I founded Role Models back in 2014 because I believe that character education is vital to the wellbeing of each child.

A growing bulk of research evidence shows that life skills radically improve a child’s happiness, academic success and overall achievement in life. Our experience shows the same and you can read testimonials from some of the parents whose children have attended our courses.

In the past, our society and some of its schools have focused almost entirely on academic attainment and rankings, largely ignoring life skills. We want to change that and have made a strong start in doing so.

Our business has grown enormously in the last five years; we now deliver Life Skills courses across the globe and Creative Childcare across London. We are lucky enough to have a team of exceptionally talented staff and Role Models and we’d welcome hearing how we can help you and your child.


Hugo Shephard - Founder and Managing Director

Hugo is the Founder and Managing Director and has been driving the business forward since the beginning! Hugo focuses on our life skills courses both non-residentially in London and residentially for international students.

He is a super keen sportsman – and plays any sport that involves a ball to unwind, particularly cricket, rugby, hockey and golf. He also enjoys caring for his beloved window boxes! Before founding Role Models, Hugo worked as a Management Consultant in the healthcare sector, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Hugo’s Role Model is Jane Austen; a lady who managed to make ‘olden day’ everyday life come alive.

Louise Treherne - Head of Character Education

Louise is our Head of Character Education and uses her experience as a teacher and as a coach to create the content for our programme of Life Skills Courses. She develops new and exciting ways to help children explore our four key areas of collaboration, resilience, creativity and leadership, in order to be the best version of themselves.

Louise has a degree in Psychology, 12 years experience as a teacher and 5 years as a Senior Deputy Head at a London Prep school. She now works as a Coach and Educational Consultant, which includes working in different educational settings, delivering training and staying up to date with all things Character Education related! Through her coaching, Louise works 1:1 with adults and children to help them move forward with specific goals, explore limiting beliefs and develop their direction and confidence.

One of Louise's Role Models is Maya Angelou, one of the world’s most prolific and beloved creative forces. Both her spoken and written word offer the most inspirational lessons and continue to have the utmost relevance. A favourite quote from many: ‘If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.’

Francesca Nelson-Smith - Business Development

Francesca joined the team in the summer of 2018 with the aim to help Hugo with business development. Born in Italy, educated in Italy, France and the UK, mother of three children, Francesca is driven by the passion to make the world a more unified and happy place for everybody to live in and by the knowledge that, in order to achieve this, we need to start by educating our children better. After a career in marketing and event production, Francesca set up a bilingual primary school in London and joined the board of two other schools.

Francesca is happiest sitting in the sun with a good novel or speeding rather dangerously down a slope in fresh fluffy snow. Alternatively, she is quite happy in her kitchen baking cakes and chatting to her kids.

Francesca’s Role Model is her grandad who lost one eye when he was 17 but always saw people beyond their looks, never had a bad word to say about anyone and lived his life with a great sense of fun and wonder at its magic.

Sophie Lake - Business Development

Sophie joined in March 2018 and is helping with driving the growth of the business both in the UK and Internationally.

Sophie loves keeping busy. She is a keen sportswoman who enjoys playing netball, tennis, as well as going for runs, hitting the gym and doing Reformer Pilates. Sophie relishes the hectic London life and has explored a huge amount of it. However, having grown up on a farm, she often retreats to the countryside to be with her family, friends and dogs. Having studied Economics at Bristol University, Sophie has spent majority of her career in the Hedge Fund industry.

Sophie’s Role Model is The Baroness Brady as she is one of the most influential, high profile and respected female business leaders in the UK. Her no nonsense, practical approach and outlook, even when faced with a life threatening condition shows that everyone can achieve the impossible when they put their mind to it.

Emily Birks - Client Services

Emily joined the Role Models team in August 2018, acting as Client Service and Marketing Manager. She thrives from creating long lasting relationships with parents and Role Models

Emily loves the outdoors and specifically enjoys being by the sea. She is an avid scuba diver and feels most at home when swimming under the waves and exploring the coral reefs. Prior to Role Models Emily worked within the Production and Advertising Industry and therefore enjoys being creative and thinking outside the box. Emily spent two weeks in Treviso, Italy, teaching Italian children English through the Dramatic Arts. From this Emily’s interest in Children’s development and growth began and believes every child is unique and should be given as many opportunities as possible to become the best person they can be.

Emily’s Role Model is Malala Yousafzai who was shot at the age of 15 by the Taliban due to her response in fighting for the rights of girls to gain education after the Taliban had banned girls from attending school. In 2014 she became the youngest person to be awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala continues to speak up about inequality for women, children and education.

Darcey Phenna - Head of Operations and Finance

Darcey joined in February 2019 as Head of Operations and Finance. In a previous life, Darcey ran a successful village tearoom so these days she loves to spend her free time baking and cooking for friends and family, trying new recipes and experimenting with flavours, often bringing the results into the office!

Darcey also enjoys getting out and about in her local park, Hampstead Heath, for some weekend rambling with her dog, Mannie. Having only recently moved to London and the exciting world of start ups, she is keen to make her mark on Role Models and the Life Skills Courses we offer and help the company achieve great success as we expand.

