A reality check – supercharging your employability… and a college event to get you started.

Startup Stories

 

We all need role models and mentors to broaden our perspectives, and hearing from people, once in your shoes who have been out in the world of work and gone on to become entrepreneurs can provide powerful insights into how futures can unfold in very unexpected ways.

If you are a Bowland, County or Furness College member, there’s a chance on Thursday 17th March to get registered on the forthcoming ’ Startup Stories’ event in your College.  It’s an event for you by your college alumni as they will be share the highs lows and wisdom learned on their startup journeys.

…I can guess what what you’re thinking… “I’m not an entrepreneur – so why would I want to think like one?” Here are the realities:

Reality 1 – Entrepreneurs are not superhuman. They’re just people like you and me who have worked hard to turn their ideas into a reality.

Reality 2 – We all have ideas, creativity and skills, we just don’t always know how to put them to work. When we do, we learn through trial and error, continual improvement and refinement. If we step out to start bringing our ideas to life, we start to develop what’s sometimes called an ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ – which simply means thinking like a successful business person when looking for opportunities to create value, or solve business, social or world challenges.

Reality 3 – The world of work is changing. We are all having to adapt to a fast paced and more challenging and competitive work environment. Employers are looking for people who can be ‘intrapreneurial’ within  in their organisations.  Whatever  art, craft or expertise you are developing, you will need to be in the habit of creating value … for someone else if not for yourself or your customers. Playing with challenges and ideas whilst at university creates evidence of performance for future employers.

Reality 4– Entrepreneurship can creep up on you. Many of of the alumni never really expected to start a business; They have made transitions from blue chip careers to starting their own ventures, making a life and a living from their research, or simply fulfilling their purpose by doing something to make positive change for people.

Reality 5  Being inquisitive in the company of entrepreneurs will raise your awareness of  just what’s possible when believe your potential is infinite and you turn your ideas to reality.

So, how do YOU start thinking like an entrepreneur? Your first step could well be to sign up for ‘Startup Stories’ to hear from who are doing what they love and loving what they do running their own businesses. Startup Stories is social, it’s fun and it’s creative too– we have artists at the event capturing the stories through live illustration.

Search ‘Startup Stories’ on Target Connect. The events are listed under a Bowland, County or Furness Colleges.

If you are from another College look out for events later on the year and in the meantime you could check out the stories from our previous events here.

This is what past students said about it:

Inspiring

 

 

 

 

Furnessians, Counties and Bowlanders, see you there!

 

Boost your digital knowledge

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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.

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.

Business support on the High Street: Manchester

Meet local business advisors with Enterprise Nation: Deansgate, Manchester, 14-18th September 2015

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Enterprise Nation’s ‘Business Support on the High Street’ initiative aims to connect small businesses with local advisors in an accessible location; find answers for those important questions you’ve been battling with, or seek advice from the experts for your new start-up.

This initiative is coming to the North West with a five day drop in on Deansgate, Manchester, from Monday 14th September. You can select your preferred time slot to drop in, and register for FREE.

To find out more about the event, and to see who will be on hand to provide advice during the week, click here.

Don’t miss ‘Start Up Stories’ on 11th June

 

 

'I'd have to rate an English Literature degree because the skills I used...taking information and assimilating it and presenting it for PR, marketing, business partners.'

‘I’d have to rate an English Literature degree because of the skills I used…taking information and assimilating it and presenting it for PR, marketing, business partners.’

Entertainment, wisdom and valuable career insights for all, from enterprising Lancaster University Alumni

11th June 2015, 6-9pm, Brandrigg Room (Barker House Farm)

Book now on Target Connect to secure your place.

If you’re an undergraduate or a postgraduate student ‘scratching your head’ for career inspiration, or even if you  think know where you’re heading, you can’t fail to be enlightened by what our enterprising alumni share with us at ‘Start Up Stories’.

Back by popular demand, this is a story telling event where Lancaster enterprising alumni form all  disciplines and sectors return to campus to tell the stories of their personal development journeys; transitions from blue chip careers to starting their 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 learn about the highs, the lows, the failures and the learning that are the pathway to success on this winding journey we call a career, and you’ll hear it first hand from people who are doing what they love and loving what they do in their own ventures.

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 there will be nibbles and refreshments.

Book now on Target Connect to secure your place.

This event is possible because of generous donations to the Alumni Friends Fund.

Are you charging enough?

7 Easy steps to calculate how much your product will cost.

Last week I was working with a Lancaster University student Oliver Bradley-Baker who is a first year Art student and a talented film maker. You can see his show reel here.

Ollie and I were discussing the challenges of potentially starting up, costing your work and knowing how much to charge, to ensure that you are covering your overheads, your job or material costs and earning the right price for your time and your talents.

In their series ‘Create a business you are proud of’ the Design Trust have written a really helpful series of articles on subjects ranging from, calculating how much your product or service will cost, to different ways to price, how to handle clients who say you charge too much and the one I like is ‘how to avoid being a starving creative.’

The articles are really helpful, but to work on your figures and the different iterations of your costing options you need a tool to play with. What I came up with is attached. It has been sanity checked by a few business and numbers people so it should be good to go.

You can access it here.

Any feedback always welcome  – warts and all!

Thank you to Patricia van den Akker at the Design Trust for the great on-line article that helped me to put this together. The Design Trust website is well worth signing up to for advice, competitions and other forthcoming opportunities.

Deutsche Bank Awards for Creative Enterprise 2015

Calling all final year students and recent graduates, opportunity to win £10k for your creative enterprise

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If you’re a final year arts and creative degree/masters student or recent graduate (from 2014), and would like financial support for your business, apply for the Deutsche Bank Awards for Creative Enterprise 2015 today.

The DBACE 2015 offer practical and financial support to new artists, designers and performers and gives them the opportunity to win £10,000 start up capital, business training and mentoring to support their first year in business and beyond.

Of the five prizes on offer, there are five categories your business plans can fit into:

  • Fine Art
  • Design
  • Film and Photography
  • Music
  • Performance

You can apply as an individual or group and you should prepare and send a business plan for a project or enterprise that you would like to carry out, in support of any long term career goals you may have.

The deadline to submit your business plan is Tuesday 31st March 2015- you haven’t got long to apply so if you’re interested, don’t delay!

Email us at the Enterprise Centre if you would like support with your business plan, or require referrals to staff in FASS who are equipped to help you with your creative enterprises.

For further information about the awards, or to apply, follow this link.

The 60 Second Pitch Awards – Finalists Announced

So Now Is Your Chance To Vote!

The 60 Second Pitch Awards gave you and your business (or idea) the chance to win up to £1,500 as well as support and advice from Santander.

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It is with great pleasure that I can now announce the 10 finalists for the first round of the Santander Universities 60 Second Pitch Awards.  These 10 finalists are:

  1. Recall –  University of Brighton
  2. Treatment Clothing – Cardiff Metropolitan University
  3. Choosic – London Southbank University
  4. Story – University of Brighton
  5. Farmz2U – Queen Mary University
  6. Take Me There – SOAS
  7. Pingster – Ulster University
  8. Industrify – University College London
  9. Mamba – University of Strathclyde
  10. Classic Corporate – London School of Economics

All of the finalists videos are now live and available for you to vote for your favourite via the link below.  Please also feel free to share the link via your own networks as the number of votes received will ultimately determine the winning entries

https://www.santanderuniversities.co.uk/enterprise/win/60-second-pitch/vote-now?t=1421055334

The voting phase of the competition ends on the 31st January after which the winners will be announced.