and I didn’t need a great deal of initial capital to start off the business. My main investments to get started were a few good quality bilingual and monolingual dictionaries and the services of a “commercialista” (accountant) to help me with all the bureaucracy related to setting up an individual business.

Isabella Poggesi: winemaker, translator and mum in her Trentino home office

Network Milan: In your opinion, what are the skills a good translator needs?

Isabella Poggesi: I am not sure I can say there are skills that fit all translators and are true for all types of translations. Different texts have different styles of writing and require different skills. Of course, the main skills or knowledge needed are a good understanding and grasp of both your source and target language and good writing skills. But these are not enough on their own. You can’t just boil translating down to transforming sentences word for word from one language to another and then making the outcome sound as good as possible. There is a certain degree of lateral thinking needed in the translation process where texts need to be interpreted and adapted. This can be as simple as having to rephrase a sentence to make it flow better but can also go as far as adapting the source text to the different cultural background of the target language. This is known as localization. Thus, a certain degree of familiarity with the culture of both languages is needed. If you are translating a user manual for a device, this could be of little importance but when translating texts for company websites or tourist-oriented material, localization is quite important.

Another important facet of translation is terminology. A translator needs to know what the text deals with. Naturally, I am not saying that a translator needs to have a degree in law to translate legal documents. However, translators generally specialise in particular fields in which they have mastered the specific terminology and style of writing needed.

Network Milan: How do you find clients and new business?

Isabella Poggesi: I have been working as a freelancer for just over a year now and I must say that finding work has been the toughest thing I have had to tackle since starting out. Especially if, like me, you are offering services in a field you are not formally specialised in (ie. my degree wasn’t in translation). Moreover, translation is usually carried out from a foreign language into one’s mother tongue – so I also have the added perceived handicap that although I am Italian, I translate mainly into English. I have to work constantly to gain professional credibility for the services I offer. But I guess this happens to anyone who is starting their own business.

I have used various strategies to contact clients: going door-to-door to various local wineries to present myself and offer my services, as well as phoning or writing e-mails to wineries, farms and other businesses that could make use of my services such as web-designers, communication consultants, local tourist boards. I have a few direct clients that I have been working regularly with. Most of them I knew directly from my previous work as a winemaker. I have also been contacted by new clients through referrals and recommendations from former colleagues. My main source of income for the past year though has been from a local translation agency.

Isabella Poggesi draws on her practical experience of winemaking in her work as a translator – Image: (c) Stefano Scatà –

Network Milan: How important is marketing?

Isabella Poggesi: Marketing is very important and should never be underestimated. I probably need to dedicate more time to publicising my services but after all there are only 24 hours to a day and I work part-time. I have various ideas that I need to put into action. The main one is improving my website: I am still working out what and how I want to communicate through it. Once my ideas are more focused, I will probably invest in a professional site. I also write a translation blog that needs to be kept up-to-date and relevant.

Even when I am in the middle of a big assignment or tackling more than one assignment, I try to do some “marketing” work on a daily basis. If I haven’t much time to dedicate to it, this might just mean spending a half-hour organising my thoughts on what has to be done and how. Otherwise, it is contacting agencies and clients, updating my CV or profile on various networks I have subscribed to, or working on my website and blog.

Network Milan: Tell us about your life as a freelancer and how you manage your own company.

Before I launched myself into this business, I read a short and simple book that was full of advice for mothers wanting to freelance from home (La mia mamma sta con me – Conciliare famiglia e lavoro grazie a Internet by Claudia Porter [My Mummy stays with me – How the internet can help you balance family life and work – Editor’s note.] Most of the advice was quite practical and simple but it helped me think about how to tackle freelancing. It was quite daunting to move from a secure monthly salary to freelancing. I had never had to draw up a business plan before or forecast earnings, decide rates, discounts, payment methods and deadlines. These things might seem trivial to someone who is not their own boss in a small business – but I feel that to offer a professional service, one has to be 100% professional in all areas: not only delivering an accurate, high-quality translation but ensuring the whole service you offer clients is excellent. It is no good making things up as you go along; clients will see quickly if you aren’t able to offer a reliable, professional service.

Freelancing has many positive aspects which compensate for the negative ones – such as having an uncertain income. The main plus is that I can be flexible with my time. However, this can also be a drawback. When you work from home, one of the major risks is that you are always in your “working” mode. This means that even if you are not sitting in front of the computer, you constantly check e-mails, make notes, think about work, etc. So it can still feel as if all your time is taken up by work. This is one issue that I was warned about from the very start and that I have tried to tackle in the best way possible. I have given myself a sort of timetable and I try to stick to it. I usually work from 8.30 to 15.00 when my son is at school. This means that when I get home from the morning school-run I walk into the house as if I were walking into an office. Housework is done in the afternoon. I don’t want to be distracted from work just because the dishwasher needs to be emptied! In the same way, once my son is back from school, I dedicate my time to him, my family and everything else. If anything unexpected turns up, I have the flexibility to move my schedule around by working in the evenings or at weekends, for example.

Being your own boss means you can be flexible with time but it also means everything depends on you and what you do or don’t do. Organisation and planning is very important. Creating a routine around how you handle each assignment and making that routine automatic means that one has more time to dedicate to the actual translating process because all the bureaucratic/administrative stuff is dealt with in as little time as possible. So, I have created my templates for quotes, bills etc. I also have spreadsheets to keep track of clients, jobs, rates, etc. Setting aside time for scouting for clients and promoting my services is also important. I try to improve constantly and have subscribed to various freelance-themed blogs for tips and ideas on how to run my business better.

Network Milan: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a freelance translator?

Isabella Poggesi: My main advice is to specialise in one or two particular fields and to stick to them. This is important because mastering the terminology of a field is essential for a good translation and this requires extensive study, research and precision. The language and terms used in a legal document will be quite different from those for a marketing presentation, winery website, commercial letter etc. I have on several occasions turned down assignments in fields that were too far from my specialisation. I feel that delivering a mediocre translation is not only unprofessional but will do great harm to your image and it will be hard to win the client back afterwards. With time, one can increase or perfect one’s fields of specialisation by attending specific courses or studying. A translator’s most valued possessions are his personal bilingual glossaries that he has painstakingly compiled in hours of work and study. To get into the routine of compiling and updating a glossary as you work saves a lot of time in the long run when tackling future translations.

Deadlines are another issue. Do not accept a job if the deadline is too tight: the quality of the translation will suffer. Like many other translators, I apply a surcharge for rushed assignments but I do it mainly to dissuade clients from wanting work done for yesterday!

If you are starting from scratch, without having worked for an agency before, the hardest is to find new clients and once you have found them, to enforce your rates. With the possibilities given by internet and its widespread use, competition is very fierce. Without knowing it, you are probably having to compete with dozens of translators from around the world. This is why I mainly focus on local clients (in Trentino, in Italy). Knowing your clients first-hand helps in building a professional relationship that can last longer. There is also an added value if you are familiar with the area, especially for tourist-orientated texts.

