Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tony Manwani, Co-Founder and Director of PeopleUnboxed, located in Reading, UK.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

When I co-founded PeopleUnboxed, it was with the mission to make a difference in people's lives in the workplace and beyond. We do this by inspiring and empowering individuals and organisations to transform the way they work with end-to-end solutions from leadership to employee wellbeing. We're passionate about unboxing people's potential to make organisations more effective. Our truly immersive and blended solutions are a mixture of either completely bespoke, tailored to the company, or off-the-shelf. So whatever the business needs, we can find the right fit for them.

We've operated in fast-paced, multi-site businesses and facilitated change from small-scale projects to large, complex organisations of over 100,000 employees. If there's one thing this has taught us; it's that business is simply about people. We pride ourselves on becoming a trusted partner of our clients, some of whom include: McDonald's, TUI, Dr. Martens, Rentokil Initial, Five Guys, Lacoste, Starbucks, and UNHCR.

Tell us about yourself

Before launching PeopleUnboxed, I led the McDonald's UK Learning and Development Design Team, responsible for developing blended training interventions and digital learning resources for over 120,000 employees. Since then, I have transformed the learning journeys of many high-profile organisations, from single development programmes to full-scale curriculums.

My passion is to inspire and empower people to transform the way they work; this led me to look at ways I could support as many companies as possible. With my background, combined with the HR knowledge my co-founder Jo has, we set up PeopleUnboxed and now enjoy getting to the heart of multiple organisations' needs and challenging the norm to deliver profoundly impactful and innovative solutions, whether in virtual, hybrid, or classroom scenarios.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I couldn't possibly just name one… Our first big contract to create, design, and deliver a full curriculum design for Five Guys was what kickstarted our business and led to the onboarding of our two first employees (who are now Directors in the company too). It also gave us a great platform and client recommendations to go and win further business.

With a vested interest in learning and development, it has been wonderful to see our team grow to 8 employees who are all invested in the business and true ambassadors of the brand.

Creating a strong brand reputation, where 96% of our business now comes through word of mouth and recommendations. I am so proud of the passion in our team that everything we do comes from the heart and delivers immensely effective results for our clients and learners.

At the Learning Excellence Awards in 2022, we won the Gold Award for External Provider of the Year for our work with our clients and Gold Award for Innovative Learning Process for our partnership with Dr. Martens and their First Time Manager Programme. These awards are a testament to the hard work the team puts in.

Most importantly, though, would be fulfilling our mission statement of making a difference in people's lives. The positive impacts and change we see in the people we deliver to, day in, and day out, are so rewarding. This year alone, we have delivered training to over 7,000 people and trained over 100 to become Mental Health First Aiders in the Workplace across 36 countries.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

  • Uncertainty – the year 2020 came with extraordinary challenges, only one year into launching, and now we have a cost of the living crisis to contend with, which makes forecasting for the future tricky.
  • Switching off – when it's your business, and even more so when you have employees, it's very hard to separate work and social life. You need to protect your own mental health.
  • Time management – knowing when to prioritise what is important and how long you should spend on each task. It can be overwhelming when everything sits with you.
  • Leading a team – whilst it's immensely rewarding, managing a team with different working styles and expectations can be challenging, especially when the team grows quickly.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Support network – build a strong team of people you trust. Not just employees but partners and suppliers too.
  2. Tenacity – starting a business isn't easy, and results don't come quickly. Make a plan and stick to it. Do the right things, don't compromise on standards, be patient, and you will succeed.
  3. Celebrate the small wins – you can't climb a mountain in one day.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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