Daniel Simmons OW
What are your fondest memories of being at Warwick School?
I loved being at Warwick School, perhaps even if I didn't always show it! The thing that tempted me to join the school were the sports facilities and I loved throwing myself into all sports that the school had to offer. It was fantastic to be coached by some great teachers and I have fond memories of travelling to fixtures up and down the country. Particularly during the cricket season. Playing in a fixture against the MCC was a highlight for me. Outside of sport, the relationships you form with the staff, who push you to be the best version of yourself. The environment they create, alongside your classmates, helps to really get the most out of you and enables you to develop lifelong skills that are difficult to teach.
There are so many different characters at Warwick School but it's an incredibly welcoming place and everyone seems to have a place here. The one thing that really stood out for me both during my school years and afterwards is the network of relationships that you forge and a lifelong familiarity that you have with each other.
Where and what did you study after leaving Warwick? What did you enjoy about it/give you?
After leaving Warwick I chose to study at Cardiff University. Here I studied International Business Management. In all honesty, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to University. I knew I wanted to throw myself into work and start my own business but ultimately at 18, I wasn't quite sure what that really meant. I took a gap year after leaving school and tried my hand to a few things but ultimately came to the realisation that going to University would provide me with further opportunities. I had an amazing time in Cardiff. It's a great university city. If you are into your rugby then I am not sure there is a better place to be on an international match day.
University gave me the opportunity to expand my network massively. Again, sport played a key part of my time in Cardiff and I have made some lifelong friends through the University Football Club. I also started an events business whilst in my second year at University, this is something that would never have happened had I not gone to Cardiff. Over the next 8 years we managed to build one of the most successful student event brands in the UK.
What is your current role?
After leaving University in 2015, I started a social media marketing agency - Populate Social. Over the last six years I have been building the business. We have managed to build a fairly successful business which operates all over the UK and internationally.
Has your career had any unexpected or unusual twists?
As with any career, there are ups and downs. Entrepreneurship is difficult, make no mistake. Each day is a genuine rollercoaster of emotions (apart from the fact you quickly learn to never get too high, or too low). I have often considered whether diving straight into my own business at the age of 21 was a good idea, when your peers are also building their careers in large, well-established organisations. However, I made the commitment to pursue my own venture and the amount you learn through doing this is unparalleled.
Have you been involved in any other interesting activities/occupations since leaving school?
I have never had any other 'real jobs' outside of Populate Social (other than pot-washing at Kenilworth Golf Club) and running the events business. My time has certainly been eaten up by Populate Social, building the business from the ground up. It has afforded me some incredible opportunities and experiences.
How has your time at Warwick helped you in your career?
I think Warwick really helps to shape you as a person. The school seems to produce confident, assured, intelligent, diligent and well-rounded pupils. These are all things that I think have helped me in my career. When I joined Warwick I did not have the same drive and determination as when I left. The elite nature of the sporting environment, alongside the peer expectation to achieve, really pushed me to do the best I could. This is again something I think that has helped me in my working career so far. Outside of that, the network that Warwick opens up to you is great. Alumni are always willing to share expertise and previous experiences, as well as reach out should they be interested in chatting to you.
Did any one person at Warwick have a positive influence on you and/or your career aspirations?
I don't know if there was one singular person that influenced my career choice or aspirations. However I do think there are some key figures within the school that had an impact on me as an individual. Mr Ogden helped tame me when I was perhaps at my most difficult to deal with! Mr Tedstone, Mr Francis and Mr Smith really pushed my desire to play cricket to the best standard I could. Mr Halse actually let me join the school which was something of a miracle I think!
Are there any other defining points in your career/life post Warwick that you could share?
There are lots of moments since leaving the school in 2011 that have been 'defining' or stand out. From making the decision to take a gap year and start a small custom cricket bat grip business, to selling my first order of grips and then having to close the business down when Adidas came along. To going to University and starting one of the UK's most successful student event brands. Right the way through to starting Populate Social after leaving University having never really worked a proper job in my life!
In 2017 I was awarded Cardiff Young Businessperson of the year in the Cardiff Business Awards. I was also shortlisted as Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards in 2018. Our agency has been recognised as one of the best agencies to work for (under 40 staff), which is a great achievement for everyone in the business.
There are lots of pivotal moments that happen each and everyday.
More recently I have started a property business with one of my best friends from Warwick. This is a nice reflection of the relationships and lifelong friends you create through the school.
Are you still in touch with other OWs and if so, do you get together?
I am still in touch with OWs and get together with them. I regularly play in the OWs cricket each summer which provides a great opportunity to head back to the school and see both the school and other OWs.
What advice would you give to your teenage self?
You don't need to know what you want to do with your life. The jobs that a lot of people end up doing don't even exist yet. Find something that you enjoy and put your all into it. Take every opportunity that is handed to you and put everything into it but don't forget to enjoy things. Take a moment to appreciate what you have and what you are achieving. Don't be afraid to talk to people and gain knowledge, people are willing to help and you don't need to pretend to have all of the answers!