Steve Lowy is the Founder and Chairman of Umi Digital and was a student at the University of Salford between 2000 and 2003 on our Hospitality and Tourism Management degree. Since leaving, Steve has given his time to current business students and won an Alumni Achievement Award.

What made you choose The University of Salford?

I chose the University of Salford because it was probably one of the most intense of its type with the hospitality and tourism management course. You got a lot of practical training but still did the business management style degree, so things like marketing and accountancy.

In something of a full circle moment, you’re now lecturing students at University – how do you find that?

Yeah, I lecture undergrads and masters students now, both in hospitality and leadership but also entrepreneurship. I still get asked to speak on hospitality, and I run an organisation that sort of straddles hospitality and also education, but I am sure that my confidence in speaking and lecturing comes from my three years at Salford.

What did the journey getting to where you are today look like?

After graduating I worked really hard for the summer because I wanted to go travelling. In the October after graduation, I had saved enough money for an around-the-world ticket and then travelled the world for a year. As part of this trip, I ended up living and working in Sydney, Australia for 4-5 months to get enough money to do the end of my trip. While I was there I worked in both a restaurant and a backpackers hostel so I used hospitality skills and really enjoyed it.

When I came back I ended up getting a management role running a 500-bed backpackers hostel in central London. From there I created my own hotel brand called Umi Hotels with hotels in London, Brighton and Moscow. Those hotels are sold now, and obviously with one being in Moscow… that’s another story.

Following on from Umi Hotels, I launched my digital marketing agency called Umi Digital. One of my big aims for the brand was to give young people opportunities for internships and work experience at both the hotels and also the digital business.

The CEO of Umi Digital is a former intern who came to work alongside their studies.

How important is the pathway for internal progression to you?

I’ve always seen that as important. You know, some people want to grow in organisations and some people don’t. I think when I was younger, it seemed like everyone wanted to grow and progress like I did. I realised this after a couple of experiences with staff who were promoted but didn’t really want to have been.

Different people have their strengths and weaknesses. Some are made to be managers, or would like to learn to be managers, and therefore it’s important to have that development pathway for people of all ages be the best that they can be. I find that very important.

Was there a lesson you were taught or a particularly memorable experience at Salford?

I learnt an awful lot at the Student’s Union, but we don’t need to share any finer details of that on this sort of interview!

I had a lecturer called Patrick Trodden, who taught us all how to be chefs.

This image shows two men. Patrick Trodden a chef from The University of Salford. and Stephen Lowy a former student. Patrick is wearing a navu blue suit, white shirt and striped orange tie. He has brown hair around the back and sides of his head and is smiling. Stephen Lowy wearing a navy blue suit, blue shirt and black tie whilst smiling. He has dark quiffed hair.
Patrick Trodden & Steve Lowy

In one of those lectures, he took us into town and we went to Raymond Blanc. It was a small brasserie called Petit Blanc and they did a whole demo for us and we had lunch. I use this phrase to this day, Patrick told us to be a sponge, not a sieve. Essentially he was saying to us soak up everything that is going on in this restaurant. Look at how they serve, look at how they present the food. Actually, I think that it’s a really good lesson in life.

What would your message be to current students?

Don’t be too hung up on job titles. I found that graduates sometimes have completed a management degree, so they feel they have to be managers. Not everyone can be or is a good manager. Everyone occasionally needs to do jobs they don’t want to do, and sometimes that can be the stepping stone to greater things.

Lastly, a lot of younger people who I’ve interviewed over the last few years, partly because of the pandemic and the isolation, have lost quite a bit of confidence. So, you know, find that passion and bring that to the job interview. It doesn’t have to always be directly related to that job, but showing that personality and passion is very important to me when I employ people.