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News > Alumni News > Inspiring Careers Talk for Year 13 Students

Inspiring Careers Talk for Year 13 Students

Self-made successful entrepreneur, Tony Hillary of Hillary's Blinds and Hillary's Investments Ltd, came back to give inspiring talk to the Year 13s

30 Jan 2020
Alumni News
Tony Hillary with Head Boy, Dola Rabiu and Deputy Head Boy, Felix Baker
Tony Hillary with Head Boy, Dola Rabiu and Deputy Head Boy, Felix Baker


Tony Hillary
Self-made successful entrepreneur, Tony Hillary who started Hillarys Blinds from scratch in 1971, came back to give an inspiring talk to the Year 13s
We were greatly honoured last week as OJ, Tony gave an inspiring careers talk to the current Year 13 students.  The School Room was packed out to hear Tony's journey from a Judd School boy to highly successful entrepreneur.  

Tony kept the Year 13s absolutely gripped as he explained his rocky beginnings from an immature and underachieving teenage school boy to taking a step into the great unknown of a working life in London. 
His honesty about his unsuccessful early forays into the world of work were enlightening and amusing to the assembled students.  Tony's good humour throughout the talk kept his message current and on the pulse for the audience. He covered his brief position in Lloyds Bank as an unsuccessful bank clerk to being a questionable and underqualified private hire driver in London!
Finally he became a commission-only double glazing salesman. He had discovered his niche – selling! Over the next seven years he continued in the world of sales, then moving into sales management.

Tony described how at the age of 28, having moved to Nottingham, he decided to set up his own business selling window blinds. Hillarys Blinds was born!
It started in 1971 with just a telephone on his kitchen worktop and a price list. In the first week he sold £43 worth of blinds, but it very quickly snowballed to over a hundred blinds a week. Two years later, in order to control quality and increase his margins he decided that they should make the blinds themselves, so Tony found a 1000 sq ft workshop in Nottingham and started manufacturing.

The workshop is still there to this day. It was very cramped and Tony remembered how they had to open a window every time they made a venetian blind longer than 2.5 metres! 

Tony explained how he generated business mostly from advertising. The more he sold, the more he spent on advertising, which in turn bought in even more business! This was a very simple business model from which his blinds empire grew. 
In May 2001, 30 years later he sold the business to the management team. In his final week, Hillarys Blinds turned over £1,200,000, manufactured and fitted 22,000 made to measure blinds. They had 950 employees, 850 self – employed commission based agents, 19 window blind shops, an on-line retail business and a busy wholesale business selling window blind fabrics and components. Hillarys turned over £64,000,000 that year.

Tony gave really keen insights as to how business works, how theories of business can be applied to any industry and how leadership and the quality of that leadership and skills therein are key.

He outlined how important a team are to have with you and to choose the best people you can afford - this is what makes a successful business - you cannot do it alone. If you have the business model right, the success comes from the people in the business.

Following the sale of Hillary's Blinds, Tony described his next business - Property Development and Investment, and how he went on to make a success of that as well. 

Tony's parting message was what to do with your success once you have achieved it - there are only so many cars or houses you can drive/live in at a time - what's important is how you give back, the difference you can make to other people's lives and the life satisfaction you will get from helping others. 

He showed the students the amazing work he and his wife do with Syrian refugee families who have been resettled in Nottinghamshire under the UN Vulnerable Persons Scheme. Most have lived for more than five years in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan. He described to them the poverty and freezing winter conditions and baking hot summers they are subjected to and the ordeal of living and bringing up families in makeshift tents. It really brought the message home to us all that how very fortunate we are.

Tony then answered some amazing questions from the students and his talk was met with a rapturous applause.

After a tour of the school by the prefects, which brought back a lot of memories, Tony has kindly agreed to come back again next year to inspire the next Year 13s as well.  

If you feel you have something to impart to the students and would like to give a talk to the 6th Form during their Friday morning assembly, or a more select group of students studying a specific subject please email:



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