IN THE SPOTLIGHT
LUCY ’ S JUST CHALLENGE JOURNEY
Lucy Bennett-Baggs ( 03-07 ), Founder and CEO of purpose-led events company Just Challenge has come a long way since leaving Pocklington School with a clutch of A levels thirteen years ago . After achieving first class honours in her marketing degree at Newcastle and securing a place on HSBC ’ s graduate scheme , Lucy worked in sponsorship , marketing and events for seven years , moved to Hong Kong then Singapore , resigned from her job , set up her own successful company and won the Women Leading Change in Asia award in 2018 . The OP office caught up with her recently to find out more about her fascinating career journey to date .
What made you want to study marketing at university ? I loved Business Studies at school and wanted to further understand what drove people to purchase products and engage in brands . I wanted to do a degree that would well place me to work for a large corporate company – but to have some fun with it ! I never took work too seriously and really wanted to do something I was passionate about .
Why HSBC ? I applied to a lot of large blue chip companies , as I wanted to get the foundations and experience from a multinational firm and graduate programme . Marketing can be applied in so many different companies and I was flexible as to which corporate I worked in . Getting onto a graduate scheme can be an incredibly challenging process and when HSBC offered me a place , I was very quick to accept it ! It ’ s important to be resilient when applying for these graduate schemes – you get far more rejections than you do acceptances . It was very competitive .
How did you find the transition from studying to being in a large global organisation ? I did an Undergraduate Placement Year with HSBC between my second and third year at Newcastle University as part of my Marketing BSc . I couldn ’ t recommend this more – it means you grow up very quickly and understand the corporate world before finishing your degree . It emphasises the importance of doing well at university should you want to succeed in an international firm – and my approach to work in my third year was subsequently far more mature . I went from being on track for a second class degree , to graduating with a first class degree , which I put down to my change in work ethic throughout my placement year . It ’ s a difficult transition but it ’ s exciting – particularly to earn money and to not be reliant on a student loan !
What was your role and what did it involve ? I started on an Undergraduate Placement Year , which ended with an offer onto HSBC ’ s Executive Management Graduate Scheme . This was a great scheme – as I spent two years across four different placements – from Commercial Banking , to Marketing , Retail Banking and Global Markets . It provided the most fantastic opportunity to experience very diverse business areas within the bank . Once I rolled off the Graduate Scheme , I then went into HSBC ’ s Global Sponsorship and
Events Team . This was the most fantastic role – I was responsible for managing the HSBC Hong Kong 7s , HSBC ’ s sponsorship of The Open Golf and Wimbledon . Talk about a dream job for a corporately driven , sports enthusiast !
What made you decide to work in Singapore ? With HSBC , I was fortunate to be transferred to Hong Kong to manage the HSBC Hong Kong 7s aged 24 years old . I absolutely loved Asia from the minute I landed there – the fast-paced nature of new cities , travelling , new cultures and experiences . I spent seven years in Hong Kong and was ready for the next move , and Singapore has always been on my radar . I ’ ve been here just over a year now and really love it .
What was it like when you first arrived ? How did you find settling in ? Singapore is Asia for beginners . It has an extensive expat network which provides fantastic opportunities . It is easy to settle in here – there are lots of ways to get involved in sports clubs , extra-curricular activities and everyone is incredibly welcoming . The good thing about moving to somewhere like Hong Kong and Singapore is that the vast majority of people have been in your ‘ newbie ’ shoes before and are subsequently very welcoming when you arrive .
When and why did you decide to set up Just Challenge ? Having been with HSBC in Sponsorship and Events for six years , I started to notice a shift internally away from high profile events to events with purpose and meaning . There wasn ’ t an agency in Hong Kong at the time that organised purpose led events
( for charity ) and I saw the opportunity to do this for large corporates . That ’ s where Just Challenge was born – we organise large scale events with purpose that drive employee engagement , corporate social responsibility and leadership development for large corporates around the world . HSBC was our first client !
How did you go about it ? Resigned but with full buy in from my boss and network at HSBC . They believed I was leaving and setting something up for the right reasons and were subsequently really supportive .
What were the biggest or most unexpected challenges in setting up and running the business ? How did you overcome them ? Running your own business is all consuming – and I hadn ’ t quite anticipated the toll this can take on you . The challenge is in ensuring you don ’ t live and breathe your own business – you need to make space for your mental and physical health , family , friends and social life . I ’ ve understood this more and more as the business has grown . There are naturally business challenges – like cash flow , COVID-19 (!) and various roadblocks along the way . Your role as a CEO when you set up your own business is to navigate these roadblocks – find solutions and ways round them .
What has been the most successful project / challenge you have worked on with your business and why ? I am most proud of the fact that in our first two years , we generated 2.5million USD revenue and 2million USD fundraising for charity . Just Challenge has