University Entrepreneurs Challenge

Are you an entrepreneur with a brilliant business idea born out of your time at university?

Have you created a business whilst working in academia? 

Enter the University Entrepreneur’s Challenge and you could walk away with a cash prize, expert assistance, a professional promotional film highlighting your business and influential new contacts.

The challenge is run in conjunction with the prestigious Educate – North and UK Leadership Awards and Conference 2017. Sponsored by the Telegraph Media Group, the challenge aims to find the most innovative businesses that have been founded by graduates, undergraduates, postgraduates or staff from the HE sector across the North of England.

To read more about the competition and entry requirements visit the Educate North website, where you will also find an application form.

Deadline for Applications: Friday 10th March

Santander Entrepreneurship Awards 2017

Opportunity to win up to £25,000 funding, mentoring and start-up support!

The UK’s largest student and graduate business pitching competition is back! This is your chance to win up to £25,000 funding, mentoring and start-up support.

Information Session: 6th of February, 12:30-1:30pm, George Fox LT5 (please note, change of venue from Charles Carter A17)

The Process

Stage one: You and your idea

This stage will involve the production of a two minute video pitch along with a completed business model canvas. These will be judged internally and two entries will then be submitted to Santander – one in each of the two competition categories: pre-revenue and post-revenue.

Stage two: Understanding your Business

Santander will shortlist up to 30 businesses to take part in regional heats, delivering a 5 minute pitch followed by Q&A.

Stage three: Growing your Business

Up to 12 businesses will reach stage 3. They will all receive £1,000 seed funding and be invited to attend an accelerator week to help prepare for the final event in London. The final will take place in October and involve the delivery of a 10 minute presentation followed by Q&A.

The Prize

Attractive prize packages for a pre-revenue and post-revenue winner and runner-up . Prize packages include between £10,000-£25,000 of equity-free seed funding, a fully funded intern, mentoring from one of the judges at the national final and additional support provided by Talent Cupboard such as free listings on their marketplace or e-commerce website hosting for several months.

What Next?

  • You can enter as a team or individual. Alumni must have graduated within the past 5 years.
  • Attend our Information Session on Monday the 6th of February, 12:30-1:30pm in George Fox LT 5. This session will include everything you need to know to prepare an entry for the competition – help you check your eligibility, understand the full process, find our what the judges will be looking for and ask any questions you may have. You can book on to the session through Target Connect.
  • Email the Enterprise Team if you have any further questions.

Student startup, Campus Saint need your help!

Campus Saint Market Research

Campus Saint are a new student startup on campus, offering a platform which aims to match freelance students ‘Saints’ with local demands from ‘Taskers.’

They are looking for help from fellow students for their market research. This involves the completion of a simple questionnaire. There are two questionnaires – one for those interested in becoming employees (Saints) and one for those interested in becoming customers (Taskers) of the business:

Taskers Survey for those busy students who would like help with completing their errands:

Saints Survey for those students looking for a part-time job to earn extra money and skills:

To find out more about Campus Saint, check out their website.


GUEST BLOG: Sebastian Weise, PlaceChangers

“I realised that entrepreneurship can be a powerful source of doing good and making a positive impact.”

Sebastian Weise, founder of PlaceChangers Ltd and former PhD Highwire student, received an Enterprise Award in November 2015. Here, he shares his experience.

This is a blog post about my business startup PlaceChangers, started in April 2015. If you are a student interested in starting a company and want to learn what it takes to start-up, this post is for you. In this post I want to touch on challenges and opportunities along the way and key motivations to keep going. Sure, your story will significantly differ as every decision to start-up is quite personal; and that’s OK. One of the key lessons to learn is to have good networks of support. In the case of PlaceChangers, the Enterprise Centre supported us financially towards our basic startup expenses. We are very thankful for their support and early encouragement.

Where did you get the idea for PlaceChangers?

PlaceChangers Ltd arose from research on the interface between the public and urban planners to make choices for Lancaster’s future development. In my research on public participation, many practices became apparent that involved some form of mapping (in the spatial but also conceptual sense), but that wasn’t much reflected in public engagement. As I analysed spatial distributions of participants and issues raised in official consultations, I found a lack of suitable software for large audiences to partake in the regulations for their neighbourhoods. Essentially that’s how the idea of a start-up at the intersection of mapping, data visualisation, and urban spaces grew on me. We started out in April 2015 and begun trading a year later in April 2016.