Subscribing to mailing lists/forums for translators is also a good idea. Various topics are discussed that range from asking help in translating specific terms to computer problems to billing and administrative dilemmas. They are always a good source of tips and ideas and it is also good practice to try to help others if you can. Like in all communities, sharing and helping is always beneficial to all. You never know when you will be the one needing advice or help.

Network Milan: Isabella, tell us how you first got into winemaking and your passion for wine?

Isabella Poggesi: When I was taking my degree in Agricultural sciences, I attended a course on winemaking microbiology that fascinated me. Therefore, I decided to specialise in winemaking and initially I saw myself as having a future career in research laboratories. After my degree and before attending the winemaking course in Montpellier, I spent three months in Australia where I worked as a cellar-hand in a small winery in Mudgee (New South Wales). There I discovered what winemaking was all really about – and I absolutely loved it! From then on, I always saw myself as a “hands-on” winemaker. It can be a tough, physical job but it is deeply satisfying and engaging. I have had the good fortune to work in renowned wineries in France and Italy where I was part of a small team in charge of the whole process from grape to wineglass. In the last winery I was employed in, I was able to follow and work towards the estate’s conversion to biodynamic farming as well take part in their first trials with making wine in terracotta amphorae.

I do not come from a winemaking family and don’t even have a farming background. In my family, there are plenty of engineers, doctors, archaeologists and geologists. So for me, it really was a discovery. At home, we have always appreciated good wine and I remember visiting wineries with my parents when I was younger. But it really wasn’t until I experienced winemaking first-hand that I realised how fascinating it could be: the frenetic activity at harvest time, the smells and tastes, the apparent stillness of ageing wine, the expectations and satisfaction that bring the grapes to the finished wine in a bottle.

The world that revolves around wine has become perhaps slightly “commercial” as wine, wine tasting and organic or biodynamic wine have all become somewhat in vogue. There are dozens of guides and magazines telling you which wine you have to like and why. Every year there is a new wine-fashion: this year Chardonnay is all the craze, next year its cold-macerated Merlot. I have a more down-to-earth approach to wine. If you like a wine then it is a good wine and you can devote some time to enjoying it with friends, family or simply with a good meal. If you do not like a wine, then maybe it’s not the wine for you. Everyone has a right to his or her taste. My French mother-in-law only drinks tetra-pack red wine on ice! “Sacrilege!” some might say, but that is simply the way she enjoys wine.

As for me, I have a special liking for Pinot Noir and am always on the lookout for any wines I have not tasted yet.

Network Milan: How do you combine these two very different areas, then, of translation and wine?

Isabella Poggesi: When I decided to put my winemaking career on hold and work from home translating freelance, the obvious first move was to use my specialised knowledge to find work and new clients. I really emphasised to potential clients in the wine business that being a winemaker I could convey their message better than a translator who has not worked in the field. I already had all the terminology and an understanding of the process. I haven’t limited this sort of reasoning to winemaking alone, though, but have extended it to the whole agricultural sector as well. For example, I have translated a website section for an apple-tree nursery.

I also contacted local translation agencies highlighting my areas of expertise. Trentino is rich in wineries so I was given the opportunity to prove my translating skills quite quickly after my first contact . From these first jobs, which were mainly centred on wine and agriculture, I was also given other assignments in different fields: mostly tourist texts for hotels, brochures, tourist bureaux etc. To perfect my terminology and style for these types of texts, I attended an online workshop on the subject.

Scaling the peaks of her ambition? Isabella is also a keen amateur rock climber

Network Milan: Now, let’s talk a bit about yourself and living in Italy. And what do you do for kicks when you are not working?

Isabella Poggesi: Well, due to my father’s work, I spent my childhood moving from one country to another such as, among other places, Iran, Gabon, Dubai, France and the UK. My teenage years, I spent in Gabon and I have an idyllic memory of living on the beach in the tropical sun 365 days a year. Moving from Gabon to London in November when I was about 13 was a true culture shock. I had to get used to the weather, traffic, shoes (instead of flip-flops) and school uniform! Another great obstacle was the language: I had been attending an American school in Gabon and had a deep Southern-American drawl and found the British quite incomprehensible. After 5 years spent in England, I developed a distinct British accent that I have kept to this day.

I have been living in Italy since 1993 (with a two-year break when I moved to Montpellier) and find Italy the most delightful as well as the most frustrating place to live in. It has so much potential but so much of it is either squandered or left unexploited: the resourcefulness of Italians, the exceptional expertise in many fields we still have, the art and culture, the beauty of our landscapes. I feel Italy is somewhat misrepresented abroad but the reasons are diverse and complicated. Trentino is a bit of an oasis being an autonomous region and the services are probably much better here than elsewhere so I don’t like to complain too much.

I have been living in Trentino since 2004 when I moved here for work. Coming here to live was an ideal option for me as not only is Trentino renowned for its wine, it is also home to some of the best climbing crags in the world -and back then I was sport climbing as much as possible. I love climbing, trekking, skiing and anything that can get me out in the open in these magnificent landscapes we have here. After all the Dolomites haven’t been named UNESCO World Heritage site for nothing! When my son was born, I had to slow down with climbing but now he is nearly four I have been taking it up again. He adores being out as well and is a natural climber!

Having moved so much before, I am still restless and from time to time have the urge of moving again. The easiest move would be to France (it’s close and I already know the language), although one never knows: New Zealand, Canada, South Africa. I’m always on the lookout for opportunities!

Network Milan: Isabella, we really appreciate you giving us such a great insight into your work and life. Thank you very much – and all the best with your freelance career!

Isabella Poggessi: Not at all. It’s my pleasure!

You can find out more about Isabella Poggesi’s professional services and background by visiting her website, Parole Giuste.

Click here to contact Isabella via her website and check out her LinkedIn profile.

Isabella belongs to the Riverstone Network, a group of freelance communications professionals who also collaborate work with Riverstone Language & Communications.

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Bringing boutique New World wine to Europe: how Bradley Mitton is building networks through wine tasting and gastronomical events

10 Feb

Bradley Mitton, MD Mitton International Wines

Bradley Mitton is the founder and Managing Director of Mitton International Wines GmbH, Berlin. He supplies various European trade and private markets with carefully selected, hand made, value for money wines imported from family-owned, boutique wineries in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. To develop his customer base and support sales of wine, Bradley has established a number of innovative and very active event-based networks, including Club Vivanova and the twelve. Originally from the UK, Bradley has established his business in five European countries and aims to become the leading international boutique New World wine importer and premium wine club organiser for gastronomy in Central Europe.

In this exclusive interview with Network Milan, Bradley talks to Robert Dennis of the Milan Business English Network about his background and how he developed his business. He also explains what makes Mitton International Wines unique and talks about the importance of finding new business and understanding the needs of his customers. We ask Bradley about his marketing strategy and how the wine tasting events he organises relate to his main business, selling wine. He also gives his insights and advice on becoming an entrepreneur and building a business., especially through networking. Finally, Bradley considers the challenges posed by operating a business during a recession – and he looks forward to the future, outlining his strategy for Mitton International Wines.

