Getting To Know You: Mark Holyoake, Owner of Oakvest Holdings

Mark Holyoake

Mark Holyoake is owner of Oakvest Holdings, a private investment fund specialising in private equity and real estate investments.

Holyoake has been an international commercial and residential property investor since the 1990s, as well as focusing heavily on food sector private equity investments. Mark Holyoake has sat for almost a decade as a group main board director of Icesea, the Nasdaq-listed purchased by his investment group in 2010.

After graduating with a business degree in 1995 from the University of Reading, Mark has focused on developing a broad portfolio of businesses extending across international commercial and residential property markets and UK and European food sectors. He has extensive experience in the global seafood industry having owned and been a director of numerous seafood companies.

Mark’s investment fund Oakvest continues to focus on private equity investments predominantly in the food and commodity sectors, real estate acquisitions and developments primarily in central London, as well as managing a listed equity and fund portfolio. Mark is married with three daughters.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

In 2010 our acquisition vehicle International Seafood Holdings agreed terms to acquire the entire share capital of one of Iceland’s oldest and leading seafood companies called Iceland Seafood International. This transaction took place during a period when the country was starting to rebuild itself post their banking collapse and much publicised economic issues. At this time foreign investment was limited and general conditions domestically tough.

We however believed that this group of businesses which was founded in 1932 had huge potential and that we could positively impact its performance and expand its footprint further across Europe and with the right strategic decisions deliver real and sustained growth.

Over the last 9 years the company’s growth and profit generation has been exceptional and today it resides as a leading powerhouse in the sector. In value terms the company has increased its worth in excess of ten times since being acquired during this period and the group today resides as a PLC corporate on Nasdaq First North where it has been one of the exchanges star performers showing consistent and robust year on year profit growth.

All this was achieved with hard work and great people coming together to deliver on a clear strategic path combining strong organic growth with well considered acquisitions. It’s been the type of success story that as an investor one strives for and that all involved can be very proud of.

Having focused on this group of businesses for almost a decade we have decided that similar to Iceland back in 2009 and 2010 the general economic frailty and unprecedented political uncertainty across Europe now provides for real opportunities for investors with know-how of a sector to help grow and improve businesses.

It is our belief that these unwanted macro economic and political challenges create significant investment opportunities and it is for this reason we will be actively pursuing further investments within the food sector to not only help and develop existing and well regarded businesses but also where appropriate to support and grow those companies in the sector that lead the way with new ideas and technologies.

We are extremely excited at this prospect and we will be looking to deploy significant capital via the launch of our investment fund into the sector over the coming years.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

When you are involved in running multiple projects, I am not sure that a typical day exists as there needs to be a flexibility to your time in order to properly handle and manage the goals of that moment properly. For me on a personal level I have however found that i am better focused early in the morning for anything that needs my written input and as such will review documents / contracts and do emails from 6 am when I find it’s quieter generally and therefore easier to focus.

That appears to be the same for several of our senior people who also one can see wake early and get their day started in a similarly positive manner.

I will more normally then progress through the day with meetings and calls as needed but always ensuring to find some time for family and myself so that there is a balance that’s sustainable and works for everyone.

How do you bring ideas to life?

You can only bring ideas to fruition if there is a collective buy in and a shared belief that what you are thinking or proposing represents the right thing to do. It’s almost impossible to make anything happen if others within your team don’t believe it’s the right path to take as you cannot force your will onto others this just flatly never works there always needs to a be common commitment that only comes when all concerned are on the same page and agree with any given strategy that you wish to implement.

If you have this then bringing ideas to life can be straightforward as well as very rewarding.

What’s one trend that excites you?

We as a general population are taking better care of ourselves and one of the net results is that we are living longer. Indeed Today, 8.5 percent of people worldwide (617 million) are aged 65 and over this percentage is projected to jump to nearly 17 percent of the world’s population by 2050 (1.6 billion).

This trend of taking better care of oneself and being more aware of what you consume has a real impact within the food industry providing opportunities for investment in new products and categories that can harness this trend and providing on the business level exciting opportunities for investment.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I am social by nature and therefore like to talk to people and engage with them. This is a very helpful tool and through discourse much can be shared and learnt as you are able to not only deal with and understand others thinking but also to learn more than the specific point in hand and thus able to form a wider and more informed view as to the realities of a business and the strategic options that are available to it in order to give the best chance to succeed.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Perhaps not to be in such a hurry. It’s a common trait found amongst young entrepreneurs who are often impetuous lacking patience and wanting everything to happen immediately. With experience one realises that there is without doubt benefit to be realised from a considered approach which when detailed and well thought out can ultimately save significant time in the long run in any event.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on

I am not sure I hold a business view that is unique to myself that others are not seeing but I am very open about the fact that I firmly believe in this current time of political turmoil with Brexit and the like that our politicians ineptitude will lead there to be significant investment opportunity as there is to my mind no doubt that economies will suffer as a result of this turmoil and such movement whilst not wanted nor indeed planned will from an investor perspective provide real opportunity – the key is to ensure that one is positioned correctly and having capital on hand is essential during these times.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Surround yourself with the right people it’s a key criteria for success. Every entrepreneur needs to have The best people possible around them those that are smart, that you like and respect and that can make real contributions to the business or businesses that you are seeking to build. It’s imperative that the entrepreneur has this support network where ideas are challenged and debated and not be afraid of this process nor seek to restrict it.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Giving others responsibility. Too often an entrepreneur wants to do everything themselves but this cannot work and is ultimately a failing. To entrust others who are capable to deliver on goals and be fully responsible to do so is a powerful strategy that creates a workplace where people are valued and genuinely feel an integral part of the business and the overall strategy that is being adopted.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Every entrepreneur will fail at some point and I am no different. To lose an investment which I have done is never easy but it’s only a failing if you do not learn from it and I mean really learn from it to understand completely why it did not succeed and what errors were made identifying those that must and should never be repeated. If you can achieve this then failing in the short term can be helpful in achieving longer term success and I have found that first hand myself.

Jack Ma the founder of Alibaba one of the most important businesses globally is himself a wonderful example of a successful entrepreneur that achieved his goals as a result of persistence through failure – his quote below is helpful for those that are struggling and it highlights the persistence and determination that a good entrepreneur needs to have in abundance.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Nice try!! That would be telling! We are currently looking at several exciting opportunities in our sector that relate to new food technologies that create healthier products in a manner not previously considered. This trend as mentioned above is one that we are keen on exploring and some of the new ideas are very exciting indeed.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Probably for a personal training session as I am determined this year to get very fit let’s hope that goal is one that I actually achieve rather than just hope to achieve!!!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I am a fan of anything that enables you to carry out a business function in a more convenient manner without having to be fixed to one place. The era of being sat in your office all day has gone thanks to modern technologies and that’s a real blessing and a useful tool in itself.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

My advice is to read as many business books as possible particularly those biographies from entrepreneurs that we all admire. I have referenced Jack Ma above and “The House That Jack Ma Built “ is as good a start as any. A combination of the modern trailblazers like Elon Musk and the perhaps slightly older but no less interesting entrepreneurs like Jack Welch can only be rewarding and helpful generally.

What is your favorite quote?

“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine” – Jack Ma

Follow Mark on ThriveGlobal and LinkedIn.