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News > Career Stories > From Mars bars to the Metaverse

From Mars bars to the Metaverse

Rufus Parkinson (Class of 1985) talks about his career journey
20 Sep 2022
Career Stories

Can you tell us a little about your career to date?

After graduating from University in 1995 I decided I wanted to learn some Chinese to go with the East Asian Studies I’d been taking at Newcastle. I spent a year and a half in Shanghai trying to learn a language that I’m still learning over 25 years later! It was early days for business expansion in China and a fascinating time to be there, full of potential and many unique obstacles.

I started my career in retail supermarkets, a fantastic training ground for business fundamentals, and then joined Mars (a great company to work for) on the commercial side rapidly growing their snack food and pet care businesses. From selling chocolate I moved to alcohol, with LVMH and their drinks division Moet Hennessy, selling Champagne, wines and spirits.

After over 20 years of working for big multinationals, I decided to try something completely different and co-founded a fashion technology company which provides virtual fitting/AR (augmented reality) and styling solutions for e-commerce and more recently digital fashion in the Metaverse. More on that in a minute …

What attracted you to that career path?

I’ve always enjoyed the commercial aspects of businesses and seeking out ways to grow and enter new markets. At the same time, I’ve always wanted to work with brands and products that you can see being consumed and the pleasure that brings hence chocolate, pet food and Champagne!

What was the inspiration behind the company you founded?

For the attraction was very different, it was the chance to create something completely new and with it add value to both customers and consumers in the process.
The original idea was born out of a real-life challenge. A friend was starting a clothing brand selling fairly expensive dresses online. The difficulty was how to get shoppers to spend 500 pounds on something they can’t try on and weren’t sure it would fit. Some three years on we had a 3D virtual fitting room in the market successfully fixing the problem!
Now it has moved to the next level with virtual fashion shows in the Metaverse and digital fashion that will over time change the way younger generations view and purchase fashion as a whole!

Can you tell us what it has been like setting up your company

It was a massive change from big consumer goods corporations to unchartered tech, along with all the uncertainties of a new business. So it’s been fun, frustrating, enjoyable, and painful but overall very satisfying in terms of achievements and never a dull moment!

Would you share some of the positives and negatives of running your own business?

The positives are many, from creating completely new solutions, seeing them go to market and delivering the benefits that were intended! The teamwork in a start-up environment and the fact that to a great extent you are in charge of your own destiny. On the negative side, there are setbacks, it always takes longer than you think and want, and you are constantly looking at your funding runway to make sure you can pay the bills!

What advice do you have for those thinking of setting up their own companies?

If you are convinced of the idea, the market demand is large enough, and that you will have a clear competitive advantage, then put the plan together and start to look at the financing options. Stick to your guns, be determined and don’t be afraid of making mistakes, just learn and move on quickly. Be sure to give yourself enough time as it will take longer to get traction than you think and you don’t want to run out of runway before you get lift-off! It’s a marathon, not a sprint! 

How have you found living and working in Taiwan? In what ways have you had to adapt in order to be successful there? 

Taiwan is a bit of a hidden gem, it’s a thriving democracy, very welcoming and a relatively easy place to live. There are great beaches, mountains, and islands to explore, and the food is fantastic. Whilst I still love to come back to the UK and visit frequently, and would have very much liked for my son to go to school at Moulsford, Taipei has very much become home for our family over the past 11 years and a place I would recommend to visit if you get the chance!




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