Network Milan: Bradley, we are delighted that you have agreed to do this interview. I wonder if we could start off by getting you to tell us a bit about yourself and your business. How did you get into wine and wine tasting events? 

Bradley Mitton: Bradley Mitton: Thanks for asking me, Robert – I’m happy to oblige. Well, I left the UK when I was twenty and trained as a Chef in Australia, Hong Kong and Greece  – and then started my first major restaurant management position in Manila in the Philippines in 1995. In 1996, I opened my own restaurant in Manila called The Wine Press with an affluent wine importing partner and developed my skills for marrying food and wine. Subsequently, I moved to South Korea and ran the marketing and sales for Seoul’s leading private restaurant group. After two years and a desire to return to central Europe, I moved to Berlin to develop a European wine importer’s portfolio with New World products. In 2002, I noticed a great opportunity for introducing specialist boutique New World wines into leading five-star hotels and restaurants – and so I opened up Mitton International Wines. We now operate in five countries selling and marketing terroir-driven Australian and New Zealand wines into leading gastronomy locations – mainly restaurants and hotels. The distribution channels are supported by our in-house educational programmes to inform European wine drinkers about the great styles of wines and the related wine-making traditions of the New World. We now have three wine clubs which hold regular events that support our core business of selling wine. These are Club Vivanova, the twelve and APERITIVO Wine Bar.

Club Vivanova: Wine tasting, a gourmet experience and excellent networking opportunities

Network Milan: Can you explain what makes Mitton International Wines special? How does it differentiate itself from its competitors?

Bradley Mitton: Let me start by saying that during my fifteen years working amongst the best food and beverage industry outlets in Asia and Europe I have developed a very good understanding of what clients expect, want and require from a supplier. And I bring this knowledge and experience to our clients through Mitton International Wines. We train our key sellers at the restaurants we sell to and we acquire clients through our wine clubs as well as by word of mouth. I am able to understand which products will work best in the outlets we sell to as each restaurant and hotel has a certain style of client and food concept. Understanding the market is key for us and knowing our clients’ individual tastes and requirements is absolutely crucial. Delivery and efficient service are key. In fact, we run our business like a finely-tuned engine; everything is co-ordinated to give our client a product that fits his or her concept exactly and which they are perfectly comfortable in offering to their clients in turn, we then make sure they have immediate stock and we furthermore go in and help them sell and bring them clients through our club. I think this is a fantastic and complete service package and we have a great reputation through servicing in this way.

One of our main USPs is that we sell exclusively on-trade which means we only supply hotels and restaurants, leading gastronomy operators and five star hotels prefer that. They don’t want a wine on their list that is available in a supermarket around the corner and so we strictly don’t sell to shops and supermarkets or on the internet. If private customers would like to buy our wine, they have to contact us directly. Our main selling points are that we offer:

1.  Direct, exclusive imports from small, family-owned New World wineries.
2.  Sales to trade only (hotels don’t like to list supermarket products)
3.  After-sales support with employee training for up-selling and event activities.
4.  Supportive club event activities where we bring new clients to the locations that we list in.

Mitton International Wines specialises in wine from the New World Wines, in particular Australia and New Zealand (Image: Redbank Winery, Australia)

Network Milan: How do you find new clients?

Bradley Mitton: Well firstly, we use traditional marketing techniques to canvass, target and then approach all of our potential clients. But in addition to that activity we also acquire a number of new clients through our clubs and events. We are active on social media networks and we also publish a widely-circulated newsletter. A client may also contact us about hosting an event. We have a policy only to host events where we have our wines listed so we work on a win-win basis when we promote and run our events.

Network Milan: Could you tell us about your clubs and wine tasting events?

Bradley: OK, so we have three clubs – each of which has a distinct character and focus, but all of which are aimed at supporting our main business of selling wine. We have three clubs:

Club Vivanova, an international business networking and premium wine club based in Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Monaco -and now Milan. Vivanova stands for life and new experiences. Each event is a normally medium priced, gourmet wine dinner. We bring together interesting business people and entrepreneurs to unique locations to sample the finest things in life: great food, outstanding wine – and excellent company, of course.

Then there’s the twelve. We take twelve distinctive wines accompanied by exceptional menus; twelve carefully chosen individuals and twelve discreet locations including Berlin, Monte Carlo, Prague, Warsaw, Paris and London. It’s my pleasure during these events to introduce our guests to the exceptional character and charm of New World wines – and to share a fine dining experience in exquisite surroundings with people who appreciate the finer things in life. Each event is a premium priced, small volume wine dinner with winemakers who we fly in from Australia and New Zealand.

Finally we have the APERITIVO Wine Bar. These events are after-work wine bar evenings organized for business networking and wine tasting. The relaxed, chilled-out atmosphere offers an informal alternative to our Club Vivanova events. We select locations throughout Europe including Berlin, Monte Carlo, Prague and Warsaw where people can enjoy a relaxing drink after work with some interesting networking.

We are very pleased to be holding our latest Club Vivanova event in Milan, as well. We will be presenting some fantastic Australian and New Zealand wines and amazing contemporary Italian cuisine at the five star Chateau Monfort on February 13th. I will be joined by chef sommelier Michele Garbuio and we have a great offer for members of the Milan Business English Network as well. [See below for details – Editor.]

We have developed the concept of wine tasting events coupled with gourmet food and networking. Attendees are offered a first-class experience at very good value prices with premium wines, first-rate cuisine and excellent networking. By varying the locations and concepts, for example one month we will do a sit-down gourmet dinner, the next a boat trip, etc – and carefully targeting just the right people, we believe that our events offer a truly unique experience.

Network Milan: How can people discover more about your events or contact you if they want to buy wine?

Bradley Mitton: Well, you can find out all about our Club Vivanova events on our website, And you can always email us at [email protected] for any wine-related enquiries. 

Network Milan: Let’s talk a bit about wine and wine appreciation in general. In the UK wine often has associations with snobbery and status. It can also be very intimidating and technical. What would you say to someone who is curious about wine but doesn’t quite know where to start?

Bradley Mitton: Yes, first of all – that’s a very British thing. People in other parts of the world are much more comfortable with wine – it’s just part of the culture. I would suggest you just dive in at the deep end. Wine is very personal; no-one knows everything as there is so much to learn. Wine is such a special subject, so you have to really open yourself up to it and try not be intimidated by it. My advice would be to buy some bottles, write down what you think and start a collection: everyone has their own taste and so nobody can be wrong wrong in regards to what they themselves taste and think of a wine. There are some fairly well-established guidelines though and these can be studied and practised. Of course, appreciating wine is much more fun and far more rewarding if you do it with other people. So, I would recommend that if you want to experience wine in the best way possible – come along to a Club Vivanova event (or the twelve or an APERITIVO Wine Bar, of course)!

Network Milan: Bradley, Mitton International Wines specialises in bringing wine from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to discerning clients in Europe. Why have you chosen to focus on wine from the New World?