At the outset, I read a lot about entrepreneurship. I realised that entrepreneurship can be a powerful source of doing good and making a positive impact. Steve Jobs and Elon Musk’s biographies are an inspiration in terms of overcoming challenges and making a difference. In different ways, these entrepreneurs were passionate. For them, purpose was everything and played a key role in their entrepreneurial careers. Their personal challenges and successes encouraged me to try to set a mark, too, even though it may be a much smaller one.

What did your enterprise funding award contribute to and what lessons have you learned from this experience?

 I started in April 2015 while still working on my PhD. The company was registered in Lancaster, but physically I was located in Manchester, where many of my friends were. This was a challenging time, making income from freelancing for a public service consultancy, completing the PhD, and going to startup events. Eventually with a friend of mine, a developer, I started to work on PlaceChangers as a business. Both short on cash, I was very thankful when we were offered the Enterprise Fund to help us cover early start-up costs, such as essential software required to get going, to cover our hosting costs, but also help us towards financing user workshops. Alongside this we were fortunate to receive additional financial support from the EPSRC and I’d say that this helped us become finalists in a competition on “Innovating in Urban Spaces” in January 2016.

What would you say to inspire future students who want to make things happen by applying for an Enterprise Award?

The journey from starting up to finding a first customer and contract is an exciting learning curve, dotted with many challenges. It took PlaceChangers about a whole year to start trading. Throughout you learn a lot about yourself and other people, and that’s very important. When you get to understand somebody’s needs and manage to serve it with honesty and interest, that’s when great things happen. The Enterprise Award is great in helping cover the many smaller expenditures to help towards understanding user needs and confirm your business proposition. Initially, select carefully who you may want to involve in early market testing, assemble a contact list with preferences, and keep regular meaningful contact. Over time, you find out about needs, opportunities, built trust and make yourself known.

What does the future look like for PlaceChangers?

PlaceChangers is moving on. We have moved to new offices at Campus North, in the city centre of Newcastle. We have a software developed that fits the needs of one of our target audiences and we are working on expanding our product feature set to address other audiences at some point in the new year. With a bit of luck and good planning, we will emerge as a significant engagement consultancy for public and private sector clients.

Last but not least, if you are still hesitant to start. Back then, I might have been somewhat unsure, too. That’s normal. There were many who may not have believed it paying off, who failed to see the opportunity beyond the formalities of urban planning. I would not turn back, it’s a personal journal everybody starts on differently. For me, entrepreneurship is also about ‘doing good by doing business’ and so I’d recommend it to anyone who has a strong passion to fill another persons’ need.

We wish Sebastian and PlaceChangers the best of luck in Newcastle!

If you’d like to apply for an Enterprise Funding Award, get in touch and find out more here.

Image courtesy of Placechangers Ltd.

Don’t Fool Yourself! – The Overwhelming Reality of Transitioning to Work

Guest Blog: Alex Green

Alex Green is the Founder of a new start-up, which he began in August 2016 and is looking to develop and distribute his service across the UK in the coming months. His aim is to provide a platform to support young people through the transition from education to work so they can realise their potential and be successful, happy individuals.

In the last 5 years he has worked in London as a Digital Marketing Executive with experience working for agencies with clients such as Activision to Microsoft, helping them to market their products and services. He studied at Lancaster Management School and graduated in 2012 with a Bachelors in Business Studies with specialisms in Entrepreneurship and Marketing. He is now a registered student with the Chartered Institute of Marketing, studying a Diploma in Professional Marketing and continues to expand his expertise in this area. He is particularly interested in making a positive contribution to the education and charitable sectors.

“Students today have it tougher than previous generations”

(Matthew Waterton, The Guardian)


Alex Green1

If you’re someone who is soon to make the transition between full time education to full time work and independent life, this post is designed for YOU. You may be getting ready for your first week at University, preparing for the grind of your final year of studies or have just started the long, exhausting process of finding a graduate job. However, I want to provide you with some first-hand insight and advice into the realities of making the transition.

I hope you find it useful.

