Boost your digital knowledge




Did you know that Google offer an online learning programme to help you to get the digital skills you need to grow your business or just your confidence?

Google Garage will guide you through search engines to social media and beyond.

Who is it for?

Business owners, employees or students. For those who want to get started, sharpen their digital skills, or kickstart their career with an impressive certification.

How do I sign up?

You can sign up and create a tailored learning programme here.

SURVEY: Are you part of a family business?

How do you engage with your family business?


Take this short survey by researchers at Lancaster University Management School and the University of Bradford School of Management.

Are you part of a family business?  Why do you, or don’t you, get involved in the family business? So often surveys are aimed at the CEO or current business leader.  We want to know how YOU, the next generation of leaders, engage with the family business (or not!). Have your say!

Researchers at Lancaster University Management School and the University of Bradford School of Management are working on a joint project sponsored by the Institute for Family Business (IFB) Research Foundation. We are seeking the views of next generation family members, whether working in the business or not, to understand how future generations are involved in the development of family businesses.  Recommendations for family businesses will be presented at the IFB conference in June and you’ll get a copy of the results  if you share your email at the end of the survey.

If your parents or grandparents have a family business, whether you are thinking of joining it or developing your skills in a different direction, have your say by completing the following anonymous survey here.

EVENT: Be Your Own Boss, tomorrow!

Be Your Own Boss: Weds 20th Jan 2016, 2pm – 4pm, Bowland North Seminar Room 20byob2

Working for someone else isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. By becoming a freelancer or working for yourself, you’ll be joining the 172,000 people between 16-24 who have taken control of their own career path.

The session, delivered by IPSE (Association of Independent Professionals and Self Employed), will discuss the benefits, challenges, expectations, processes and recommendations of becoming self-employed – giving you a clearer idea of whether it is the right path to take, and how to succeed.

Book your place here.

*Please note: We won’t be running the drop in this week and we encourage you to book a space on this session instead. If you’d like to talk to someone about your idea or startup, we’ll be available as normal from 2-4pm next Wednesday (27th Jan) when we have spaces from 3pm.

Self employment, tax and eligible business expenses: are you clued up?

New HMRC e-guidance explains your tax obligations and eligible business expenses

hmrcvat2As boring as it sounds, if you want to be a self employed entrepreneur, you’ll need to know your VAT from your National Insurance, and what eligible expenses can be claimed against the business.

You can access quick and easy online guides created by HMRC which will address your concerns about the financial requirements of being self employed.

For everything you need to know about TAX, click here.

For BUSINESS EXPENSES, click here.

You’ll also find a number of useful resources on our website, under Resource Bank. If you have any suggestions about other materials or resources you’d like us to feature on our pages, get in touch and let us know.

How to Make It Happen as a Social Entrepreneur

Are you a Social Innovator?

Social entrepreneurs aren’t that different from other people making things happen; they take their passions, motivations and enthusiasm and create a business.

In the video clip above, UnLtd Award winner, Rosie Ginday, discusses how her passion for cooking has evolved into a successful social enterprise, supporting the rehabilitation of offenders and disadvantaged individuals with employment and training.

What are your passions and hobbies? Maybe the traditional entrepreneurial path does not inspire you to take the plunge and create your own career; would your motivations change, however, if you knew that you were making a difference to other people’s lives and supporting them to find a better future?

If your answer is yes, absolutely – why not come along to the “Are U a social innovator?” event during Make It Happen? You’ll meet other people already making a difference in the North West and learn what social challenges are felt most acutely in the area. You might even find other students to collaborate with to start making things happen whilst your at University. Sign up via Target Connect to secure your place.



Have you seen our Make It Happen events are now on Target Connect?

Startup Stories 19th November – Programme announced


‘Start up Stories’ –  Entertainment, wisdom and valuable career insights for all and a drink in the bar with Lancaster University Alumni – Thursday 19th November 2015

Book now on Target Connect to secure your place.

 ‘Almost a quarter of UK students are starting a business whilst at university, generating a turnover of around £44M a year.’ (Santander 2014)

Are you still exploring career options and sectors, or you have ever wondered what it takes to be or work with an entrepreneur?

Curious..? Then join us for this storytelling event with our very own alumni who will share the highs, lows and lessons learned on their own entrepreneurial journeys; transitions from blue chip careers to starting their own businesses, making a life and a living from their research, or simply fulfilling their purpose by doing something to make positive change for people.

You’ll hear it from the heart from people who are doing what they love and loving what they do:

Winner of the Women in Business Award 2015

BA Hons English Literature

Pendle College

Founder of an Oxfordshire based Award Winning Digital Design Agency

BA Hons Art, Design and Marketing

Fylde College

An Aids Charity founder whose strategies once saw him rise £12M in 12 weeks

MA Marketing

Fylde College

Creator of a widely-cited, award-winning framework for decision making,

who earned notoriety as a student as one of the ‘Lancaster 25’ in the 1975 occupation and legal case

BA Hons Philosophy 1975

County College

As a potential employee, manager or entrepreneur, you really can’t fail to learn something valuable and you might meet a future employer, a mentor or simply expand your networks.

