UNpreneur, which was founded in 2017, is behind the initiative that was conceived in response to the challenging job market resulting from coronavirus, and looking to help participants explore the alternative career path of self-employment.
The pilot scheme included more than 170 students and recent graduates from universities from the four nations of the UK, with Scotland represented by the University of Glasgow. The project was fully funded by all eight partner universities, and so was free for those who took part.
Participants attended six weekly workshops that covered a range of themes: develop the right mindset to run a business; finding customers; market products and services; setting goals through increased self-awareness; build and develop a team; and making connections to gain advice and investment.
Now, UNpreneur along with lead partner Sheffield Hallam University are planning an expansion of the bootcamp for 2022, to include more universities and in-person delivery.
UNpreneur said many businesses across the UK benefited from the support of the inter-university bootcamp, such as outdoor clothing firm Freedom in Waves; Footsteps Theatre, which helps people develop self-confidence; and financial services focused FinP Circle.
Kallum Russell is “chief UNpreneurship officer” at UNpreneur, and says he co-founded the “straight talking” organisation to provide the entrepreneurial support he wished he’d received when he launched his own businesses after graduation.
He said: “The damage that the coronavirus restrictions have done to our economy means that it’s harder than ever for graduates to find employment.“We know from previous experience that bringing together participants from a range of backgrounds and regions can help support and accelerate their business journey through shared learnings and collaboration.
“As we build back better following the coronavirus pandemic, we need young companies with innovative ideas, who will create the jobs and wealth we need to rebuild our economy.
“We want to share the learnings we’ve built up over several years of running business incubators and enterprise training in universities, to help budding business owners learn the skills they need. These tricks of the trade can turn a good idea into a viable and thriving company.”
Darren Chouings, business incubation manager from Sheffield Hallam University, commented: “We want to send a clear message to students and graduates that setting up their own businesses is a feasible and exciting option.
“Together with the team at UNpreneur, who are leaders in student enterprise, we brought together seven other universities across the UK to give students and recent graduates the skills and confidence they need to launch or grow their own companies.
“If you’ve got a great idea for a business, and you get the right support, then being your own boss is hugely rewarding and a valid alternative to a traditional graduate job. The workshops helped students and graduates develop the confidence and gain the skills needed to launch or grow a business venture.”