Back in 2012 I graduated with a 2:1 degree from Lancaster University. I was an enthusiastic individual who was hungry to learn and needed to prove myself. I wanted to chase the rat race and chose to pursue a career in Marketing in London. What I didn’t know was that getting noticed in London would be extremely hard. Before I landed my first real job at a digital marketing agency in Covent Garden I had to work in a coffee shop for 6 months, live in a hostel for several weeks and commute at 4am for months on end, whilst at the same time constantly falling flat on my face with job applications and coming short at assessment centres. Why? Because I wasn’t properly prepared.

Alec Green2

When I actually got the job I wanted, the realities were slightly different to what I expected and sadly I wasn’t prepared for this either. I had no clue about work politics, dress code, time management and organisation, which in turn made work life shockingly difficult. Getting up at 6am, having to meet the high expectations of my new boss and deal with the physical and mental strain of it all was a SHOCK. Over the last two years I continued working for a range of other companies and realised that I wasn’t the only young person who seemed to be struggling. We simply weren’t properly aware of the realities of living independently. Last year it got to the point where the stress became too much and I decided to resign from my job and do something that I was passionate about. After having some much needed time off, talking to many close friends, family members and advisors, I had a light bulb moment. I decided that I would be the person who would provide young transitional people with the right support and guidance so they could more quickly adapt to the current environment we live in. That’s when my idea was born.

My vision is to equip young people with the tools required to cope with LIFE AFTER EDUCATION. This may include support for mental health, self-help, career advice, personal development and maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Currently, students are only provided with guidance on how to be a successful student and some career advice is offered, but I offer the whole package for dealing with this transition in multiple areas of life – this is what makes my idea unique.


You could argue that parents are there to provide this guidance, however modern day life suggests that families are becoming more disparate, parents are unaware of the true realities of life for young people and cracks are showing in the appropriateness of the support provided. Life has moved on. I would consider that I have come from a secure family background and regardless of my parent’s best intentions, I still found this transition extremely difficult. I am not alone in this.

By creating a resource to better prepare young people for the transition between full time education to full time work life and living independently, they will be better informed to make smart decisions helping them work towards their dreams, be happy and lead a successful life.

As part of my research to find out exactly what support is needed, I have created a survey. If you are interested in my service and think it may be beneficial to you please take just 5 minutes to fill it out and make sure you leave some contact details so I can reach out to you in the future (this is optional). The results from the survey will be shared in my next blog so stay tuned…

For more information bout this topic, listen to my video blog below where I talk about the 10 things I wish I’d known more about before leaving University.

I am also happy to answer any questions you may have via email at


Getting Ahead with Oli Monks, Co-founder of Bagsee

As part of Adam Ian Stewart’s ‘Getting Ahead With…’ series, Oli Monks – Lancaster Alumni, co-founder of Bagsee and current entrepreneur in residence tells all about the workings and future of Bagsee, his experience of university, charity work and he also shares his top tips for getting ahead.

Click here to listen to the interview.

Team Poslat at the Histar Competition 2016

Team Poslat funding experience

In July 2016, IT, Management and Organisational Change masters students Kennedy Simutowe & Oyinda Oludipe applied for a funding award for their business idea, Poslat. They tapped into the Enterprise Fund to pay for their travel and accommodation at the Histar competition semi finals in Oxford. Here, they share their experience of the day and what opportunities they were exposed to by attending the semi final.

The Histar Competition 2016 was receiving entries up to 10th June, for startup ideas and big idea submissions.

Under the big ideas entries, we participated by submitting our innovative shipping solution, Poslat. On 9th July 2016 we were elated to learn that our proposal had been accepted to the semi finals, which included an entrepreneurship and business bootcamp at Oxford University.
kennedy-histar3In the run up to the Histar competition, we had also consulted with the Lancaster University Enterprise Centre (LUEC) from whom we received invaluable advice, mentoring and support for our idea. A few days prior to the Histar bootcamp, we were privileged to have an extensive session with the LUEC team with whom potential issues to do with the Poslat idea were discussed, including cross border movement of goods, customs and security. The lean development approach was suggested for Poslat. Lean development involves identifying the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product to begin the process of learning the customer’s requirements as quickly as possible. In the same session, the Poslat business model canvas was developed and analysed. On Saturday 16th July, we travelled to Oxford with all arrangements provided for and well facilitated by LUEC.

