Caroline Mason

Management Studies and Spanish

Caroline owns and runs a new type of sandwich bar which is a roaring success thanks to her leadership and management skills.
A year abroad in Madrid helped clarify her idea of bringing montadito, or tapas sandwiches, to Headingley.

What is your name and current occupation?

Caroline Mason. Self-employed. Owner of Lilliputs Montadito Bar, Headingley, Leeds.

What did you study at Leeds?

Joint Honours Management Studies and Spanish

Tell us a little bit about your company and your role within it.

Lilliputs Montadito Bar is a sandwich bar with a twist. Montaditos are tapas sandwiches which are available with over 50 different fillings. It is situated on North Lane in Headingley. I set up Lilliupts in September 2007 and currently work there full time, on the shop floor serving customers and also
working behind the scenes on marketing, finance and finding suppliers.

How did you end up setting up your own business after leaving the University of Leeds?

I had always wanted to set up my own business and work for myself since a young age and was considering setting up a business after my A-levels but my parents persuaded me to go to University first. During my final year, I got in touch with Spark at the careers centre, which helps students and graduates set up a business, and the staff at Spark helped me write a business plan and research my business idea.

What skills and attributes did you gain from your course?

From the management part of my degree, I learnt team working skills due to participation in quite a few group projects during my course. I also developed my self-discipline and time management skills which was useful as I learnt how to manage my own workload and plan ahead. From the Spanish side of my course I learnt public speaking skills which were practised during regular presentations and debates in Spanish during classes.

What skills and attributes did you gain from your co-curricular activities?

From SLAPSOC (Spanish, Latin American and Portuguese Society), I developed my interpersonal skills as I had the opportunity to meet and socialise with people from different walks of life and different cultures. I also developed organisation and team-working skills when our dance team prepared a routine for the annual dance show. As a member of the ski society, I developed my leadership skills during the ski holiday as I led a group ski session.

How do you think the skills you gained from your course and other activities helped you when it came to setting up your own business?

I think the leadership skills, organisation skills and time management skills which I learnt at University helped me enormously when starting my own business. Working to a deadline and prioritising my time are both vital issues in the early stages of starting a business, in particular to make sure that the project was on schedule and on budget. I felt in control and well prepared knowing that I had these skills to help me.

Looking back, are there any gaps in your skills set that you could have filled while at university?

I think I would have been able to develop my leadership skills further if I had created a new society or had become a society secretary or society events organiser.

What would you say were your main achievements at university and how did these influence where you are now?

I feel that my main achievement during University was completing my year abroad in Madrid. I feel that this has given me the confidence to pursue my ambitions and goals. I also feel that an achievement was making the most of the University experience by taking part in as many things as possible and learning as much as possible, academically and with regard to life in general.

What advice would you have for students studying today?

I would advise students studying today to make the most of their time at University. Participate in as many co-curricular activities as you have time for and take the opportunity to learn as much as you can about anything that interests you.