Name: Tom Toolan
Course: Master of business administration in strategic carbon management
While studying part-time at UEA, Tom sourced the funding he needed through the UEA Student Enterprise service to help him launch The Institute of Carbon Accountants and Traders. ICAT is a membership organisation, training provider and certification authority. Tom saw a gap in the market in this emerging, unregulated professional field and decided to fill it. Tom explains that ‘in 2013 Companies House closed 19 businesses for fraudulently trading Emissions Certificates. These companies conned £56 million out of UK pensioners. I want "Self-regulation" before statutory regulation.’ ICAT is the first representative body to represent the interests of individuals in the profession of carbon accounting and trading.
What motivated you to set up this business?
Knowing it's ethically and morally the right thing to do. I have three passions: Engineering, Education and the Environment – Setting up ICAT indulges my passions for education, providing new career options and professionalising emerging professions, protecting the environment by supporting businesses to "manage" and reduce their carbon footprint, and using technology to reduce carbon emissions, protect the environment, and create jobs.
What have the biggest challenges been setting up your own venture?
Staying motivated, keeping the faith as it were. Not giving up every-time I run out of money and can't move forward at the pace I want.
How did your time at UEA help you?
The MBA was the starting point, followed by support from my lecturers. Then there was the initial £500 funding from UEA Student Enterprise to test the concept, followed an additional £3000 to further develop the business. What is important in all this is that the process of applying for funding focuses the mind and the business plan.
What has happened to your business since you started?
The business has modest foundations, we produce a monthly newsletter - I–News, which went from a circulation of 2000 to 14,000 key decisions makers around the world. We have hosted and partnered a number of events with Further Education Colleges, Chamber of Commerce and as Chairman of ICAT, I have appeared as a guest speaker on a number of occasions, talking about ICAT, sustainability, and sustainable business.
What are the main positives of starting your own business?
Flexibility, it’s mine and no one can take it away from me; I am the master of my own destiny, know-one to blame but myself; my business stands and falls on my ability. In less than 12 months I have created an internationally recognised brand and as every day passes, someone else knows about ICAT as a brand, about the importance of carbon, measuring, monitoring and reducing it, and the impact carbon taxation, fraud and emissions trading has on business.
What are your dreams and aspirations for the business?
My dream is to have an ICAT office in every country, to employ 300+ people around the world who are passionate about climate change, education and the environment. I aspire to have 100,000 members, which would allow ICAT to launch I-Kitten the membership organisation for schools and school children and for ICAT to be able to support individuals by providing funding for their education and development.
Tom’s advice for students thinking of starting a business:
‘Do it, and do it now. You will learn so much as you develop your business concept through to launching your business and then becoming successful. Every day will be different, and the harder you work the more you will get out of it personally and financially.’