GUEST BLOG: Adam Stewart

What my first year at University has taught me

adam stewart google2Adam Stewart is a second year Business Economics student at Lancaster University. Last year he was part of a team placed second in the Google Startup Weekend during Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014. Here, he reflects on his first year at Lancaster and the lessons he has learnt along the way.

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This week marks the end of my first year at university, and I will admit I am sad that soon I will no longer be a first year! I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction into university life. I have chosen the above picture as it sums up the year nicely; I’ve met great people, in a great place, doing great things!

To say the time has gone quickly would be an understatement. It feels like it was only yesterday that I was moving in, however the number of incredible things that have happened in between are endless. I’m confident I have some memories that will stay with me forever, although admittedly some memories are a bit blurry! Nevertheless, first year at university is one I will never forget!

With the amount that’s happened I’ve decided to sit down and reflect on what first year has taught me – apart from how to cook, or how long it takes me to drink a pint. Whilst valuable skills, I have certainly not mastered either!

There are more hours in the day than you realise!

Ok, yes everyone has 24 hours in their day. But before I came to university I certainly hadn’t made the most of them all. This is probably first discovered by most students when they leave a project or essay until the last minute and a long night of working is needed.

The 9-4 ritual of schools before university got me into the habit of only wanting to work in these times. However I soon found that for me there isn’t much difference between 1pm and 9pm. If I don’t have any plans I can easily use that time productively. What I most like about this is the freedom it presents. If you’re happy to get you work done around 6-8pm when not much is happening, it opens up the whole day for other things!

Give it a go

The number of events, socials and talks happening each week are endless. It can be very easy to ignore the posters and facebook invites and carry on with your week as normal. However I started the year with an aim to attend as much as I could and engage. Whilst for some people they won’t leave their flat unless it’s for a lecture (for some, lectures aren’t even enough), I wanted to fill my days with extra events. This has only ever turned out well.

For me, most of these events ended up being business and enterprise based. This opened my eyes to a whole new path which I’ve followed without looking back. If I was to only give one piece of advice to someone just starting university it would be to go to events and give things a go, you might be surprised by how much you like it!

Everyone has something to offer

Once I had been introduced to entrepreneurship I wanted to get involved straight away, however I didn’t feel like I had anything to add to other people’s work, especially if they’re older and more experienced. Often I would think, ‘how can I help, I’m only a first year!’. Once I’d built up confidence to ask to be involved in events and projects and put my knowledge to the test, the responses I got usually went something like this, ‘I can’t believe you’re only a first year!’. That wasn’t because people thought I was too clever to be a first year, it was because most first years don’t get involved.

I soon found that I could contribute as equally as anyone else and that when it comes down to it, age doesn’t matter. Even if you do know less, it is your attitude that counts!

In short, your first year at university is a time to try anything and everything, meet amazing new people and discover more about who you are and who you want to be!

 

Visit Adam’s website and read his thoughts on business and University life, here.

Chamber Chat with Jon Powell

Enterprise Team Manager & Director of Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce featured on Chamber Chat

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Our Enterprise Team Manager, Jon Powell, discusses this year’s general election and the impact on small businesses and entrepreneurship.

He says;

“We heard a lot about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in the general election. Well actually no…we didn’t. If you read the manifestos from the three main parties in England (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats) you will see the word entrepreneur, or derivatives of it, a grand total of 11 times. Yes 11 times in three documents with a combined word count of 86,772 words. The same documents mention the NHS 124 times, the police 117 times and schools and education featured 340 times. The BBC gets 10 mentions alone!

The economy is at the heart of every election and businesses are the engine that drives the economy. 99.3% of all private sector businesses are small and we have seen the business population grow 51% since 2000 (5.2 million businesses, an increase of 1.8 million)*. Every new business needs an individual or team to be entrepreneurial, to invest their time or money, to take a risk, to try and create something new.”

Read more from Jon here.

GUEST BLOG: Ruth Bushi of Save the Student

Turn your studies into a start-up

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Ruth Bushi, an editor of ‘Save the Student’ and former Lancaster student (English, Lonsdale College) discusses the many different ways of starting up a business, regardless of your degree background.

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Think working for yourself is only for Business Studies bods? Arts subjects have just as much potential to boost your cashflow and your career, say the brand boffins at Save the Student.