Stories will be told to the magic of live illustration and we’ll all be heading to the pub afterwards for a social. You may meet a potential employer a mentor, or simply increase your network on LinkedIn.

Book now on Target Connect to secure your place.  Search for ‘Startup Stories (MIH)’

Still need convincing? Watch this film here made by a first year sudent.

This event is organised by The Enterprise Team thanks to funding from the Alumni  and Friends of the University.

Crowdfunding and other creative business models

Event: Minor Hall, 3:45pm-4:30pm, Tuesday 6th Oct

Crowdfunding and other creative business models

Meet the pioneers of fan-based funding within the UK music industry and find out how you might harness the power of your followers in growing your creative enterprise.

Hope & Social is ‘the band anyone can join’.  

They proved this by leading thousands of people in the creation of the official song for the Tour De Yorkshire last year.  But this was only one of a number of ambitious and creative moves they’ve made since they broke the mold in 2004 by launching the first fan-funded record label with £100,000 investment from their fans.  Now everything they do is fan-driven, from including fan performances in their recordings, through taking them out on daytrips to the seaside, to adopting a pay-what-you-want approach to their downloads and live performances.

Oh, and did we mention that they are Lancaster alumni too!

Regardless whether you are thinking of business models for music and other creative industries, or for something completely different, there is a huge amount to be learned from their experiences of trying new things in the name of art and fun.

The band is booked to play the Nuffield Theatre as part of Lancaster Arts Music Week (ticket info here), but are inviting anyone who would like to speak to them about their creative business models (or anything at all really!) to join them in the Minor Hall before the gig for a drink and a chat (3:45pm-4:30pm).

Reserve your place on Target Connect.

For more information, please contact

Entrepreneur’s Corner

An interview with past student and entrepreneur Nick Churchill – Evans, BSc Hons Management Science Operational Research 1994, Lonsdale College

Nick Churchill-Evans - Cloudthing 670 x 200 banner







To hear live alumni tales of starting a business, book your place at the next ‘Startup Stories’ event on 19th November  here.

Nick supports the development of entrepreneurial talent at Lancaster University through his support for the Lancaster University Enterprise Centre.

 What first got you thinking about starting a business Nick?

OK, one night I and  three of my, my fellow ‘diligent hard working students had a conversation about the theory of building a business; we decided that the bedrock of a good business came down to one thing; we didn’t know anything really… but this is what we thought ‘It was about customer service’. So we talked about running we a sandwich shop; we could know all our customers names, we could give them love when they come in, welcome them, we could give them big fillings because the fillings are really small overhead in the scale of the whole business…That was the theory; Unfortunately it turns out we knew absolutely nothing about sandwiches, because we hadn’t done a sandwich course! From those early pipedreams, two of us actually decided to go ahead and start a business. It was that, or get on a graduation training scheme with Shell or someone. I am no big environmentalist, but I really didn’t fancy doing that!

How did you get started in your first business venture?

My best friend and I formed a business, luckily nothing to do with sandwiches… I had done a degree by that point in operational research, so I knew a little bit about looking at businesses and looking at business problems and using maths and stats to fix them. My friend did Operational Management (which was for less clever people!). What we did was literally go out and bamboozle our way into some contracts. I only looked about fourteen as well, I really don’t know quite know how we did it. I think it was simply blind disbelief that we could actually fail.

What kind of work were you doing to get things off the ground?

We picked up a couple of contracts, helping some customers to look at their businesses and a bit of management consultancy. The solutions to those problems were actually writing some software so we ended up being computer programmers as well.

So it was all going really well?

Sadly that only lasted about two years. We knew nothing, (even less than we knew about management consultancy to be fair); nothing about contracts and getting things agreed in a way that was water tight, where each party understood what they were doing and what they were going to get. I won’t bore you with the details but tears were involved, there was much gnashing of teeth, we almost came to fisty cuffs, (not my partner and me, him and me versus the other party.) In the end we thought let’s just draw the business to a close.

That must have been hard, how did you bounce back?

All my friends had great jobs with blue chip companies. I thought that they were living their lives on expenses and having a great time, so I thought, ‘I’ll go and grab some of that!’, and I did for fifteen great years until the company I was working for was sold to Capita. I think the guys I’m in business with and I lasted three months under the new regime. We all lookoperation waveed at one another in a meeting one day and I think I might have been the first person to say ‘There has got to be a better way of making a living than working for these guys,’ and everyone went …’Oh yeah.’ So we launched ‘Operation Wave’, as in wave goodbye to Capita!

