YO! Sushi founder, Simon Woodroffe talked passion, robots and imagination when he spoke to graduates from Wakefield’s Backstage Academy.

The man who revolutionised restaurants with his conveyor belt service and talking robots told the 60 plus graduates of the university accredited live events Academy that the secret to his own success was that imagination had never been educated out of him and he urged them to hang on to theirs.

With a theme of entrepreneurship, Mr Woodroffe, whose own career started in live events management and included working backstage at Live Aid in the 1980s, said that he had been able to develop multiple businesses by building a bank of contacts and networking.

“I left school with two ‘O’ levels and went straight into a job following my passion, similar to Backstage Academy’s graduates.   The live events industry was exciting then and remains so and depends upon the enthusiasm of young people like yourselves to act like entrepreneurs and build your networks,” he said.

“It can be a dysfunctional sector but every job and experience is an opportunity to enhance your reputation and showcase your skills and attributes,” he added. “Make the most of them and leave a lasting legacy and taster of what you can add to the next project that you are offered.”

Backstage Academy is based at South Kirkby’s Production Park, which is also home to more 20 live events creative businesses. Mr Woodroffe has collaborated with Production Park’s Brilliant Stages before.

“It was Brilliant Stages, one of the Production Park creative businesses that helped us get YO! Sushi going. They made the first drinks serving robots for the London restaurant which broke all the rules by talking in character to our diners, often with comic effect” added Mr Woodroffe.

Adrian Brooks, the founder and chairman of both Production Park and Backstage Academy said that the live events industry was by the Government’s own figures contributing £91.8bn per year and growing to the UK economy.

“The challenge for young people is to understand that while they will be rewarded handsomely for their work and skill and travel the world most of the time they will be freelance and entrepreneurs of themselves,” he said. “AS well as equipping them with practical skills we work to instil in them the need to be pro-active and build their networks.

“Live events is a growing industry because musicians have come under pressure due to falling record sales to tour to remain commercial. That has created more opportunities within our industry for enthusiastic creative people. All of this year’s graduates have gone straight into work, some have started their own enterprises and one has opened a live events business on Production Park,” he added.

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