Illustration of a barber's electric razor cutting into the words 'At the cutting edge'. Letters fall down from the razor like hair trimmings.

At the cutting edge

Sussex alumnus Darren Tenkorang (Business and Management 2012) founded TRIM-IT, a mobile barbering service with franchises across the UK. He has recently become an Entrepreneur in Residence at the University.


Darren Tenkorang in the Business School
“Although I am not a social entrepreneur, my end goal is to give back to young people – and I want to use my own resources to do that.” DARREN TENKORANG
Business and Management 2012

As an Entrepreneur in Residence, I’ll be supporting students at Sussex throughout their entrepreneurial journeys, whether they are about to embark on one or just thinking about what makes a good idea and how to turn it into something tangible. I am holding workshops and mentoring sessions and am on a judging panel until the end of the 2022-23 academic year.

Before I came to study at Sussex, I considered becoming a social worker. I knew that I wanted my journey to wrap around young people, but I am ambitious and I thought my impact as a social worker would be too small. I realised that business would be a better route for me. Although I am not a social entrepreneur, my end goal is to give back to young people – and I want to use my own resources to do that.

I studied business and management at Sussex mainly because I achieved an A* in Business Studies A-level. I thought that’s a signifier that I am actually alright at the theory of business. I didn’t particularly know what I wanted to do but I knew that it involved leadership. Business Studies doesn’t position you to own a business, it positions you to operate within a business.

I found out I was dyslexic while on a work placement as part of my degree. I thought I might struggle in a big corporate organisation, so I wanted to be my own boss. I came up with the idea for TRIM-IT, a mobile barber shop, after being late for a date because I hadn’t been able to get a trim. I wanted the convenience of being able to book a haircut and for the barber to come to me.

Winning the £10,000 StartUp Sussex prize in 2016 gave me an element of validation and the confidence to continue. In the early days when you have a thousand ideas, confidence is priceless. It is what will determine whether you spend the next five years doing it (with me it’s been eight) or if it’s something that you drop by the side-lines.

What differentiates a good, profitable business is largely the execution. An A* idea with B-grade method is worse off than a B-grade idea and A* team. Execution really is everything, which means that you need to be able to reverse-engineer what you do so that you can move forward. We learned a lot on the way.

Darren Tenkorang in Sussex seminar room with students at tablesDarren on campus in his role as Entrepreneur in Residence.

TRIM-IT is part of my identity that is rooted in the support that Sussex gave me. With my business partner Nana Darko (Mechanical Engineering 2013), we grew the business by franchising across the UK. We went from six to 68 during the pandemic because there was such a high demand. We are now at the stage of selling the company because we think it will be in better hands with capital that outstretches our own. I have been offered quite a few roles because of the credibility that I have – such as Head of Operations and Head of New Business at different organisations – but I am looking for the right opportunity.

One of my biggest heroes is Jamal Edwards MBE. He was Entrepreneur in Residence at Sussex until his untimely death last year. I just loved the way he started his music business SBTV from the ground up. He turned a hobby into a massive organisation that had such an impact on popular culture, leading to the discovery of artists such as Ed Sheeran and Emeli Sandé. He also did a lot for black popular culture and entrepreneurs in general. I met him – he had a haircut several times. He invited us to a lot of events and encouraged our business.

Throughout my journey I’ve mentored quite a few aspiring young black entrepreneurs. I am super-passionate about doing that. When I was growing up, I didn’t have many people that I could look up to. At the time, business gurus were Sir Alan Sugar or Sir Richard Branson, but those guys didn’t look like me and were not from the same background. Jamal was such an inspiration.

I was voted Youth Mayor of Lambeth when I was at school. I thought I would do a pretty good job. I ran a campaign, went round to all the schools and gave morning assemblies – it was very daunting at the time. My approach didn’t rest on my manifesto. I wanted to get young people on my side by being charismatic.

People say I am calm and collected. I’m not super-animated, but I’ve been told I have an aura of confidence. I try to be authentic. I’m comfortable not being the smartest person in the room. It means that when I am speaking, it comes from a position of authority. If I don’t know something, I will just shut up.

This interview took place in November 2022. Darren has now exited from TRIM-IT.

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