Terroir, Redbank, Australia

Bradley Mitton: We supply leading hotels, clubs and restaurants in Central Europe with carefully selected, hand-made, value for money wines imported from family-owned, boutique wineries in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. We have selected regionally-diverse wines from important wine growing regions that highlight the styles of these varied terroirs and winemakers.

Our wines are imported directly from the wineries with no middle agents or corporate costs and thus we offer “value for money” with all of our products and guarantee reliable service. Our exclusive portfolio is focused and we are committed to our wineries offering carefully selected, hand made, value for money wines imported from Australia and New Zealand.

My passion for excellence was generated through working with and meeting great vintners in particular Robert Mondavi, Trimbach of Alsace, Drouhin of Burgundy, Chapoutier of the Rhone Valley and other iconic new world wine figures.

The three locations we focus on are Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Australia benefits from winemakers experimenting with new technologies and unconventional methods of producing wine, although the general methods typically go back to the conventional old world styles of production. Many people feel that the wine makers of Australia embody a mixture of creative enthusiasm and sound technical knowledge, helping to make some of the most individual wines of the world with the most intense flavours.

The Marlborough region in New Zealand can lay claim to starting the modern wine industry in the country. Here in the late 1970s, Marlborough produced Sauvignon Blanc, among other varieties, which first led to confidence that New Zealand could produce interesting wine. Today, the Marlborough wine region represents 62% of total vineyard area in the country. The king varietal here is Sauvignon Blanc, closely followed by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The strong contrast between hot sunny days and cool nights help vintners extend the ripening period of their vines like nowhere else, resulting in unique expressions of their grapes. For example, Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough offers unique aromas and flavours, which rightly earns them a lot of praise.

As for South Africa, the Paarl wine district lies to the north of Stellenbosch, and is bordered by the town of Wellington to the north east, and the mountains of the Groot and Klein Drakenstein and Franschhoek ranges to the south east. Paarl accomodates the headquarters of the South Africa Wine Industry, the KWV, has adequate co-operative cellars and wine estates in its immediate vicinity to justify its own wine route. Cabernet Sauvignon, port and Shiraz wines have established Paarl’s place on the global wine map and the region has repeatedly received international awards for these wines. 

In Europe wine has been traded for centuries, of course, but I discovered that nobody in Central Europe is picking specialist terroir-driven wine from Australia, for example – but we do. It’s a similar story with the wines we sell from New Zealand and South Africa. It’s not easy to get it right, but after ten years we have a fine selection that excites most of the leading sommeliers in Europe.

Network Milan: Bradley, I’d like to turn now to a topic our readers are always very interested to hear about: setting up and running a business. What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an entrepreneur? What are the challenges and rewards that make being an entrepreneur so motivating but also so demanding?

Bradley Mitton: OK, those are some big questions. Let me answer you based on my experience and some of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way. Firstly, pick your product carefully. Always treat it is a business. Never pick something just because you like it or it’s your hobby. Of course you should be passionate about what you do – but always evaluate carefully if there’s a viable business there and a market for your product.

Secondly, never dabble in your products: develop a strategy and stick to it – but always be ready to adapt your strategy to the changing conditions of your market. And don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort you need to invest into building a successful business: you only get out of life what you put in. One of the best books I have ever read and whose insights I have used to run my company is Advanced Selling Strategies: The Proven System of Sales Ideas, Methods and Techniques Used by Top Salespeople Everywhere by Brian Tracy. (One of my favourite Brian Tracy quotes is “An average person with average talent, ambition and education, can outstrip the most brilliant genius in our society, if that person has clear, focused goals”.) There’s also the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s something of a golden oldie now – but still has some good tips on developing the all-important personal and professional connections that a successful entrepreneur needs to develop their brand. It’s also full of nuggets of wisdom, such as “So the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it”. That’s just as true today as when it was written.[First published 1936 – Editor.]

Network Milan: Do you have any practical tips on how to build a business and a brand?

Bradley Mitton: Yes: stay focused; don’t be greedy; watch your costs; use your head, not just your heart. You don’t need a flashy office, and expensive marketing. You just need good products that provide real value and benefit for your customers. And the more you know about your customers the easier it will be to provide them with they need and want.

Network Milan: How important is reputation and networking to your business?

Bradley Mitton: It’s our absolute number one priority: reputation is everything. We market extensively – especially through our wine-related events. But word of mouth is key – especially in the luxury world.

Network Milan: A lot of businesses have been through some tough times recently. Can I ask you how the recession changed the way you operate? Has it forced you to do anything differently or make changes to the way you run your company? What lessons do you think entrepreneurs can learn from trading in difficult conditions?

Bradley Mitton: That’s another good question! Yes, the recession has forced every successful business into refocusing themselves. They have had to cut out the frills and focus on what is important, but they also still have to drive their business forward aggressively. In fact, for dynamic, innovative companies the recession has actually created opportunities to react faster and respond better to their customers’ needs. It has tended to favour those businesses that are truly focused on the client and that can deliver value.

Network Milan: Here’s a question we always like to ask people: are there any interesting or unusual facts about your business that you can share with members of the Milan Business English Network?

Bradley Mitton: Well, there are lots! But one that might interest your readers in particular is that we supply Prince Albert of Monaco’s hotel group Société des Bains de Mer, which is also the largest employer in Monaco. We’ve also just supplied our wines to a huge film party this weekend for George Clooney and Matt Damon at Soho House in Berlin. Probably the most unusual fact is that the business all started from one very small delivery of ten boxes of wine in 2002, we delivered to the Grand Hyatt in Berlin and we grew from there, as my father always told me, from little acorns grow monumental oak trees.

Network Milan: Finally, we would like to invite you to peer into the crystal ball. How do you see the future of Mitton International Wines?

Bradley Mitton: Well, we currently operate in five countries – that’s enough for now. We’re going to continue building up our activities to be Central Europe’s leading wine club and international New World wine importer for gastronomy – and I thinnk we are already well on the way to achieving that.

Network Milan: Bradley, thank you for talking us. We wish you and Mitton International Wines all the best.

Bradley Mitton: You’re very welcome. I appreciate the opportunity of talking to you – and good luck to the Milan Business English Network as well!

Bradley Mitton with the New Zealand Ambassador to Germany, His Excellency Peter Rider and Australian Ambassador to Poland, His Excellency Jean Dunn at a Club Vivanova event in Prague, Czech Republic, where both ambassadors also represent their respective countries.

Interview by Robert Dennis, Milan Business English Network

If you would like to contact Bradley to discover more about Mitton International Wines, send an email to [email protected] or visit the company website:

You can find also find out more about the wine tasting, gourmet food and networking events Bradley organises by visiting www.clubvivanova.comthe twelve and APERITIVO Wine Bar.



Club Vivanova
WORLD CLASS Australian New Zealand Degustation
Chateau Monfort Hotel, Milan

Five Boutique Australian and New Zealand Wines

Wednesday 13th February 2013, 7pm
Exclusive Tasting with Sommelier Michele Garbuio
EUR 48 per person, fully inclusive

Join us for a gourmet night of boutique Australian and New Zealand wines and exceptional Italian contemporary cuisine in the exclusive wine cellar of the charming and deluxe five star Chateau Monfort in Milan, the fashion capital of Europe.

