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:






Furnessians, Counties and Bowlanders, see you there!


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.

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.


The insight into the world of venture capitalists in Silicon Valley

Pitching in Silicon Valley: could you do it?

silicon valley2

Ever wondered what it would be like to pitch and network with Silicon Valley’s most influential venture capitalists?

“Each year, three thousand startups approach a16z with a “warm intro” from someone the firm knows. A16z invests in fifteen. Of those, at least ten will fold, three or four will prosper, and one might soar to be worth more than a billion dollars—a “unicorn,” in the local parlance. With great luck, once a decade that unicorn will become a Google or a Facebook and return the V.C.’s money a thousand times over: the storied 1,000x. There are eight hundred and three V.C. firms in the U.S., and last year they spent forty-eight billion dollars chasing that dream.” (Tad Friend, ‘Tomorrow’s Advance Man’, The New Yorker)

If you think you could be a “unicorn”, read Tad’s piece on the world of pitching and one of Silicon Valley’s most formidable venture capitalists here.

Designing a world where people come first

People hands

An RSA Event Thursday 28th May 2015 at 18:00

 LISTEN LIVE from 6pm on 28th May 2015

 WATCH LIVE using the embedded player, above, or on the RSA YouTube channel

Government, business, the lives we lead, the food we eat, the way our children are brought up, the way we relate to the natural world around us – it’s all become too big and distant and industrialised. Inhuman. It’s time to do something about it. It’s time to put people first. It’s time to make the world more human.

Steve Hilton, visiting professor at Stanford University and former senior adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, believes that the frustrations people have with government, politics, their economic circumstances and their daily lives are caused by deep structural problems in the systems that dominate our modern world – systems that are broken because they’ve grown too far from the human scale.

At the RSA, he shows how change is possible, offering the latest research, compelling stories and case studies from all over the world across industry, politics, education, design and social action to show us what can happen when we make our world more human. A more local, more accountable and more human way of living, he argues, will make us more productive, more fulfilled and ultimately happier.

More information

For more information contact RSA Public Events at:

+44 (0)20 7451 6868


If you’re interested in contributing to designing a world where people come first check out a new Lancaster University student group @USocialVenture.


Graduate Entrepreneur Visa Information Session

Information event for applications for T1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visas


Do you want to start a business in the UK when you graduate? If you are a non-EEA national who requires a visa to be in the UK, did you know that there is a special visa which enables you to start your own business in the UK after graduation?

The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa grants you an initial 12 months of eligibility post-graduation to work in the UK, with the aim of starting your own business. You can read more about the visa here.

Lancaster University can endorse a limited number of new visa applications each year for students interested in this career path. Each applicant is required to submit a strong business plan outlining how the proposed idea will operate in the UK.

If business start up is something you might consider once you’ve graduated from Lancaster, and your stay in the UK is restricted by visa requirements, come along to an information session on 12th May 2015, 1:30pm-4:30pm, HR Building (Training Room 1)

The session will include a presentation, Q&A with a member of the International Registry Team and an introduction to business planning tools to improve and develop your business plans for submission.

Booking is now available through Target Connect.

Please contact the International Registry Team, with any questions.

Social Change through SPARK awards….


Nickala Torkington, Partnership Manager at UnLtd shares  how she went about developing peer to peer support to galvanise a ‘Network of Networks’ of Women supporting Social Entrepreneurs in Greater Manchester. Read on to hear more about how to save time and money, whilst building SE Ambassadors, Mentors and Champions….

‘Developing a peer to peer Network of Networks’ of Women supporting Social Entrepreneurs in Greater Manchester has been fun, rewarding and has started to address some gaps in the provision of support tailored to meet the needs of female social entrepreneurs in Greater Manchester. All the attention on this theme has come a bit leftfield for me, perhaps I take it for granted or as a given that this is straightforward, given UnLtd’s values and ability to reach out to women through our awards programmes 48% of our awards have gone to women over the last 12 years and on the HE Support programme over 50% of awards were to women.

Contrary to belief – I haven’t been slaving away on this and am not doing this ‘In addition’ to my day job – well not much…. And supporting the development of this is actually saving me time, resources and helping me deliver a range of outcomes across UnLtd programmes as well as develop the networks of partners.

Plus it helped me bust my own myth and cynical side that said ‘What on earth can you do with real impact with a £500 SPARK award?’

First of all I ironed out my personal & work goals for doing this. I wanted to……

  • Find ways to connect my network and save time, energy and emails
  • Provide more support for female social entrepreneurs as could see a number of them struggling to get going or move things forward
  • Find ways to use some of the tools and techniques I and others have learned to support more SEs and share learning
  • Find ways to celebrate and showcase some of the fantastic award winners and female social entrepreneurs out there
  • Help the small SPARK team shift some awards and create meaningful impact

What happened…..

I mapped out my top 10 female socially entrepreneurial ‘Super connectors’ ( which quickly turned into 30). These were a combination of longstanding award winners, new award winners (L1, L2, Try/Do/Build it and SPARK) our 3 HEFCE Partners and a Star People partner, a couple of UnLtd Mentors along with a random selection of old stalwarts and strategic agencies in the sector.