Once you tot-up the tuition fees, the rent and the price of paperclips, higher education costs. A lot. If you’re holding out for a graduate starting salary and building up a sizeable stack of rejection letters, you may be wondering just when your degree is going to start paying you back.

Here’s some good news: working for yourself can help plug your work experience woes and your empty wallet – and you can use your degree subject to help you, right from your dorm room.

Could I really start a business?

Forget the idea that having your own business means kick-starting the next big brand – there are as many roads to business as there are to happiness. And Luton, come to think of it.

Your business could be as grand as launching your own clothing line, or as simple as freelancing from your living room. Whichever floats your canoe, there’s more inspiration here.

When it comes to self-employment, there are some qualities that it helps to have or be prepared to learn:

  • Perseverance, people skills and problem-solving smarts
  • Self-discipline, bags of motivation and a dedication to hitting deadlines
  • Tons of ideas, and the ability to act on the best ones
  • Gift of the gab: optional

If some of these are familiar, they’re the ones employers expect to see on your CV. And that’s one of the best reasons to consider working for yourself: you get tons of proven, transferable skills that you’ll be hard-pressed to come by in your average work experience gig.

It’s not all Jeremy Kyle and working in PJs, though. The hours can be long and without immediate pay when you’re first starting out. But is it rewarding, exciting and achievable? Heck, yeah.

What’s the difference between freelancing and starting a business?

You could say that freelancers sell their time and skills on their own terms instead of working for just one employer. Business owners tend to think about the long-term growth and development of their brand. Beyond that, they’re both just ways of saying you’re self-employed.

If ‘Founder of The Skis The Limit’ looks better than ‘Freelance ski instructor’ on your business cards … go for it. If freelancing sounds less daunting than starting a business, think of it like that instead.

What kind of business can I start?

Have a go at these questions to get a handle on your motivation:

  • Do you just want to make some extra cash, or do you see yourself collecting awards in the future?
  • Is starting your own business a stepping stone to your dream job or potentially a career in itself?
  • What are you good at? What do you love doing?
  • What goods and services do folk at your campus/town need? What gets people excited?

You should now have some sense of whether you’re a skills provider or more entrepreneurially minded.

If you’re a budding business brain, your studies don’t have to feature in your self-employment plans at all: get inspired and then get a plan.

If you’re after short-term cash and long-term kudos, go for freelance projects that piggyback on your subject knowledge and which you can start with minimal equipment.

How can I turn an arts subject into a business?

Think of these as brainstorm suggestions – but don’t be limited by how we’ve grouped them. Most students have cross-discipline skills and interests: the main thing is to get inspired.

English, Creative Writing & Journalism

  • An editing and proofreading service for students, tutors and local businesses – get some basic industry qualifications, if you can, to gain credibility and a leg-up on the competition
  • Cover niche topics to get more business, i.e., science and technical topics for editorial work, or get known as a columnist on specialist subjects, from vegan cuisine to ecotourism
  • Self-publish your short stories, poems or novel and set-up a speaking/book signing tour
  • Be a freelance copywriter or social media consultant for local businesses
  • Start your own news site or app (and keep an eye on potential Google funding for European start-ups)

Film studies, Sociology

  • Start an alternative film or literature festival
  • Produce your own arts magazine and sell ad space or subscriptions to turn a profit as well as make a name for yourself – keep production costs low with digital publishing, or use Issuu

Advertising & Marketing

  • Create a deals website, magazine or newsletter and sell partnership opps to local businesses
  • Start your own PR firm and promote other student businesses

History

  • Offer walking tours with a theme: the Pendle Witches, film locations, or famous former students
  • Go one better and make an audio or multimedia version that visitors can download to their phones and follow by themselves

Dance & Theatre

  • Run murder mystery or bespoke themed dinner parties
  • Create a YouTube channel of masterclasses, dance routines or fitness programmes – you can monetise it with advertising or potentially charge for streamed content
  • Got acting skills? Slot into corporate training packages by offering role play practice, or start your own mystery shopping service for local companies

Music

  • Compose and create soundtracks for games, apps
    and YouTubers: target students building their portfolio or businesses locally/online
  • Write and perform personalised songs for weddings, birthdays and other milestones
  • If you’ve had voice training, you could record audio books for indie and established authors (a growing market!)