Darcey’s Role Model is her father, Andy, who was a Royal Navy Captain for 25 years until retiring to lead the Sea Cadets across Britain in their mission to improve the lives of young people in the UK through sailing and adventure training. Watching his work with children, teaching them invaluable life lessons and skills that will stay with them for the rest of their lives, has given her a sense of purpose in what she does with her career.

Alexandra Ridgway - Operations and Finance Executive

Alexandra joined the Role Models team in May 2019, as Operations and Finance Executive. She is known as ‘the organised one’ so operations and logistics is her cup of tea!

If Alexandra is not in the office she will either be in water, or cuddling her dog. She is a keen swimmer, competing in her childhood, with the University of Liverpool and more recently in Open Water Competitions. Her studies at university were of Ocean Sciences, a life she is now leaving behind in order to learn new skills and help young children navigate the 21st century.

Alexandra’s Role Model is David Attenborough. This is because he turned his childhood interest into a lifetime passion and has helped to discover new species, save countless endangered ones and inspire/educate the people of earth on how to look after their planet.

Jonathan Gittos - Technology

Jonathan is another summer 2018 joiner and is our Chief Technology Officer. We intend to deliver more of our courses and content online, and he is building the platform to do so reliably. He is also helping us raise investment to help fund our growth.

He’s a veteran tech and software entrepreneur, as well as an angel investor. He founded his first startup, in financial technology, twenty years ago and has now worked with or invested in startups in finance, education, publishing and data science. Before that he worked as a trader in the City.

Jonathan is passionate about good design and usability and the need for technology to serve human ends. He studied English at Oxford University.

Robert Hicks - Board Chairman

Within the past 2 years Rob has taken on various Board Advisory and Trustee roles. He spent the previous 16 years as part of the founding team and as both Operations and then Managing Director of Explore Learning, the leading maths and English tuition centre business in the UK (with an outpost in Texas).

As MD, Rob was responsible for helping to grow the business to 145 centres, 3500 employees (of which about 500 were full time), approximately £50m turnover, and was then part of the MBO in 2012 that resulted in a £40m sale to Private Equity.

Prior to Explore Learning, Rob qualified first as a solicitor with Macfarlanes and then as an accountant with EY.

Rob loves walking Ruby, his German Wire Haired Pointer, whose (very!) high energy levels, strong work ethic, will to win, and adventurous spirit remind him of what makes a business successful and gives him that space and time to think it all through!

Jane Lunnon - Advisory Board

Jane has a wealth of experience within education and a passion for developing soft skills in children.

Jane took up the Headship of Wimbledon High School in Sept 2014, having previously been Deputy Head at Wellington College playing a key role in its Senior Leadership Team and working to increase the profile of girls in the recently co-educational school.

Jane is an English graduate from the University of Bristol. She juggles a busy home life (a husband, two children, a cat!) with her career and believes profoundly that all things are possible with a little careful planning and a lot of determination. She is passionate about using the wonderful opportunities available both in and out of the classroom to develop confidence, courage and self-belief in students: “Young people will lead if they are leading in an area they really care about – so find the passion and you’ll find the leader…”.

Robin Dyer - Advisory Board

Robin, the Second Master at Wellington College, has a huge amount of experience both in the classroom and on the sports field.

Robin was a Housemaster at Wellington from 1990 to 2002 and has been Second Master since 2002. As ‘number two’ to three Headmasters Robin has been a central figure as Wellington has become one of the world’s most prestigious and successful schools.

Robin’s leadership has been broad ranging but his influence has been central to the successful move to co-education, the development of a high quality teaching staff, the realising of the international ambitions of the College with the opening of Wellington College International Tianjin and its sister schools in Shanghai and the ground-breaking partnership with the Wellington College Academy.

Guy Burnell - Advisory Board

Guy has spent his career working with early stage entrepreneurial businesses. Since running a nightclub whilst studying for an MBA at Oxford University, Guy has over 20 years experience working in the UK and Europe as founder, MD, COO, investor and consultant.

Since 2007, Guy has worked as a consultant and mentor advising early stage growth businesses, on strategy, operations, funding, marketing and sales. Guy is currently a Partner at Argo St George, a corporate finance advisory business, a Director of OCPP Ltd, a property development company and an executive Board member at CREL, a renewable energy business in the North of England.

Married with three children aged between 8 and 12, Guy divides his time between his business interests, supporting and advising young businesses and entrepreneurs and trying to balance family life with a passion for playing squash and watching Chelsea as often as possible.

Tom Brooks - Advisory Board

Tom is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor and mentor. He founded his first business at 12 years old and has started various businesses since, some more successful than others. Most recently he co-founded Elder.org, a marketplace for matching quality carers with those in need of long term care which has raised >£10m in investment and delivered thousands of hours worth of care to people across the UK.

Tom’s passionate about working with founders who are building mission-driven businesses which can truly impact people on a global scale.
When he’s not working, Tom likes to spend time with his wife and their 15-month-old girl on his family farm in Suffolk. He’s an avid skier and kite surfer and loves to travel.

His role model is his Grandad, who always worked hard doing what he loved and had a passion for adventure.