Sydney raised Jonathan Pfahl is the founder and Managing Director of the Rockstar Group, the UK’s largest entrepreneur and mentoring firm. It’s Rockstar by name and by nature – Jonathan has taken the business world by storm with his professional passion, energetic style and finance acumen. Nine years after moving to London Jonathan reflects on his company’s successes, plans for its future and his love for the city he calls home.
I didn’t come to London to start my own business. I came to London in 2005 to continue my career in finance and the reality of it was that I struggled to get the same type of job or salary in line with what I was getting in Australia. I ended up investing £3,000 into a three-month mentoring program with a multi-millionaire property investor. By the end of the three months I’d bought six houses in London and then became a mentor myself. I thought; no one is doing this for any other sector, no one is creating a one-stop shop for mentoring regardless of what sector that you’re in. So with the blessing of the company I was working for I came up with the idea of Rockstar.
I’ve always believed in the concept of mentoring. I knew after doing extensive research that the majority of British entrepreneurs believe that the fastest way to be successful in business is to go out and find someone who has already done what you want to do and to get them to show you how to do it, one to one. So in 2007, I went out and found a large number of multi-millionaire entrepreneurs who did want to mentor younger businesses and created a one-stop shop where you could access the most relevant one to you.
We’ve developed with the times, so we’ve created a very high tech and successful online mentoring platform. As a result of launching Rockstar Live we’ve now been able to take it to other parts of the world because it’s all online. We’ve been working with a number of our national and global partners who are now reselling and offering that service in the UK, certain parts of Europe, America and soon to be Australia.
We were approached by James Caan, Chairman of the British Government’s Start-Up Loans initiative, to be the delivery partner of the £120 million scheme. Rockstar Youth is our government-backed facility that offers 18-30 year olds start up capital by way of a loan and free mentoring. Since our first incubator in November we have now created 1,500 new jobs for entrepreneurs. A lot of them have employed other people, which is great, and they’re all benefiting from access to big name mentors.
I believe it is a lot easier to set up a business in the UK than in Australia. I absolutely feel that what’s now on offer for small businesses in this country privately and now with the support of government is much, much better. The cost to set up, the tax advantages, the simplicity and ease of creating a new company and getting your bank account sorted, and the size of the market. I’m biased because I’ve only ever set up a business here but I would absolutely encourage people to do so if they think they’ve got what it takes.
We have had tough times, I had to invest a lot of my own money into the business to keep it going during the recession. 2010 was a difficult year for Rockstar, we had a lot of our members defaulting or unable to pay their mentoring fees. But by 2011, as the recession began to come to an end, the government and other large Blue Chip organisations began to endorse mentoring to help small business grow. That’s when mentoring really became a lot more sought after, and given Rockstar was already known as the premier brand, we began growing strongly again.
I really can’t see myself going back to Australia any time soon. London is home for me, it really is. I’m married to an Australian so she puts up with the weather, but only just! It’s wonderful to visit Sydney but I do find it quite an isolated, small place in comparison with London. In terms of business, the next stop for me in the States. We’re reselling very strongly in New York, Miami and Chicago.
I’m a huge rugby fan so I spend a lot of time at Twickenham Stadium. Whether it’s the England games or the Heineken Cup finals or the premiership finals, which I really enjoy. The other thing I love is that in nine years of living here I’ve still only seen probably 5% of the bars, restaurants and attractions that are on offer. There’s so much here to do, there’s such diversity and if you do get tired of the weather you get on a plane to Spain or Greece.