 You’re stepping into serial entrepreneur territory now!  What did you do in the next business?

We decided we would try consultancy again. Whilst we had made a few quid, working for a big company, we had spent it all on children and wives. We all had big mortgages, big responsibilities. We needed to bootstrap and bootstrap fast. So we took some clients on and built some software for them. In 2011 we launched cloudThing and I left Capita in 2013.  What I did was get to start a business without taking any loans and that has really been done by going and finding some customers.

They say selling is the steepest learning curve in your own business, what would you say?

Let me tell you it is quite hard selling, but what we did is the ‘Entrepreneur’s Hustle’.  You pick the phone up, get on the email and, get hold of as many people as you know and you beg for them to do business with you. Basically that is what we have done…shamelessly. Then, when you have done something with them, or they say, ‘No! We can’t!’  we ask,  ‘Who else can you refer me to?’ Honestly, we have built up the best part of two million pounds worth of revenue over the last 18 months or so by doing that.

What has surprised you most during this journey?

I think the thing that has surprised me most, is the warmth of human kindness, out there. I haven’t looked at the stats but, of every hundred people that you ask for help, I bet a quarter of them will do something for you. Most of my LinkedIn posts start ‘Help!’,  because I  figured that’s basically what I am looking for; I might as well be really up front about it and a bit of transparency and honesty about where you are is really helpful.

What are your top tips for student entrepreneurs?

I’d encourage you to build your networks now! If you are not already, get on LinkedIn. It’s build your networksa gold mine of people and there are loads of people that are itching to give you advice about who to go and talk to about getting grants, how to go about crowd sourcing money; loads of people that will help you if you just ask for the help.

What did you learn about yourself that you can share with others?

I found out was that actually I  am not as clever as I thought I was when I was an arrogant twenty one year old with a degree,  shaking my fists in the air and thinking I was going to rule the world. My co-directors of cloudThing are three of the smartest guys I have ever worked with, and they haven’t quite figured out that I am not as clever as they think I am! When you are looking at your network, think about who you want to work with. Who has skills that compliment your own? You don’t have to go into business with them necessarily, but you might find that you can collaborate and help one another.

What would your advice be to students thinking of starting a business?

If you can get out of university and start your business, or, ideally start it before, and bootstrap it, without getting onto the salary train, I would massively recommend trying it. I was welcome in my parent’s house, to a certain extent, for a while anyway, so I didn’t have to worry about unpaid rent. It is much more difficult once you have mortgage and all those things, and children bless them! So… do it … do it now, you’re interested enough to be finding out about it, so you have got what it takes in my opinion. Go try it!

Do it now

With his software development company cloudThing, Nick works with and invests in entrepreneurs, start-ups and fast growing businesses to develop the technology upon which they deliver their services and upon which their businesses are founded. He has a passion for agile business through beautiful software and infrastructure architecture that can flex to unforeseen market opportunity, scale rapidly, yet stretch capital as far as it can go.  The philosophy that Nick and his colleagues work to is that, “Everything we do should ‘build future’ for our clients”.

You can view Nick’s LinkedIn profile here.

The magic that happens when Alumni and students are in town

A film about stories, inspiration and working together to make new things happen

Current student Sara Procter and alumnus Allan Costa have a lot in common. They are both on a path to doing what they love, working with their passions and making things happen.

I worked with them both recently as part of the ‘Startup Stories’ series of events. Allan was one of six former students who joined us at our last event in June, to share tales of their entrepreneurial journeys with our current students. Sara took up the challenge to capture and cut this lovely film you can see above.

Sara is a Fine Art student with a passion for film making and animation. A raw talent with a natural creative ability in film making, animation and storytelling, she has a vision for where she wants to be in life, but as for most people, the pathway is unclear.

You can spend a lot of time thinking, dreaming and worrying about the future. What you have to do is make a start by ‘doing’, ‘trying’ and ‘experimenting’ with new things. When you do the pathway starts to unfold before you.

Sara is a student who understands this. She is exploring and finding her element, working with her passions to develop herself and her potential by getting involved and as a result adding value to others through her creative talents. Sara’s network and contacts and opportunities will open up as a result of what she has achieved though this film; she has started the journey of getting to where she wants to be.

It wasn’t rocket science, and there wasn’t any grand plan we just decided we would try and do something together. Sara came along with her camera and her talent, captured the event on film and lifted out one of the most compelling elements to create a short story. We have worked closely in the final product, shaping, tweaking, refining and Sara has been totally open to working in this way; we have all learned something new through collaboration. Our thanks and congratulations to Sara for being a Student Enterprise Champion, and to Allan Costa too for his support in the final sound production.

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson says that human resources are like natural resources, they are usually hiding just under the surface and you need to make a bit of an effort to find them. If you are a student or staff member with a talent, idea or skill which you would like to unearth or develop, you can work with the enterprise team to make new things happen. Get in touch here.