This fun, informal, networking evening is being promoted in conjunction with Riverstone Language and Communications and the Milan English Business Network. Attendees will be guided through a fabulous viticultural journey presented by New World wine professional Bradley Mitton and chef sommelier Michele Garbuio.

Premium Wine Selection
Sliding Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand
Bellvale Chardonnay 2009, Gippsland, Victoria
Sliding Hill Pinot Noir 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
Two Brothers Cabernet Merlot 2010, Margaret River
Hundred Tree Hill Shiraz 2007, Pyrenees, Victoria

Gourmet Flying Buffet
Olives . Amuse Bouche
Cream Cheese . Vanilla Madagascar Pears
Polenta Cubes . Cod Fish Mousse
Parma Ham . Parmesan Cheese
Beef Tartare . Capers and Pickled Onions
Milanese Risotto . Crispy Sausage

Tickets will cost EUR 48 per person. The ticket price is subsidised by the organising partners (normal price EUR 85) and includes all wines, menu, coffee and water. Please book by sending an email to [email protected]. You can also contact Helen Fish ([email protected]) or Robert Dennis ([email protected]) at Riverstone.

Please note that members and non-members alike may book for our events, which are always well attended; early reservations are recommended.
EXCLUSIVE OFFER for members of the Milan Business English Network and friends of Riverstone Language & Communications…
Enjoy a free cocktail or glass of champagne – and an invitation to join us later at a VIP party in the sumptuous Japanese-themed surroundings of the Armani Privé nightclub.

Club Vivanova Membership
Our annual membership fee is EUR 68.00. If you would like to join then please send an email to [email protected]. Membership runs through until the end of 2013 and is then automatically renewed.

Find out more about this event and see who will be attending from the Milan Business English Network and Riverstone Network on the facebook event page:




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Blended learning maestro Pete Sharma set to make an impact on Milan at the PSA Symposium

31 Aug

Pete Sharma, one of the world’s leading experts on integrating technology into learning, will be “in the shadow of the Madonnina” this autumn as part of the PSA (Pete Sharma Associates) Symposium. The event on October 4th 2012 in Milan is being hosted by the British Consulate-General and sponsored by SMART Technologies, Richmond ELT and Little Bridge. UK Trade & Investment are also supporting the Symposium.

The title of the Symposium is “L’impatto delle nuove tecnologie sull’insegnamento delle lingue straniere” (“The impact of new technology on foreign language teaching”). This symposium builds on the success of similar events in Spain.

The speakers will include Pete and representatives from the sponsors. The exact topics and content are still to be confirmed, but here is a preview of the programme:

Keynote Presentation

Pete Sharma, Pete Sharma Associates Ltd
“New developments in Language Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age”

Pete speaking at a recent ICT Conference
(Photo: British Council)

Technology has changed the teaching and learning of languages. However, technology changes quickly and it is sometimes difficult for teachers to follow new developments. It is not always easy to use new  technology well inside and beyond the classroom. In his talk, Pete Sharma will describe some of the most important recent advances in new technology including m-learning, commercially produced digital materials, the interactive whiteboard and the virtual learning environment in the 21st century

Pete started his EFL career as a business English teacher in Madrid, moving to Finland before returning to the UK. He worked as teacher trainer, Director of Studies and school manager before becoming the Group teacher training and development manager for Linguarama, a business English organisation which is now part of the Marcus Evans group. In his capacity as a member of the Group Pedagogical Unit he inspected schools, taught writing seminars in the Middle and Far East, and helped create and run trainer training courses. He has written extensively about technology in language teaching. Pete recently changed from ESP to EAP, and currently divides his time between lecturing at Oxford Brookes University and on the Warwick University pre-sessional courses, and writing. He keeps a blog on using technology in ELT with co-author Barney Barrett. See:


Luke Baxter & Cathy Smith
Richmond ELT

This is a term that encompasses many of the most important trends in the “digital world” today. Important examples include how tools, entertainment and work have converged onto a single device, so a person can have, say, a compass, a radio and a spreadsheet on their iPad. Another example and one which is very much at the forefront of digital predictions is “the cloud”, where content and computing converge and become accessible “anytime, anywhere and on any device”.

Using examples from Richmond’s Digital Books and Learning Platforms, this presentation will aim to show how convergence is already affecting ELT publishing. Luke and Cathy will show how many of the traditional components of a publisher’s course offering have already converged in a Digital Book that includes the Student’s Book, Teacher’s Book, Workbook and Class Audio. They will also look at how students can access the Learning Platforms to play games, comment on blogs and communicate with their teacher, who in turn can assign trackable tests and homework activities.

Finally, they will attempt to look forward and hazard some guesses as to how convergence will continue to affect ELT publishing. Can every course component converge onto a single device? Will the divide between paper and digital make any sense in the future? Will this mean the end of the printed book? Should ELT publishers view themselves solely as content providers and thus endeavour to provide this content in whatever way best suits the needs and situations of each individual customer?


Valeria Mordenti
Marketing Manager Italy & South East Europe at SMART Technologies
The Interactive Whiteboard and Language Teaching”

SMART created the world’s first interactive whiteboard in 1991 and they remain the world’s leading provider of interactive whiteboards. Incorporated in 1987, SMART has been committed to innovation and excellence for more than 25 years and has provided solutions for the education, higher education, business, government and military communities. More than two million SMART Board interactive whiteboards are used by over 40 million students and their teachers, and SMART products are used in more than 175 countries.


Paul Rogers
Little Bridge
“Making English Irresistible to Young Learners!”

Paul is an award-winning author of over forty books for children, as well as of many well-known materials for the teaching of languages, including for teaching English. He’s an experienced linguist and has been both a primary and secondary teacher, as well as a lecturer in Education (at Goldsmiths College, University of London). Taking examples from Little Bridge, Paul will show how an innovative digital resource can:

1.       build a bridge between the learner and the English speaking world, setting the language in context through 3D animations and virtual reality

2.       build a bridge between traditional teaching methods and the latest computer technology, dealing with grammar, for example, in a painless, natural way.

3.       bridge the gap between work and play by making learning fun through a wide variety of motivating games, songs and activity types.

4.       build a bridge between home and school by providing activities that children will do for pleasure, whilst allowing the school to keep track of everyone’s progress.


Registration and Contact Details

Entry to the Symposium will be free but by invitation only. Delegates will also need to register with the British Consulate-General. If you would like to attend this event, please contact Byron Russell at PSA:

[email protected]

Check the Events page on the PSA website for further details and updates about the Symposium:

You can find out more about Pete Sharma and PSA on their website:


About PSA

Pete Sharma Associates Ltd was founded in October 2008. PSA is an educational consultancy and training organisation for language teachers. PSA runs courses worldwide for teachers of English as a Foreign Language, teacher trainers and academic managers on how to successfully integrate educational technology into their language courses. PSA also advises institutions on hardware and software for language teaching.

