Interview with Stephanie Tumba, Founder of Ste Tumba Capital

Born and raised in Paris, France by Congolese parents, Stephanie Tumba is a London-based international entrepreneur, author, co-founder of a London dating agency and founder of Ste Tumba Capital.

Stephanie holds a degree in International Business Management and has previously worked at L’Oreal and LVMH. Her book, 100 Dates and A Wedding is available on Amazon.

What’s your career background?

A long time ago now, I went to university to study languages with a major in English. But even though I loved languages, I was not happy.

After three years at university, I didn’t have a serious career plan and required inspiration so I decided to take a few months off and I set up my first business in fashion Celest Couture with my two sisters. However, we run out of money very quickly after our first and only fashion show – We failed and I realised I had a lot to learn about business. 

I went on to study International Business Management with a major in finance to learn the ropes of entrepreneurship but I later switched to a major in marketing.

Since graduating I have worked for both the L’Oréal Group and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy. At L’Oréal I was in charge of the marketing development and business management for a variety of luxury brands and I worked for the group in Paris, Shanghai, Madrid and London. I subsequently moved on to work at Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy and also had a brief spell in the entertainment industry. 

I then found myself in the good fortune to work for an investment fund. My new boss taught me the ropes of angel investment and I had gone full circle back to my first love: finance. In 2016, I made my first investment in the hospitality industry and I sold the company 18 months later for a substantial return. This is how Sté Tumba Capital was founded.

How did you go about building up your investment portfolio?

Today, more than ever, there are a variety of ways to invest start-ups: word of mouth, angel networks, LinkedIn, business & networking events, investments and finance events, in investor marketplaces, equity crowdfunding membership clubs, platforms and websites to name but a few. I use practically all of them. You can invest from £1 to billions of pounds in a project; being a business angel is within everyone’s reach today.

I started small, my very first investments in 2016 were between £500 to £50000. I made mistakes, I lost money, I learned a lot but I became more and more knowledgeable in my field. I take my time to make a decision and study the structure and functioning of a start-up from bottom up. 

I have a few personal rules that I follow; I always negotiate at the best value, studying carefully the competition (who wants to compete with Google!), and I measure with the highest scrutiny the financial health of a start-up.

In fact, I will never go without my profitability leverage and productivity analysis. I also meet the founder and analyse his words, gesture, and everything about him. Finally, I follow my gut, which I ignored a lot when I started to my detriment!  

The strategy at Ste Tumba Capital is always to keep a 55/45% ratio. 55% of the portfolio is invested in start-ups and 45% in real estate to minimise risks. Most of Ste Tumba Capital goes through the following process; first I request extensive documentation on a variety of areas including a project summary, company structure including names of investors and shareholders, and the market and company valuation.

The finance and accounting teams and I then study the documentation separatelyand we then discuss the positives and negatives of the investment. If the overall response is positive, I meet the founder and his team to ask additional questions and sense whether or not we can work together.

I then come back to the office and in a big meeting with everyone (lawyers, marketing, finance, accounting, investigation and screening teams) we share the last new pieces of information, and I listen (or not) to final recommendations. Upon final decision, we start to negotiate the deal and endorse the project.  

What motivated you to set up your dating agency and write your book 100 Dates and a Wedding?

My book, 100 Dates and a Wedding, started as a blog called “The Tribulation of a Single Parisian in London” which was written in French. I was recounting to the French public the tribulation and life of a Parisian divorcee in London. I always wanted to write so after the advice of a few of my friends, I decided to start writing my book.

As far as Human Connections is concerned, I, personally always found the offline dating industry quite interesting. Back in France, a few of my friends used it, and I had heard good feedback.

Then, in London, one of my best friends also used it and she has now been married with kids for five years. The investment opportunity came a few months ago when I launched my book 100 Dates and a Wedding.  I met Mia (a matchmaker) at a networking event and she was working on her matchmaking project, we decided to partner.  

She has matchmaking skills, and I had the knowledge and experience of the dating scene in London. We thought we would be an explosive duo for the success of the business.

Why do you think it’s important to empower female entrepreneurs and particularly those who want to go into investment? 

At the current rate of progress, it will take another 108 years to reach gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum’s most recent Global Gender Gap report and with regards to finance, 4% of UK fund assets are managed exclusively by women, compared to 85% run by men according to the New Financial.

One of the solutions to tackle these disparities is to empower women to start up their own businesses and be their own bosses right from the start. 

At all opportunities, I endeavour to act as a role model to unprivileged women, and I want to inspire people to be action-oriented and to see beyond what is before their eyes. So, we have founded a women’s mentoring programme called “Passion First, Business Second”, officially launching in 2020, which offers a grant and a year of mentorship to help a female founder realise her dreams. 

What has been your proudest moment to date?

The proudest moment to date, and probably the most emotional one, has got to be the wedding of our 3rdclient. Having matched her despite all odds and being part of an amazing ceremony less than a year after we launched was a fantastic achievement for both myself and Human Connections.

What has been your biggest business challenge and did you overcome it?

Time was one of my biggest challenges when I founded Sté Tumba Capital. I have never been an early bird but I initially found myself working all hours of the day.

After a few months like this, I burned out in every single way: run out of inspiration, was always tired and on top of this felt lonely. I realised how isolated I was from the world, and I started thinking there must be a way to work smarter. 

Passion is one thing but working 24/7 is another, at some point it becomes counter-productive and dangerous. I hired a PA and started organising my time differently. 

After reading a few books and watching a few documentaries on successful entrepreneurs, I decided it was time to change my routine. 

Every morning, I wake up at 6 am not to work, but to take some time for myself.  Exercising, meditating, visualising, planning the day always having in mind the best possible outcome, having a coffee and finally playing the piano.

I start working at 8 am taking care of the most challenging and annoying calls and tasks. Most of the time by midday I have completed much more jobs than I used to. I am now much more switch-on and productive and not working any later than 8 pm, which allows me to have time for my friends and family.

Today “Passion first, business second” is my motto; but love, family or myself can replace passion. I decided to take these three essential aspects of my life very seriously and dedicate some time for each of them every single day. 

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Marie Forleo is one of my biggest inspirations.  I came across her only a few weeks ago but this was love at first sight. I like her authenticity and generosity but most importantly for the first time I had found someone whom I can relate to.

We share the same passion for business, music and dance. At times while reading her book Figureoutable, I felt like I was reading some of my life adventures. It was just amazing. 

What is your business motto? 

Passion First, business second. If I don’t like what I do, there’s no sustainable business.

You can find out more about Stephanie on her website.