If you are a Lancaster University Alumnus and would like to support the activities of the Enterprise Centre working with young entrepreneurs you can get in touch here.

Everyone is welcome at these events so don’t miss out! Staff students and alumni can book places via Target Connect; Log in and search for ‘Startup Stories’.

Deflated, directionless and lost

Christian Simpson



A guest blog from a totally practical business coach, mentor and teacher  

She said she’d lost her “mojo”.

Despite reaching a major milestone in her entrepreneurial career, here she was, lacking the very drive, hunger and focus that had got her there.

It was last Friday.

I sat in a room with forty or so business owners observing a “hot seat” conversation between this lady, Dianne, and her mentor.

Dianne’s business has grown significantly in the past couple of years, to the point where she proudly announced it had a million in the bank for the first time.

A significant achievement. One you’d think would fan the flames of her passion, drive and commitment even more.

Not so. The exact opposite was the case.

She was deflated, directionless, and lost.

It didn’t take long for the cause of the effect to be revealed. Nothing is hidden from those who have the “ears to hear”. We can’t help but communicate our issues, even though we can’t see them ourselves (it’s hard to see the picure when you’re in the frame).

Our language – not just what we say but how we say it – reveals everything.

In the course of the conversation, she revealed a bombshell.


She’d built her business by being consistently on top of the numbers. Every day she looked at the sales ledger and made decisions accordingly. She bemoaned the recently deployment of “Salesforce” (the CRM software) in her business because it “screwed up” her reporting process.

Could that be why her “mojo” was lost?


Sure, the learning curve with any new system is disruptive, frustrating and traumatic, but there was much to more to this than a short term distraction.

To be resolved successfully, our problems must be addressed at the level beneath the one at which they occur.

So what was the “bombshell”?

Dianne had already mentioned how “surprised” she’d been at how helpful it was to “write her challenge down” when applying for the “hot seat” time with her mentor. And a little further on, the moment came.

Her mentor asked if she had a clear picture of what success looks like for her and her business.

She paused.

“No not really. But I don’t think that’s important.”


There’s the problem, right there.

This lady lacked vision. She couldn’t “see” the success she aspires to.

Her mind had no image to work with. And the mind can’t create what it can’t see.

Worst of all, she held the belief that such things are unimportant.

When the appropriate break in proceedings came, I spoke into what I’d observed:

“Dianne, I’d like to challenge your thinking on a couple of things you’ve said. You mentioned earlier how surprisingly helpful you found it to write out your thoughts regarding your problem. You also said you didn’t think having a clear picture of what success looked like for you was important. I respectfully suggest that’s the issue right there. There’s a powerful proverb that states “where there is no vision, the people perish”, you think in pictures – we all do – and if you can’t see what success looks like for you, you can’t create it”.

I then suggested she write out, by hand, the future she intends to experience.

My suggestion didn’t resonate. I could tell straight away from Dianne’s demenour and facial expression that she didn’t buy into it all, or if she did, it wasn’t to the level where she’d act on my suggestion.

I understood. I wasn’t coaching her after all, I was offering a suggestion. And Dianne is very analytically led. She’s been programmed to see the world in a certain way, where hard, factual evidence reigns supreme and is all there is be trusted.

The process of visioning the future, or “imagineering” as Walt Disney referred to it, is looked upon as either unnecessary or an absurd waste of time by most business owners.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

You see, being on top of the numbers is vitally important in business. Of course it is. I’d be an idiot to suggest otherwise.

But the numbers can only get you so far.

Where there is no vision the people perish.

The statement doesn’t mean people physically perish. It means they fail to be all they could be – because they fail to use the mind effectively.

It can’t call forth what it can’t see. Show me the person who lacks an image of what success looks like in their mind’s eye and I’ll show you a a person who lacks direction – regardless of what level they’re at.

Even the busiest, hard working, relatively successful entrepreneur can soon find herself lacking direction, drive and purpose. Despite a million sitting in the bank, Dianne finds herself lacking the “mojo” that put the million there in the first place.

Where there is no vision the people perish.

Ignore those pearls of wisdom at your peril, because it’ll eventually bite you on the backside.

You are a creative being. You’re never NOT creating. Unfortunately, for most, they’re creating much of the same, over and over again, because they’re NOT conscious in the act of creation.

It pays not to follow the crowd. If you haven’t grasped that truth yet, you’ve made a diabolical career choice.

If you can’t see the “dream”, I guarantee it’ll stay a dream.

Christian Simpson is an  internationally acclaimed expert in professional coaching, transformational leader of entrepreneurs.

To share your ideas and dreams or get involved with shaping other peoples’ come and see us at the drop in in The Base Wednesdays 2-4pm.