In the morning sessions, we pitched the idea behind Poslat to the Histar judging panel who were very intrigued and interested by the solution. Our 11 page Powerpoint slide was effective and summarised the entire proposal. During the pitch battle and mentoring in the afternoon sessions, we received feedback on the innovative Poslat solution to do with:

  1. Patentability
  2. Revenue model
  3. Unique selling proposition
  4. Trust, security, customs and legal considerations.

histar panel (cut)Other activities at the event included business lectures on embracing innovation, management strategies for startup companies, intellectual property, engaging the Chinese market and accessing Chinese investment. The business discussion panels featured interactive question and answer feedback from experts. As the Poslat team, one of the questions we posed was ‘how well are Chinese investors receiving disruptive business models (such as AirBnB, Uber) founded on the sharing economy concept?’ to which the answer was very encouraging; many investors are ready to support ideas and startups of all kinds, especially disruptive ones, as long as they are well thought out and hold promise for meaningful returns in the long run.

A networking lunch was also held and this provided an opportunity to exchange ideas with and received ideas from some of the business experts and mentors.

Overall, the Histar semi finals were well organised and delivered more insights on entrepreneurship and business development for our team. We made friends from all over the UK and exchanged contacts with potential business partners for the development of the Poslat shipping idea. We are confident that based on our innovative solution and the effective business pitch presentation, we will be announced as winners in the final stage on 20th August 2016.

Following this blog piece, Kennedy and Simutowe were shortlisted for the competition final in August… congratulations guys!

For more information, follow these links:

Histar Competition 2016

Lancaster University Enterprise Fund

Introduction to the Business Model Canvas

Funding Update: Team Gryphos

Team Gryphos: Santander winners and funding awardees

Patrizia Carbone, Sebastien Combret and Kyaw Tun Sein received an enterprise funding award in March 2016 which allowed them to attend and win Santander’s Big Ideas competition in London. In this update, they share their motivations, ambitions and where they hope their idea will go next.

We are three MSc International Innovation students; Patrizia and Sebastien are on the Design pathway and Kyaw is on the Engineering pathway.

We met almost 2 years ago at Lancaster University when we started the MSc and we worked together during the first year on a couple of course projects before moving to China for six months in our second year. The three of us have always had a desire to start our own business. So, in the streets of Guangzhou (China) we started meeting and thinking about our next steps. We all had different ideas about a possible product/service but we decided that to make OUR idea we needed one that came from the three of us together.

Pic 1

After endless brainstorming meetings, tons of post-it notes we had a common problem that we wanted to solve…from there we looked, discussed different possible solutions to solve it and came up with the one we felt more suitable. We got feedback from potential users by survey and interviews.

We started working on the project, prototype etc. and decided we were going to apply for a start-up incubator and work toward applying for HAX, the world’s first and largest hardware accelerator based in Shenzhen.

While working on the project we found out, thanks to the Enterprise Centre, that there was the Santander Big Ideas Competition coming up soon, we thought it could be a good start to apply and see what feedback we could get from it. Therefore, we adapted our original idea to fit into the requirement of the competition and Gryphos was born. Gryphos is a fingerprint and ECG digital authentication device that allows you to securely enter your online banking account and make payment securely through NFC (near field communication – a form of contactless communication between devices likes smartphones or tablets).

Pic 2

When we are working together on our project, we feel like children playing. We are serious about solving the problem to make a difference in the world but it is also so much fun. There is a positive energy and a great sense of curiosity among the team. When one team member has an idea to try out, we all give it some thought and we give it a try most of time. We even ended up hacking the iphone!

From there it went pretty fast, we successfully passed the different stages of the application selection and we got the invitation to the semi-final in London on 22nd March. We were not sure we could make it since we were still in China, but luckily for us the Enterprise Team was very helpful and through our application to the Enterprise Fund, we were able to purchase our flight tickets and the team gave support answering the millions questions we had. Finally, we were able to attend and…won the competition!

It has been a great experience and one of the best parts of it was the feedback we received from the executive board at Santander because it gave an insight on the way our device could be used that, for lack of experience, we had not thought about it. We were also invited to visit Santander R&D department in Milton Keynes and attend, as guests, the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards 2016, at the end of June.

