Interview: 'I think the spirit of entrepreneurism is in my blood'

It has been more than 20 years since Isabelle Thomas, 45, got her Executive MBA from ESCP Europe and she's still using the skills she learnt. Born in France and now living in America, she has developed recipe applications for iPhones that are second only to Jamie Oliver's in the download charts.



"The business I run is 100 per cent virtual and could not have been imagined 20 years ago, so it's strange to think that I am using all the tools I learnt on my MBA course. The basics of starting and running a business have not changed. It's still about design, planning and quality control. I'm using the core marketing and strategic tools I learnt, such as pricing and costing. It's like having a little business game. You use all the skills you learnt years ago. I do not think I could have survived without the international aspect of the MBA course.

I studied at the school's campuses in Paris, Oxford and Berlin and, thanks to that, I speak five languages and feel totally comfortable with any nationality.

After 10 years as a software consultant for IBM, I stopped work to have my three children – now seven, eight, and 11. I moved to the United States on my husband's visa and when we separated last year I needed my own visa to stay in the country. So, I set up my own company to persuade the American authorities to grant me an investor visa – and I should be hearing their decision in the next few weeks.

People tell me it must be hard setting up a business when you're 45, but I've found it exciting. I spotted a gap in the market for recipe apps for the iPhone and iTouch, so I set up iCooking in March last year. I produced 18 cookbooks for iPhone in 10 languages and founded my company, Apps of All Nations LLC, last November. I'm now selling 12,000 downloads a month.

I've also started a new business called ibookkids.com, which will create animated children's books for iPad. Of the 80 people on the MBA, I am still in touch with 75 of them and we remain very close. They are some of my best friends and they are very useful connections to have. For example, I found an excellent Chinese translator recently through the MBA network.

I think the spirit of entrepreneurism is in my blood, but the MBA gave me the tools to set up the company and now I am investing in others. My latest investment is in a venture that lists public toilets worldwide!

I'm managing a virtual team from my kitchen table. I have never even spoken on the phone with my developer in Utah. Nevertheless, I need to attract the right people and the only way to do that is by building my own brand. I learned how to do that in the products module of my MBA. The difference is that I am now the product! So who am I, what do I stand for? What are my core values?

The enrichment through diversity and internationalism is one of my core values and my experience as an MBA student working alongside 16 nationalities has played a major role.

Being successful means that I have to give back and I will be giving 5 per cent of the selling price for each iBook to a social cause.

That's the last step of the Maslow pyramid – from first year MBA human resources class. See, I even remember the timetable!"

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick