Over 400 ‘go-getting’ students and staff interested in setting up a business or enhancing their career prospects took part in Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) at Lancaster University last week.
From networking tips to iPhone App development, a packed-in programme of events gave potential entrepreneurs the chance to either take their business idea to the next level or seek out the first spark of inspiration to find out what really flicks their switch.
Students with business ideas, staff members with ideas of commercialising research, and all those seeking business advice or wanting to enhance their career prospects came along to the free events organised across the University by The Enterprise Champion project in cooperation with several other projects who work all year round promoting and supporting entrepreneurship at Lancaster.
Enterprise Champion Jon Powell said, “Global Entrepreneurship Week was fantastic, I’m delighted that so many students and staff got involved and I hope they are feeling as inspired as I am! It is great that Lancaster University gives our students the opportunity to seek expert advice, come into contact with other like-minded entrepreneurs and be made aware of all the support that is available on campus throughout their time at Lancaster.”
In the weeks approaching GEW hundreds of students took part in The Beermat Challenge, a social-media enabled website that allows participants to write their business idea on a beermat (be it real or virtual) and encourage their friends to vote via the website. Over twenty one thousand votes were cast on 271 business ideas. (All the ideas can be seen at http://lancs.beermatchallenge.co.uk/) Student Jameil Robertson received the most votes and was awarded a new laptop for his innovative idea for an interactive student web portal to share blogs, videos and other information such as money saving tips.
The week launched with “Have you got what it takes to make it in the Film and TV industry?” The Storey Creative Industries Centre in Lancaster City Centre hosted this event where a panel of film makers, writers, crew and producers advised on how to get started in the industry. The event was organised by Charlotte Stuart from LICA (Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts) and was very well attended by students from across the faculties. The event, like last year’s music panel event, encouraged students to adopt a ‘can do’ attitude to make things happen.
An impressive range of speakers shared their experiences of the challenges and rewards that entrepreneurship has brought them.
Dr Sharon O’Kane, co-founder of Renovo gave an enlightening talk about her experience of setting up a company to commercialise her academic research in drugs. Instead of continuing to work with other drug companies she and a colleague decided they could do it themselves and set up Renovo in 1998 to get their products into the market. The company’s value rocketed to a whopping £500million at its peak, and is now worth £70-80million. She encouraged people not to be put off by the current recession; “If you have a good idea, you will get money, there is money out there.” Sharon’s top tips for running a successful business were employing the best people, staying in touch with everything that’s going on , and always stay focused on what the company is and what it is you are trying to do.
Later in the week, Ian Aspin, a journalist and TV presenter who has interviewed entrepreneurs from across the globe to find out what makes them tick, stressed the importance of digital social media in breaking down the barriers to competing in a global market. He said now is the time that small businesses can really compete with big brands as most big brands don’t care or help. His strong belief is that people are now much more likely to act on what their friends recommend on Facebook than what a corporate advert tells them.
Ian warned that as competition from countries like China and India grows, traditional job markets will break down. He encouraged people to move away from meaningless jobs and to find a purpose. “When you find a purpose you will find ways to be an entrepreneur.“ He said people really wanted to help make the world a better place naming his philosophy ‘Giveacrapanomics’. “Most people are in the herd,” he said, “be someone who questions the rules.”
Also during the week, FGH Security, the company that started out as Lancaster University bouncers and went on to receive offers from all five Dragons on BBC’s Dragons’ Den, came back to inspire students and answer questions. Dave Dawes, a serial entrepreneur described how he became involved in the worldwide movement of Social Enterprise. And the week’s events closed on Friday with a talk by Anthony Chesworth, a Lancaster graduate and entrepreneur whose desire to own and drive fast cars gave him the motivation to start his own business.
Local businesses joined in with the students for an iPhone App Development Day with InfoLab21 mobile experts Dr Reuben Edwards and Dr Paul Coulton. Both experts advised that the money making opportunities in mobile development were with iPhone Apps. Though Apple only account for 2% of the smartphone market their customers are responsible for an impressive 98% of downloaded Apps, largely due to the success of Apple’s iTunes. However with over 300,000 Apps currently available Dr Edwards stressed that it might take a lot of hard work and luck to get your App noticed!
Other events in the week included:
- ‘Pitching Practice’ - an event offering the opportunity to represent Lancaster University at an all expenses paid international pitching competition
- Ideas Generation Workshop – sharing extremely powerful business ideas techniques
- Strategic Networking – a workshop with Lancaster University graduate and entrepreneur Ben Wirtz, who set up a social and networking business tool with help through the Enterprise Champion Project
- Researchers’ Toolkit for Entrepreneurship - an introduction
- An event exploring the views on the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ engagement with the business community and their planned Enterprise Centre
Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is a worldwide movement encouraging people from all walks of life to be more enterprising in all that they do.
Enterprise, employability, teaching, commercial awareness and mentoring are part of the continuing support offered by Lancaster University through a number of programmes featured in GEW. For more details visit the websites for: Create create.lusu.co.uk, CEEC careers.lancs.ac.uk, LUYES luyes.org.uk, LUVU luvu.org.uk.
GEW is supported by the Higher Education Enterprise Champion Project which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, in collaboration with the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship.