In the first edition of Business Leader Conversations, brought to you by Knightstone Capital, we’re proud to be speaking with JobOppO founder, Kayam Iqbal.
Kayam started his military career in the Royal Air Force as a medic, before specialising in languages and working with various specialist units across a number of NATO countries. Kayam’s achievements to date are numerous and include setting up the OppO Foundation, a charity supporting military personnel and their families, through the challenges facing them once they leave the services.
Kayam joined the Royal Air Force in 1999 and spent 11 years in the British Military, completing tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. After 9/11 Kayam faced hostility from both sides of the community – for being Muslim and having a military background, to racism from certain sections of ‘civi street’. Kayam was medically discharged with PTSD officially in 2010 after which he struggled to find employment in a civilian role and at one point found himself selling scratch cards for £6 an hour with Camelot.
Kayam’s PTSD and related depression were not openly discussed because of the negative stigma surrounding mental health issues and the feeling that it showed weakness. But through hard work and the resilience and determination he had gained during his service, Kayam taught himself a whole new set of skills and went on to launch the award-winning JobOppO in 2013 before founding the OppO Foundation. Kayam has also appeared as a Hunter on the Channel 4 show ‘Hunted’.
Here’s a breakdown of what we discussed in the interview:
- It would be good to start talking about your current business. Could you tell us about your company and what led you to set it up? (1:00)
- Not everyone has the drive and will to create their own business, no matter how well they knew their industry or ‘customer’. What do you think gave you that drive to create the business? (2:38)
- Some studies have found that as many as 20-30% of veterans returning from service have PTSD. What would be your message to veterans returning from duty and to the business leaders considering them as job candidates? (4:00)
- Should more be done to assist and encourage entrepreneurship among returning veterans? (5:54)
- Discrimination has played a big part in your life from an early age. How has the conversation and attitudes around diversity changed since you created your business? (7:03)
- Do you think enough is being done in your industry to encourage diversity? (9:21)
- What does your company turn over and what is your vision for it, for the next ten years? (10:26)
- What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in business? (11:37)
- Who are the figures in business that inspire you the most? (12:55)
- Do you have any final words for our audience? (14:10)
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