What is being done at British universities to inspire budding entrepreneurs?

By: John Davis

Date: 19 November 2012

What is being done at British universities to inspire budding entrepreneurs?/university{{}}A new trend is emerging at universities across the UK: students are avoiding the struggle of trying to get a graduate job by embarking on a route to self-employment while studying. According to a recent survey of 1,000 students commissioned by Viking:

  • 70% of students find the prospect of starting a business appealing given the difficulty of the job market at the moment
  • 90% aren’t afraid to take risks
  • 85% are dedicated to succeed in business, promising ‘never to give up’
  • 40% are prepared to sell personal belongings or fundraise to acquire enough capital to start a business.

While it may appear naïve or daunting for 18-25 year olds to start their own businesses without any experience and alongside the pressures of studying, the latter three statistics reveal key entrepreneurial traits. Some of the most successful businesses are run on a blend of energy, fresh thinking, enthusiasm, perseverance and discipline – attributes many students have in large measures.

Young entrepreneurs face the same challenges as any start-up, such as obtaining finance and establishing a customer base, but the government is getting behind this tide of budding business owners. David Cameron recently declared: "The future of our economy depends on a new generation of entrepreneurs coming up with ideas, resolving to make them a reality and having the vision to create wealth and jobs."

Support programmes are sprouting up across several university campuses:

  • BaseCamp at Bristol University helps students to get their ideas off the ground by offering free office space, seed funding and a mentor programme.
  • The Hatchery is the business incubator at Sheffield Hallam University. It provides students with a creative space to develop ideas and meet like-minded peers and take advantage of 24/7 office facilities.
  • HeadStart at Nottingham Trent University is a structured process to help students shape their business concept, identify and evaluate the opportunities and potential, and put together a business plan.

Successful products of these programmes include Sam Piranty, who benefitted from BaseCamp funding to set up film production company InHouse Media, and Adam Roberts, who runs his business Go Dine from a hot desk at HeadStart.

“The support we receive from the team is excellent and it's good to share your ideas with other entrepreneurs based here,” Adam comments. “I have monthly meetings with a mentor, which sharpens my focus and helps clarify my thoughts. We’re fortunate that the university was forward-thinking enough to establish HeadStart. There should be more schemes like this for entrepreneurs. If you’re inexperienced in business, it is almost too difficult to set up without this kind of backing."

Universities are hot beds for entrepreneurial ambition and students should be encouraged to cultivate their ideas into commercial ventures. Nurturing young talent will doubtless produce a host of unique products and services and give the economy a much-needed shake-up.

BCSG creates, distributes and supports value-adding products and services to small businesses through financial institutions. For more information visit www.bcsg.com.

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