PSA has a core team of four directors who are responsible for ensuring that all PSA courses meet the highest standards of quality. The directors keep abreast of educational technology and liaise with the major hardware and software manufacturers and publishers. They use a number of associate trainers, specialised in integrating technology into language courses. Their activities are supported by many associate organisations including The Pyramid Group.


Interested in blended learning? Robert Dennis attended the recent “Digital Transformation in the English Teaching World” event co-hosted by Pearson Longman and the British Council. Read the full  report on the Milan English blog:

The perfect blend? Pearson and the British Council team up for “Digital Transformation in the English Teaching World” 





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Growing Italy’s startup sector: private investment and timely government intervention combine to create fertile ground for growth in difficult times

30 Jul

Nurturing tomorrow's successful companies (Image: Theornamentalist via Wikimedia Commons)

With each day bringing ever-gloomier financial and economic news for the Eurozone and especially for Greece, Spain and Italy – bailouts, euro meltdown and the dreaded “spread” – this would not seem like the best time to start a company. Certainly not in a highly-speculative sector with few established precedents and even fewer proven business models. And yet the Italian startup scene is showing signs not only of life – but even of optimism and an excitement that flies in the face of the impending doom nearly everyone assumes is about to befall the Bel Paese (the Beautiful Country, Italy – not the cheese, of course).

Special report by Robert Dennis of the Milan Business English Network

Last month’s issue of Italian business magazine Capital featured on its cover Federico Marchetti, the founder and CEO of Yoox, the innovative online fashion retailer and the headline “Invent the future: How to become an e-commerce leader and beat the crisis”. Yoox is one of a crop of successful Italian startups that are bucking the downward trend in adverse business conditions – and providing an alternative vision for an economy in crisis.

In an upbeat feature article the magazine also described the recent visit of Corrado Passera, Mario Monti’s Minister for Economic Development and former CEO of banking group Intesa Sanpaolo to H-Farm, the Venture Incubator whose headquarters is located near Treviso in the lush countryside of northern Italy’s wealthy Veneto region. With an atmosphere that was ‘almost a happening, with an air of optimism and so much positive energy that it felt surreal, considering the times we are in’, the minister listened to the ideas and concerns of the audience of 200 mainly young entrepreneurs. The purpose of the event at the countryside retreat and embryonic tech hub, founded by Riccardo Donadon and Maurizio Rossi, was to send out the message that the Italian government is serious about its plans to support and incentivize startups. It aims to do this by working closely with industry figures who can bring their knowledge and passion to help foster the right environment for young businesses (especially high-tech ones) to grow.

Passera and Donadon at StartUp Italia Open Day (Image:

The visit was the highlight of the Open Day (May 26) organised by StartUp Italia, an independent association formed by six leading players from the startup sector to promote innovation in Italy’s digital economy. The founders of StartUp Italia – Riccardo Donadon, Giorgio Carcano, Paolo Barberis, Luca De Biase,  Enrico Pozzi and Mario Mariani – are also part of the 12-strong Startup Task Force assembled by Passera to identify the practical measures needed to create a favourable environment for startups in Italy. (The Task Force, whose other members are Selene Biffi, Annibale D’Elia, Alessandro Di Camillo, Massimiliano Magrini, Giuseppe Ragusa and Donatella Solda-Kutzmann is co-ordinated by Alessandro Fusacchia, Adviser to Minister Passera for European Affairs, Youth, Merit and Innovation.)

The recommendations of the Task Force will feed into a proposed package of legislative measures also to be called Startup Italia. This package of new laws will complement the existing government  “decrees” of Save Italy, Grow Italy and Simplify Italy (Salva Italia, Cresci Italia and Semplifica Italia). However, it should be noted that Italians will be choosing a new government in 2013, which could have an impact on the existing legislative framework.

Capital’s article also focuses on how Italy’s main Venture Capital funds are continuing to invest in startups despite of – or even because of – a generally unfavourable outlook in the wider economy:

• Startups that are not yet ready for investment can be nurtured by incubators such as I3P, Innovation Factory, Toscana Life Science, TechNest (University of Calabria), Polo Tecnolgico di Navacchio, Consorzio Arca (University of Palermo), Acceleratore d’impresa del Politecnico di Milano and the Technopolis (University of Bari).

• Budding startups that require seed capital of less than 1 million euros can then approach investors such as dPixel, Working Capital, Italian Angels for Growth, Annapurna Ventures, Enlabs, Digital Magics, Club degli Investitori and H-Farm itself.

• Early stage venture capital of more than 1 million euros is provided by funds that include Principia SGR, Innogest, 360 Capital Partners, Vertis, TT Venture/Fondamenta, Next Fund Lifescience, Atlante Ventures and Aladin Venture/Friulia.

Italian banking groups UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo (via its StartUp Iniziative) also invest in startups.

Another sign that Italy is being taken seriously as a good location for startup companies is the arrival of TechCrunch in Rome this autumn. A one-day conference on September 27th will bring together the leading lights of Italy’s digital media and technology sectors. The event will throw a spotlight on some of the country’s highly innovative and dynamic startups.

So, while the outlook for the economy as a whole may be grim at least there is a ray of hope in the form of some exciting and creative new ventures that could kick-start growth as well as provide a significant return on investment for those with a longer-term vision.

Startups could yield a good return on investment (Image: Sunflowers via Wikimedia Commons)

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From Cape Town to the Cotswolds: how EduVacation mixes a unique English learning experience with the holiday of a lifetime

15 Jul

Learn English in the Cotswolds, the UK's largest "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty"

NetworkMilan is always happy to talk to people who have started their own business – especially entrepreneurs that are finding innovative and unusual ways to teach English (such as Lorna Allen of Live and Learn Homestays Ltd, who we interviewed last year). Today, we feature another homestay provider: EduVacation a small, privately-owned English language company that offers full immersion courses in the Cotswolds region of England.  (They also arrange English learning tours to Cape Town, South Africa.) The company was founded and is managed by Dean and Sue Erasmus, a married couple who are both qualified English-speaking school teachers with extensive teaching experience. (Both Dean and Sue love cooking and students can look forward to a barbecue – depending on the often-unpredictable British weather, of course!)

In this interview with NetworkMilan they describe the services they offer and explain why EduVacation is very different from studying at a typical language school. They also talk about their experience of welcoming Italian learners to the Cotswolds and discuss the unique benefits of being immersed in an English-speaking environment when you are learning the language.

Dean and Sue also agree to share their experiences and insights of running a business. They talk about what motivates them and describe some of the challenges they face as entrepreneurs. And they have some useful advice for anyone considering starting up a company.

Finally, Dean reveals that he once took part in a reality television programme on national TV in South Africa! Using his business skills, ingenuity and charisma, he had to compete for the top cash prize with a group of very determined contestants. Find out what happened in the end…

NM: Dean and Sue, welcome to NetworkMilan. Can you tell us about EduVacation?