Over a period of 12 – 18 months we:

1)   Held a couple of pre-meets which galvanised a group, identified shared goals, gaps and opportunities – this alone created 2 useful outcomes:

  • a new contract opportunity which a member took with both hands to deliver the Ogunte Make a Wave programme
  • initiated 4 separate Spark Awards (G4N, OSEN, the Greater Manchester Mappathon and the peer to peer network we have developed WSSE)

2)  Encouraged and supported group members to apply for SPARK awards and members attended each other’s activities where relevant.

3)  Kicked off the Women Supporting Social Entrepreneurs (WSSE) peer to peer network and met 3 times to build the group which now stands at around 50 engaged and contributing and used our meetings to consider ideas to challenges and barriers whilst address gaps and opportunities. See a downloadable presentation we compiled fairly early on in case this can be of use.

4)  Have shaped our ideas into a programme of activities – attached below in case they can be of use.

Yet to come this year….

  • The development of a network of 30 – 50 women supporting social entrepreneurs in the Greater Manchester area who want to mentor or would benefit from a mentor
  • Continuation of the original peer mentoring group – 15 to 20 people meeting bi monthly
  • Launch event for 50 women to attend on 5th March as part of International Women’s Week:http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/breakthrough-women-celebrating-developing-women-social-entrepreneurs-tickets-15468177736
  • Training and development of 30- 50 women in mentoring skills and practice through April/ May 2014
  • Development of a team of mentor champions, a pool of mentors plus operational processes to support this.
  • An action training and fundraising event in July– ‘Mentorathon’ to engage 20 – 30 mentors and 10 – 15 mentees
  • Brokerage of a further 20 – 30 1 to 1 mentor relationships
  • An evaluation of the programme to inform the future

My cynical side said….. Myths busted

£500 is not worth effort -what can we get moving? I have proved myself and others wrong on this much has been achieved with very little money. Plus the £500 we started with has turned into £2000 of SPARK awards in the area which through the network and so far the group has raised an additional £2000 in cash to contribute towards venue hire launch event and mentor training through contacts within the network.

Do we really need this in Manchester? There is much support for social entrepreneurs within the Greater Manchester area, however the number of people getting involved and the feedback we have received shows there is a need for both a peer network for infrastructure and more diverse mentors readily available so capacity can meet demand.

If I act as a catalyst in this will I have loads to do – can I manage it? Whilst I have helped to drive this, working with award winners our highly talented, highly networked and creative ‘Can – do’ people means that our joined effort gets things moving. I haven’t had to attend all meetings, I haven’t written any funding bids and haven’t felt this is a stretch. It has been more of a help in keeping connected, offering support to award winners and partners whilst building the ecosystem.

Myths still to bust …..

How will people from grass roots communities engage – will they have the confidence to come forward/not be put off? Our network is highly diverse and reaching into all communities, however we need to check in with the language we use, style of activities we run and keep listening to feedback on how to make this accessible and holistic. Some of the SPARK awards that have been applied for from the group have been to reach out to underdeveloped communities.

How can we compete/distinguish ourselves alongside other mentoring initiatives? That is what we will learn over the next year, however by taking a bottom up approach, bringing new and diverse people in, keeping overheads to a minimum and supporting prestart – to scale up we hope to create sustainable impact.

It’s Sexist! Maybe – however there is a market demand and un-met needs, so we’ll offer a service that widens people’s connections and opportunities to all people and all sectors in order to help their social change initiatives and ventures to thrive.

Can we really sustain this? So far so good – the pilot has turned into a manageable programme being delivered over the next 12 months with a co-ordinating team of 3-4 people. We don’t know where this will go after that, however we know we have people who can make things happen wanting to see this succeed.

Fancy setting up something similar in your area?

Then get your networks together and apply for a SPARK award to develop your peer to peer activity and stimulate ideas and connections as well as address gaps in need for social entrepreneurs! www.unltd.org.uk/SPARK .

The Lancaster University Enterprise Team  can link you to the UnLtd network who can help galvanise an ecosystem near you.


3-1-5 Health Club Business To Business Breakfast Meeting

Speed Networking at 3-1-5 on Friday morning – get an early morning workout first!


This Friday! 30th January 3-1-5 is hosting Business 2 Business breakfast meeting in partnership with Audi Blackburn from 7.45am until 10am. What do you need to do to run the business you really want to run? And, what would it feel like? Would you like to discuss this further with like-minded business colleagues? Then come along to our Speed Networking morning at 3-1-5 Health Club and if you are really keen, why not have a workout beforehand with our world class trainers from 6.45am? Just RSVP to Louise@x-force.co.uk before 28th Jan 2015.

Click here for more information.

Alumni Success Story

Alex Melia  – Swoosh English


Swoosh English was founded by Alex Melia due to popular demand from Primary School students based in Hong Kong, who wanted to start a different, fun and more exciting approach to learning English. Alex is a CELTA qualified teacher and spent over 3 years working as an English teacher in Hong Kong. He worked at a primary school in Shatin and then started his own Summer teaching programme over 3 consecutive Summers, where he taught over 200 satisfied students. Swoosh English has been experimenting and implementing new strategies to learning English, which more successfully meet the needs of education today. The focus is on embracing technology to meet the needs of the modern learner, coupled with the importance of bringing your children into contact with native English teachers who can help them achieve their goals. After refining our approach, we feel we have got the perfect method, and we are very excited to bring this method to Hong Kong primary school children, just like yours.



Click here to Swoosh: