As the graduate job market gets ever-more oversubscribed, the number of graduate entrepreneurs is growing exponentially. Over six thousand graduates classed themselves as self-employed or freelance in 2008-09, however this grew to over sixteen thousand in 2013/14. In the same year, a further 2,515 graduates stated they were starting their own business.
With this surge in students starting businesses straight out of, or during, university we caught up with four graduate entrepreneurs to find out their stories on how they went from studying to running successful businesses – and how you can do the same.
Corbyn Munik is the man behind Sliide – an app that Smartphone users can download to earn money from their smart phone’s lock screen. Brands pay Sliide to appear on the users’ lock screens, and the users get exclusive offers and the chance to win prizes.
Corbyn says that he was able to gain much more from university than just the degree:
“The most helpful part about attending University for me was, interestingly, the network I built. In fact, one of my good friends from University actually introduced me to our now our lead investor; someone I respect greatly and has opened considerable doors for us as a company. Perhaps more conventionally, I must mention how helpful the content of my course has been. Despite not finding the Accounting & Finance syllabus the most interesting at the time, it must be said that there are significant merits to a practical course of this nature.”
Claire Amelia runs The Bridal Emporium in Leeds – a bridal shop that stocks dresses from local, independent designers, as well as some designs by Claire herself. Having spent five years studying fashion design, tailoring and historical costume at the University of Hull, and working for several Yorkshire bridal shops, Claire started the bridal shop to follow her love of both weddings and vintage design.
When it comes to being successful as a graduate, Claire believes getting work experience is just as important as having a degree:
“I recommend working as many jobs as you can alongside a degree. I believe you learn a lot more skills in the work place rather than university, so it’s good to have the certificate behind you but it is a lot better if you have gone out of your way to develop those skills in a working environment, or even working from home freelance.”
“I am not afraid to say that I’d be nothing without my BA (Hons) International Tourism Management degree from the University of Central Lancashire. I was able to study for three years, with an additional year in industry which took the form of an internship at Walt Disney World, Florida – what many consider to be the best of the best for service. I later returned and studied for an MA in Scriptwriting from the same institution in December 2013, which meant that when starting Little Touches in March 2014 everything fused together to form what is now a 360 degree hospitality portal.”
Here at Bizdaq we’re no strangers to entrepreneurship, and even our CMO Jonathan Russell started a business out of university. He started a fruit delivery company, sourcing and delivering fruit to offices based in Leeds. The business quickly grew, with customers including Sky, Redmayne Bentley, GHD and Capita (amongst others).
Jonathan says keeping an eye out for grants whilst you’re at university is the best way to help finance a business:
“Firstly from my marketing degree at Leeds Met (now Leeds Beckett University) I learnt a lot of principles that helped with managing my business, especially the marketing and finance side of things, which was crucial in getting the business off the ground. One of my previous marketing lecturers at Leeds Met, Judy Strachan, was a great mentor during the early days in establishing the business.”
The second way that the university helped was just as valuable. Through their business start up team I was awarded a £1,000 Proof of Concept grant, which was the real turning point in getting the business off the ground. With this I was able to get the branding and website built, basically getting my business off the ground and providing the credibility I needed to acquire my first clients.
In addition to the Proof of Concept grant, the business start up team provided a credible sounding board to get my business off the ground with the regular mentor sessions with the business advisor.”
For anyone wanting to start a business straight out of university, each of our graduates have some final advice:
- Claire: “I trained for 5 years, fashion design, tailoring and historical costume. Each course helped me build my skills in dressmaking, designing and working with like minded people.”
- Corbyn: “To stand a better chance of succeeding in your start-up, integrate yourself with the start-up community and make sure you have a mentor to help you along.”
- Jonathan: “Paying yourself very little in the early days and investing all profits back into the business is part of almost every entrepreneurial journey.”
- Tom: “The number one priority is to secure not just the domain names for your brand, but also the “forward slashes” on relevant social media platforms.”
Are you considering starting a business, or did you start one and have some advice you’d like to pass on? Let us know in the comments below! If you’d like to read more about graduate entrepreneurs, check out our interview with Greg McClarnon of Splaat Media.