Dean and Sue Erasmus

Dean and Sue Erasmus: We started EduVacation to provide learners of English as a foreign language with an experience where they can fully immerse themselves in the English language and enjoy a memorable holiday in the beautiful Cotswolds of England. If you don’t know it already, the Cotswolds region is situated in the southwest of England and is the country’s largest officially designated “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. A major tourist attraction, visited by thousands of tourists every year, the location is easily accessible by rail, road and air.

Most speakers of English as a foreign language have the basic skills to read, write and speak but lack the confidence to do so freely. Learners of English as a foreign language are often under pressure to learn English for various reasons and the process can become a negative experience. EduVacation uses a holiday format to provide a relaxed and friendly environment with lessons and activities designed to encourage our guests to feel at ease when practising their English language skills. Our courses are designed and presented to improve our guests’ fluency and confidence in the English language.

What services do you offer?

As an owner managed business, we are very flexible with regards to our courses and can tailor make a course/holiday to suit the requirements of corporate and private clients. We welcome prospective clients to contact us to discuss their specific needs.

We do, however, offer standard courses. These courses are designed according to the relevant English proficiency levels of each participant and group. They include:

Standard weekly English learning holiday in England:

• 6 nights with accommodation in Cotswolds holiday cottages including 3 meals a day

• Up to 40 hours of English lessons, related activities and daily cultural outings to popular Cotswolds tourist sights

• All coursework and the services of two qualified teachers

English learning tours to Cape Town, South Africa:

• All-inclusive, guided tours combining a 7 day holiday with a tailor-made immersive English programme

• All meals, accommodation, daily sightseeing tours, English lessons and activities, all entrance fees, transport, services of a knowledgeable guide and English teacher

Extra services can be offered or incorporated into our courses including:

•  Corporate training

• Introduction to working and living in the UK

• Team-building

• Business English and skills

• Student summer courses

• Weekend conversational courses

All our services are explained in more detail, by the way, on our website ( including examples of the themes and activities for our standard courses.

Family life and comfortable accommodation will help you to learn English in a relaxed environment

What makes EduVacation different from conventional language schools?

When we established EduVacation, our aim was to provide a service and concept that differed from the majority of those on offer in the UK. Let me explain the main differences that I believe set us apart from the majority of schools and services on offer:

Firstly, we offer fully immersive and all-inclusive English learning holidays:

  • We understand that it is very difficult for people to find the time to attend language courses in a different country so we decided to combine our courses with an all-inclusive holiday so that our clients get value for their money. The courses are suitable for groups of friends, family, colleagues or students.
  • We want our participants to hear, speak, read and write as much English as possible during their EduVacation course/holiday. We therefore instruct, teach, discuss and chat in English and encourage our participants to do the same. We want them to enjoy their experience and have a positive attitude towards learning and practising their English skills.
  • Our guests are accommodated in beautiful holiday cottages that we rent according to each group’s requirements. This means that, although the group is fully immersed in the English language and culture, they still have their own time and privacy in the evenings after the final meal or activity.

Personal attention and a professional approach

Secondly, we own the business: we are hands on managers and we present the courses ourselves:

  • Our guests and participants get our personal attention during their whole experience
  • We know exactly what service and level of professionalism our guests are experiencing as we provide it ourselves.
  • It is in our personal interest to provide a memorable experience for our clients
  • We can be flexible with regards to our clients’ requirements and needs
Finally, from our personal experience we understand fully what our clients as foreign language learners are experiencing
  • Sue and I both have a TEFL qualification. We are also both qualified school teachers with second language training experience.
  • I speak 3 languages including Italian and understand the challenges involved in acquiring a new language.
  • Both our sons are studying a variety of European languages and we understand exactly what they are experiencing.
  • We are well travelled as a family and have encountered many different cultures.
  • I have spent 15 years in corporate management and therefore I have a wealth of experience in training and business.

Why would someone who reads NetworkMilan be interested in booking a course with you?

With EduVacation you will be on "on the road to success"

Dean: I spent many years working in a corporate environment and travelling globally for business. I was constantly reminded by colleagues and clients of the need and importance of learning English as a foreign language.

EduVacation aims to provide an environment where our clients are encouraged to be confident and feel at ease when practising and improving their English language skills with teachers that understand the challenges that this involves.

EduVacation provides courses that a group of colleagues could attend or a family that want to improve their skills together. Our courses are suitable for a group of friends, a couple or a group of students. I also speak Italian and believe this would be helpful when dealing with Italian clients with basic proficiency levels and in general.

What experience do you have in dealing with Italian clients?

The Cotswolds will delight and charm Italian visitors

Dean: My love affair with Italy started almost 30 years ago when I spent a scholastic year in Italy as an AFS Intercultural Programs exchange student. The organisation is known as Intercultura in Italy. I lived as part of an Italian family in Ostia Lido outside of Rome and attended a year of Liceo Scientifico. I was completely immersed in the Italian culture and language for 10 months. We are still in constant touch with my Italian family and I had the opportunity 8 years ago of introducing my wife and sons to all the family on a holiday to Italy. Since then we have had numerous holidays to Italy and my love for the country, its people and culture is shared equally by my family.

The year I started my studies to become a teacher, I started working as a freelance tour guide in South Africa, registered with the South African Tourist Board and for the next 10 years on weekends and during school holidays, I escorted numerous groups of Italian tourists on guided tours of South Africa. I met many fantastic people and as the tours were exclusive, got to know and make friends with a variety of Italian visitors to South Africa, including Italian members of parliament, businessmen, honeymooners and families.

Cape Town and the stunning Table Mountain: a suitably dramatic backdrop to an incredible English course and a truly memorable holiday in South Africa

As a business, what opportunities and challenges do you face? (especially in the current economic climate?)

Our biggest challenge as a new business is marketing and presenting our company, services and concept to potential clients. This can become very expensive with no guarantee of ROI (Return on Investment).

Our concept is also quite different to the majority of English learning methods used in the UK, e.g. formal English schools and lessons, and it takes time for people to understand what we offer and how it is beneficial to their English learning journey.

The current economic climate is also a stumbling block to a business model such as ours as people and companies still understand the importance of learning English as a foreign language but are looking at ways to cut their costs. However, one of the reasons we structured our courses as they are, is so that people wanting a fully immersive experience can get value for their money by not only having a full day of lessons and activities but also an all-inclusive holiday as well at very competitive rates.

New direction? EduVacation's strategy is to make your English learning journey as effective as possible

What motivates you as entrepreneurs? Why did you choose the language education sector?

Dean: Anybody that is making money from a consumer whether it be private or corporate, should be striving to offer the best service, product and experience if they hope to be or continue to be a success.

Working for yourself enables you to be fully responsible for the success or failure of your business. Your personal effort will relate to your personal gain. I have always wanted to start my own business and particularly with my wife as we have different strengths and talents that we believe complement each other.

Making you feel at home: relax after an intensive day of studying and visiting places of interest

Being self-employed, especially, and establishing a business and concept from scratch, takes a lot of courage and faith. I have always given 100% to the roles I have previously held and felt that if I did the same for my own business, I would make a success of it. It also eventually gives you the opportunity of finding a good work/life balance.