Languages

  • Offer conversational practice via Skype to learners around the world. Get a PayPal account to make getting paid in any currency a doddle (but check for any fees)
  • Look for app developers and authors and offer to translate their work for other markets

Art

  • Supply professionally designed posters and programmes for campus societies or local theatres/clubs
  • Turn customer photos into illustrated digital wallpapers, bags or phone covers
  • Sell your work to the art collectors of the future with an Etsy shop (and get your name out there at the same time)

Photography

  • Find a niche subject to go freelance with less competition from the pros – think pet portraits, or under-represented stock shots
  • Print alternative postcards and get them stocked in shops, galleries and cafés
  • Offer a photo editing service that makes everybody’s snaps super
  • Turn your best work into greetings cards, posters and canvas prints and sell them online and on campus, or sell limited edition art prints to collectors for better prices

Got the business buzz? Great. Start thinking how it might work: what’s your core product or service? Is it legit – think location, copyright, insurance, qualifications? Who are your potential customers and how will you reach them? How much will you charge and how will you get paid (and, if you’re super successful, do you know how tax works)? If you think you need funding or further advice, chat to the uni’s enterprise team for tips or check out crowdfunding sites like kickstarter for project ideas. Good luck!

GUEST BLOG: Olly Heron of ‘Stride’

‘Stride’- everywhere you look there’s a helping hand. A story of start-up support at Lancaster University

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Guest blog by Olly Heron, Co Founder and Marketing Director of Stride Innovations Ltd and LU undergraduate.

Way back in November 2014, myself and three friends attended the Lancaster Entrepreneurs’ Start-up Weekend with the simple idea for a mobile app that helped users record and share their ideas quickly.

After making it through a tough round of pitching, we worked on the idea with a team of 8 for an intense 54 hours until the time came for the final pitch to a panel of experts.

We placed second, and won flexible working space from SpacePortX in Manchester, as well as the promise of a meeting with Barclays in 2015 if we kept working on our product. So, we had a challenge: make Stride a reality.

From there onwards, we have been amazed at the support we’ve received from Lancaster University- here’s just a selection of the groups who have helped us along the way:

  1. ISS Innovation Hub: Rob Ellis, the team leader of the Innovation Hub, was a judge on the panel for the final pitch at the Startup Weekend. We met with him to get additional feedback after the startup weekend where he gave us some great ideas of what to do next- including some sources of initial funding. Rob has been a great mentor for us- willing to take the time to chat through ideas and introduce us to new contacts.
  2. LUSU: After our meeting with Rob, the next place we looked to was LUSU. There’s some big work going on at the moment to create an even better offering for start-ups at the University- but even without that in place we’ve been able to gain a huge amount of advice and some funding from Josh Dean and co. We go to go through a pitch process and created a business plan, which we’ve developed since- but this was the first time someone really challenged us to think professionally about our idea.
  3. Lancaster University School of Computing and Communications: We’d got the funding, but we were missing a crucial skill set, a developer. SCC helped us put out the feelers to students, and Stewart Kember met with us to discuss some of the general advantages and disadvantages to selecting either iOS or Android as a starting platform.
  4. Lancaster University Enterprise Team: Now we’re working on bigger funding applications, it’s great to have the ad hoc 1-2-1 support that the Enterprise Team is so readily able to give- we’re looking forward to bouncing some ideas around with the team in the coming weeks. Additionally, the Enterprise Team have provided us with some inspiration. If you’ve not been to one of their ‘Start Up Stories’ events, its time to change that (HINT: there’s one coming up on the 11th June!) Hearing from some of our incredibly successful alumni really leaves you thinking ‘what if I gave it a shot?’

So there’s just a snapshot, from one very early start up journey, and our very many helpers across the University. So if you’ve got an idea and you don’t know how to make it happen, why not reach out? What have you got to lose?

If you’re interested to learn more about Stride, follow us on Twitter at @hellostride and be the first to find out when the Beta of our iOS app is available by registering here.

Stride co-founders are:

Olly Heron, BA Advertising and Marketing, Lonsdale College

Michael Palmer, MSci Biomedicine, Fylde College

Oli Monks, BA Management and Entrepreneurship, Fylde College

Chris Cerra, BA Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations, Birmingham City University