Aston Greats: Jurek Piasecki

50 Aston Greats: Jurek Piasecki

Jurek Piasecki

Entrepreneur Jurek Piasecki left Aston University in 1967 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After graduating, he started working for British vehicle manufacturer, Leyland Motor Corporation. In 1973 he received a sponsorship to Manchester Business School and completed an MBA in his time there. Equipped with a keen business mind, he became Finance Director of Jackson the Tailor, a retail company with five factories and nearly 200 shops, a division of the (then) Burton Group. In the 1980s he helped to build up jewellery chain, the Goldsmiths Group, increasing the turnover from £3m to £350m. Today he helms luxury jewellery brand, Theo Fennell, which he bought in 2013.

Tell me about your latest business ventures.

My wife and I bought Theo Fennell, which is a very up-market jeweller. Our claim to fame is that we have people like Elton John, the Rolling Stones, the Osbornes and Andrew Lloyd Webber as customers. We also have investments with about five companies. We have a large private eye investigation company; we have an interest in an IT company where we do a lot of work with the BBC, ESPN, and Sky; and we also have an interest in the waste disposal business.

How did you first become involved with Aston University?

I came from an incredibly poor background. We lived in a place called Hazel Slade in between Lichfield and Cannock. I went to Aston, which was close to home. I lived in King’s Heath as a student boarder with the Features Editor of the Evening Mail. Following Aston I went to the Leyland Motor Corporation and I was very fortunate, I was fast-tracked through that and they put me in charge of Eastern Europe very quickly. I’m a great believer in giving back. I think education has helped me immensely, so I’m giving back to education. This year, we sponsored two MBA students at Manchester Business School - and I met Julia [King, Professor the Baroness Brown of  Cambridge] a year or so ago and I could see the anniversary was coming up, so I asked how I could help.

What has your connection with Aston given you personally?

In the village [Hazel Slade] there must have been about 800 people; three went to grammar school and one went to university. So I could see that education could help people. I think that an engineering degree is useful because it gives you precision and enables you to see to the heart of things. 

What is the best advice you can give to today’s graduates?

These aren’t in any order of priority. Don’t be frightened of changing disciplines. If you’re doing an engineering degree and you want to go into chemistry, or retail or business, don’t be afraid of doing it. Depending on how much you want to earn, be a risk-taker rather than a risk-averter. The best advice is know yourself, really, and try and think exactly what you want from life. And be prepared to move. I’ve lived in the Midlands, the Northeast, the Northwest, London, Henley-on-Thames – don’t know where I’m moving… But the key thing is to assess what you really want from life, and don’t be frightened of anything at all.