Jon McGlashan

Jon McGlashan (International Business 2014) is the co-founder and managing director of BubbleLife Ltd, a company which offers a sustainable alternative to liquid soap packaging.

Jon McGlashan and Carolina Avellaneda smiling on the beach.

Jon's story

After working in the music and hospitality industry, Jon decided he wanted a change in his career path and came to Sussex in 2014 to study a BSc in International Business and then went on to complete an MSc in Project Management in 2018. It was during his studies that he met his business partner Carolina Avellaneda (Environment, Development and Policy 2017) who shared his passion for sustainability and had a background in biology and chemistry. They started to develop the idea for BubbleLife in 2018 after experimentation in their kitchen resulted in the creation of their unique bubble technology. 

How did you come up with the idea of Bubble Life?

Carolina and I were talking about the number of plastic bottles found in UK bathrooms. We decided to find a way that we could replace the plastic bottles with a more sustainable solution.

Our bubble technology works by a single dose of liquid soap being released when a bubble is popped between your fingers. The bubbles are designed to biodegrade only when you begin to use the product and the surrounding packaging washes safely away after use.

A bowl of BubbleLife Ltd bubbles on a blue background.

What led you to study at Sussex?

I had spent many years working in sales and decided that I wanted to do something different. I applied as a mature student because I thought that it would be a good route to learning the skills to start my own business.

How did your BSc in International Business help you on your journey to becoming an entrepreneur?

Without my degree I would not have known where to start with my business. It gave me the knowledge to write my business plan, create the financials for the business and develop our marketing strategy. It also meant I had an understanding in areas you wouldn’t necessarily think of, like protecting our Intellectual Property (IP) and how to apply for different types of funding.

Why did you decide to do a Masters and how did it help with your career?

After my undergraduate degree, I was still unsure what I wanted to do next. I knew I wanted to start my own business, but I was not confident I had the organisational skills needed to do so. I came across the MSc Project Management course and thought it would be a great way to improve my skills whilst also gaining a useful qualification that would improve my employment prospects.

It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was while studying for my Masters that I met Carolina and we entered the Start-up Sussex Social Impact Prize, which gave us the initial funding needed to start our BubbleLife journey.

From left to right, Mike Herd from the Sussex Innovation Centre, the Mayor of Brighton and Hove Councillor Jackie O'Quinn, Carolina Avellaneda holding the 2nd prize for Social Impact by the Sussex Innovation Centre and the University of Sussex and Jon McGlashan smiling.

What are you most proud of in your work?

We have been fortunate to win various awards and in 2023 be shortlisted for the Santander X UK Awards in the start-up category. In that year we also launched our website. However, I think my proudest moment will be when we launch our first products and start to replace the plastic bottles currently found in our bathrooms.

What challenges did you face setting up your own business?

  • Covid probably provided us with our biggest challenge – we founded BubbleLife in 2019 and were only just finding our feet as a business.
  • Trying to create something new that doesn’t exist in the market yet – when we are looking for ways to solve various challenges there is no off the shelf solution or roadmap to guide us on our journey so we have to get quite creative.
  • Imposter syndrome can also be a challenge. Speaking to other entrepreneurs, this appears to be quite common and after a while you realise you do know what you are talking about.
Don't be afraid of working with others to realise your vision. Different people have different strengths that can help turn your idea into a reality.”

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I love to sing and play guitar and I like spending time on the beach and paddleboarding.

I also love to travel and to try different foods. The last big trip I did was to Colombia with Carolina. One of the best things about travelling since university is that I have friends all over the world to visit so I am never short of a place to stay.

Jon McGlashan playing the guitar sitting next to Carolina Avellaneda on the grass. On the background, from left to right, a person sipping a beverage, another taking a picture and three other people smiling are sitting on the stairs.

If you had a song to describe your time at Sussex, what would it be?

Mr Brightside by The Killers. It is probably the song I remember hearing most during my time at Sussex.

Do you have any advice for students wishing to launch their own company with a sustainable impact?

  • Go for it! Sustainable businesses often can gain access to various grants and opportunities to help them grow.
  • Don’t be afraid of working with others to realise your vision. Different people have different strengths that can help turn your idea into a reality. Sharing the work means that you can each focus on the things you are best at.

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