I have been fortunate as I have worked as a teacher and also in the private sector in sales and marketing management. EduVacation gives me the opportunity to use my skills and experience in both fields for my own company. Working internationally and for multi-national companies and clients, I continually saw the necessity of learning English amongst my colleagues and clients and the idea for EduVacation was born from this experience.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs and startups?

Dean: Many people say that you should not give up your job to start your own business but do it as a sideline until you are established. This is good advice but not always practical. I tried but realised that if I wanted to make a success of EduVacation, I had to give it 100% of my time and effort.

My advice to entrepreneurs would be the following:

  • Research your sector well, both locally and internationally.
  • Try not to jeopardise your family and their well being by taking a huge risk with your assets – we are still experiencing a very unstable economic climate.
  • Take a calculated risk.
  • Believe completely in your business and concept.
  • Put in 100% effort into making it a success.
  • Don’t be proud – use contacts.
  • There are so many cost effective ways of building your business from website building to social networking sites.
  • Use all the negative experiences in your working life as learning opportunities for your own business.
  • Use any available time that you now have to pursue other opportunities that you have never had time for e.g. designing a product, writing a book or course, consulting, charity work, etc.

Dean and Sue are 100% focused on providing students with the best learning and holiday experience

We always like to find out if there’s anything unique or surprising about our guests on NetworkMilan. Anything you would like to share with our readers?

Dean: 9 years ago, I was working as the International Sales and Marketing Manager for a company in Cape Town. I applied as a contestant on a reality television programme on South African national TV. The programme, the Sanlam Money Game, was to promote entrepreneurship and was sponsored by one of South Africa’s leading financial services groups. [Editor’s note: The global Sanlam group includes Sanlam UK, a wealth management fund.]

The competitors were subjected to a comprehensive and rigorous selection process and assessed on everything from confidence, intellect, enthusiasm, ambition and the ability to express themselves. The focus was on outstanding entrepreneurship and thinking as far outside the box as possible.

Contestants were given an amount of money, dropped off somewhere in the country they were unfamiliar with, given three days to survive and make as much money as possible with their starting capital with a cameraman and monitor following them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Each week 3 contestants competed against each other – with the winner taking all. There were very strict rules including not dealing with any known contacts and certain trading challenges included.

I won my week and was in the top 3 money makers when the season ended resulting in a grand finale with the top three money makers competing against each other with double the starting capital and various extra challenges and rules. I ended up winning the final and being named the SMG Entrepreneur of the Year on national television and the prize being allowed to keep the profits made during trading. I believe that my success was due to excellent preparation, hard work, persistence, treating people with respect and keeping a sense of humour which are all traits I can carry over to EduVacation.

My only regret was that it was not in the UK or elsewhere as the hype at the time would have been a lot more lucrative I am sure!

Dean Erasmus: Reality TV show contestant and winner of the "Sanlam Money Game"

NetworkMilan: Dean and Sue, we really appreciate you taking the time to tell us all about EduVacation and your experiences as language entreprenuers (and TV star, Dean!). Thank you. We would like to wish you all the best and hope that you enjoy continued success with EduVacation.

Interview by Robert Dennis


If you would like to discover more about the benefits of a full-immersion English language course – as well as a Cotswolds (or Cape Town) holiday you’ll always remember – then visit the EduVacation website:

You can also contact Dean and Sue Erasmus at EduVacation by phone, email or skype:

Tel: +44 (0) 1451 822 307

Mobile: +44 (0) 7810 442 470

Email: [email protected]

Skype: suedean.erasmus

EduVacation: Talk it, experience it, live it!

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NetworkMilan welcomes Danielle Dalkie, mobile entrepreneur and PR /Social Media expert

12 Jul

We are delighted to introduce our first guest blogger, Danielle Dalkie, who has a fascinating background as a mobile payments entrepreneur and is currently planning a strategic move to Rome. In this article she talks about her experience in setting up Waspit, a social banking service, and how she plans to use her PR and social media skills in her new life in Italy.

Danielle on the Digital Mission Stand at ad:tech NYC Conference and Expo 2010

Ciao! I am really pleased to be writing for – and I am looking forward to sharing some of my ideas and business experiences with you. I’m also really excited about coming to Italy! I am an Australian who grew up in New Zealand and for the past two years I have been living between London and New York. And now I am moving to Rome!

I am Co-Founder of a startup called Waspit, a social banking platform for students. More specifically, it combines traditional banking features with social platforms to create a more intuitive and enriched experience for users. In essence, Waspit is “Banking 2.0”, and I have been involved in product development (right from the conception of the company) and more recently realigning the product to suit the target market: I have also been doing some business development and I aided the company in raising its first round of venture funding in New York.Waspit is designed not only to provide all the latest banking capabilities including mobile payments, but to enable for the first time a dynamic communication between users, their friends and the merchant on how and where they choose to spend their money.

Waspit lets you plug in all your social media platforms into one place so that you no longer have to manually check-in on Facebook and foursquare or post separate reviews to Yelp, Twitter and your other networks.

Social banking for students

For the more traditional ‘bank-like’ transactions Waspit is accepted in-store and online anywhere MasterCard is accepted; cash can be withdrawn from most ATMs; and students can pay their bills using ACH (Automated Clearing House) or Billpay. The FDIC* insured account also has a traditional routing and account number so students can receive their wages and allowances.

In the social world, students can easily, securely and instantly send and receive money between friends via Facebook, Twitter or mobile phone. Making quick payments in store is as simple as tapping your mobile phone over any MasterCard PayPass terminal. Students can even use the iOS, Android or Facebook apps to split restaurant bills or request money from their parents.

My own background is in public relations and social media, however. I have been involved in developing and implementing customer acquisition strategies in the tech, digital and social sectors. My skills include traditional PR such as managing press releases, publicity, social media, online content, corporate events, conferences and creating brand awareness.

I also specialise in social marketing and developing viral strategies (including guerrilla marketing efforts), as well as many successful viral and online campaigns in the both the US and UK. In addition, I develop comprehensive campaigns which rely heavily on social media and social marketing.

Rome calling (Image: Trevi Fountain by Fod via Wikimedia Commons)

But the big news is… I am relocating to Rome this year and I am currently looking for a suitable position and some cool social media projects to work on (so please get in touch with me if you have something I might be interested in!)

I am also involved in setting up the Rome Business English Network – the first sister group of the Milan Business English Network to be based in another Italian city. (Visit Network Roma for all the latest news about events and networking for people speaking, learning and doing business in English in the eternal city.) have invited me to write a series of blog posts on how mobile commerce is changing the way we interact with companies and its wider implications for the digital economy. I hope you enjoy these articles and find them useful, too!Read Danielle Dalkie’s next guest post, coming soon on
Money in motion: how mobile payments technology is changing the face of retailClick here to find out more about Waspit and social banking.

*Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: A US federal agency that insures deposits in member banks.

UPDATE (AUGUST 2012): Danielle has recently founded Network Roma, a sister group of the Milan Business English Network. You can become part of Network Roma by joining their group on LinkedIn.

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