After the competition, we came back to Lancaster University to finish our dissertations and to keep working on our projects. Coming back to LU was the best option since we can access to all the services and help the university makes available to students. The Enterprise Centre was and still is very supportive. We also managed to get our own office on campus through Furness’ Mind Your Own Business and that makes working together much easier.

At the end of April, we sent the application for HAX incubator and a week ago we had the first interview with them, we still have work to do and another interview in the next few days.At the same time we applied for a IoT startup bootcamp in London a few days ago, we are still waiting for the outcome.

If you’d like to apply to the Lancaster University Enterprise Fund too, why not take a look at our funding pages here to find out more?


Startup Stories Online Now – Be Inspired

Read, listen and feel inspired by the entrepreneurial stories from our latest Startup Stories event

On the 17th of March, alumni entrepreneurs from three Colleges – County, Bowland and Furness told captivated audiences about their personal Startup Stories whilst live illustrators sketched out each journey.

Each story was unique and told an interesting (and not always straightforward) entrepreneurial journey. The stories along with their audio recordings and illustrations can be found now in our Startup Stories gallery.

The speakers involved were:

Bowland College

Alex Phillips, APPS – Wanting the freedom of doing his own thing and shaping his future on his own terms, Alex jumped straight in to setting up his own printing and promotions company in Lancaster. Starting off printing t-shirts 25 years ago, they continue to grow their brand and portfolio of products.

Ian Nelson, Adlib – From a PhD in Biological Sciences to travelling the world as a sound engineer, working with the likes of Placebo, Ed Sheeran, David Guetta and Ellie Goulding. Ian’s Startup Story reflects how a career can be formed naturally around your interests and hobbies.

Jon Price, Complete Care Ltd – The ideal story for those who want to help others or are interested in the marketing industry. Jon, former President of the Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce is founder of one of the UK’s largest online healthcare retailers, as well as having 10 years experience of running an online marketing agency.

County College

Damian Gray, The Bizarre –  From the weekly Alexandra Park farmers market to his own pop-up store in Manchester’s’ Northern Quarter, Damian’s clothing business continues to grow as he is beginning to explore new avenues for the future.

James Howard and James Short, Go Burrito – James & James share their recipe for success – how they built their local brand, Lancaster’s first burrito restaurant and earned themselves a dedicated burrito-loving following. It’s not all be plain sailing as they also address the tough year they’ve had picking up after Storm Desmond.

Tom Young, Repairly Ltd – Trips to Silicon Valley, admission to the Ignite 100 accelerator and now Virgin Media Techstars. Tom is living the entrepreneurial dream with business partner Fraser, as their business Reparily (bringing tech repairs to you) continues to grow and develop at an astonishing pace.

Furness College

Guy McEvoy, GuyKat Solutions Ltd – Former Furness JCR President, Guy McEvoy began his early adventures as a freelance nightclub promoter in Morecambe, a job which helped him pay for his Masters degree. That was only the start – he is now CEO of GuyKat Solutions Ltd, providing e-learning solutions to organisations across 50 countries.

Helen Loftus, Critical Transitions – Despite a degree in physics, Helen’s passion for sport, fitness and personal training led her to  start her own successful personal training business with contracts with every major fitness operator in Leeds, as well as being the strength and condition coach for Leeds City Swim team.

Lucy James, Quarsh Ltd – Lucy shares with us how 15 years of experience and a deep understanding of the recruitment industry enabled her to start Quarsh, her own fast-growing recruitment company.

To stay in touch about this and future opportunities please register on the Enterprise Team mailing list.

Ad: Get fit with Sarah Marshall

Sarah Marshall’s Outdoor Bootcamp – Thursdays, 1pm

Get fit with Sarah Marshall (former Enterprise Administrator!) this summer. Sarah left us last November to work full time on her own health and fitness business and hasn’t looked back since! She’s now back on campus with a quick lunchtime workout for all staff and students.

Sarah Marshall Outdoor Bootcamp
A blend of cardio exercise to burn fat and body weight exercises to tone and sculpt those muscles.
Meet at University House at 1pm (finish 1.45pm) – £5 per person.

Like Sarah Marshall Fitness on Facebook, or call on 07733221883 for more information.