Honing your entrepreneurship skills at University - how to kick start your journey

Career Advice
07 June 2022 | Career Advice | annie blinkhorn

What can students do to take advantage of what's on offer at university to kick start their entrepreneurial journey?

Whilst many students go into employment or postgraduate education following graduation, a significant number (approximately 5%) start their own business, and further graduates do so later in life after working for several years getting to know their industry. Despite a lack of experience and finance, starting your business on graduation can be a good time as you have less to lose – you are not yet used to having a good salary and possibly don’t have family dependent on your income. Even if your idea fails, the skills gained are highly valued by employers, so you are unlikely to have difficulty getting a job if you decide entrepreneurship is not for you.

So, how can you use your time at university to give yourself a head start?

1. Use the time to incubate your idea in a safe environment and ponder answers to key questions – such as what’s the problem you are trying to solve? what are the current solutions? how many people are affected? what is the market size and what are the drivers?

2. Network. Few high growth businesses are started by individuals, so university is a good place to find co-founders with complimentary skills. Joining the entrepreneurship society would be a good first step.

3. Use the facilities – many universities have accelerator programmes to help take your idea forward such as Accelerate ME at University of Manchester which can provide mentoring, space, masterclasses such as marketing, social media and finance and a network of like-minded people. You might also have access to 3D printing and perhaps more complex equipment.

4. Students have access to several sources of seed capital - for example Business Plan or ideas competitions, pitching competitions and dedicated seed funds which can raise money (often up to £10k) to test your idea without needing to provide a return to investors.

5. Use your academic resources - you have access to an extensive range of databases, journals and periodicals – more than many small businesses would have access to, and of course your lecturers!

Dr Robert Phillips is a senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester.

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