Launching a new business is hard work in normal times, but even tougher during a pandemic. A group of entrepreneurship students at Henley Business School at the University of Reading has risen to the challenge – and they are looking for support as they head towards graduation.
Students from a mix of degree courses joined the new Applied Entrepreneurship module at Henley that allows students to run their own business as part of their final year. Admission to the module is selective, as students are not starting pretend businesses, but the real thing.
Over the last year, students have set up real limited companies, built their own products and services, participated in public pitching events, successfully applied for grants, made sales, and mastered social media to grow rapidly to thousands of followers and new customers.
When they graduate later this year, the students will not only leave with a degree from Henley but also with a fledgling business where they are their own boss.
As with every entrepreneur, they have put in long hours, and dealt with a lot of uncertainty along the way. Best-laid plans fail and textbooks can’t always answer what to do next – making this a final year module full of practical lessons and hands-on experience.
The students, who can access business incubation space on campus but also work from their halls of residence or their homes, report on their progress every two weeks and set themselves new goals. Academics from the Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship support them with networks, advice, small seed-investment and introductions to its community of entrepreneurs and angel investors.
As with every new business, the student entrepreneurs are constantly on the lookout for new customers, partners and investors to help them grow faster. Their business ideas – detailed below – include property investment, fitness platforms and a vegan food brand.
Associate professor in entrepreneurship Dr Norbert Morawetz, who set up the module at Henley, said: “Imagine a programme where on graduation day you not only leave with a degree but as the founder and CEO of your own company. This is a difficult time to be young; graduates face an increasingly uncertain job and business environment. As a business school, we are proud to support entrepreneurial talent in all students, and the resilience and imagination of this group of students is just inspirational. They are exceeding our expectations; creating jobs not only for themselves but also for their peers.
This programme proves that education is most successful where it encourages students to apply the skills they learned to problems they are keen to solve. Getting a business off the ground is hard in normal times, but Covid-19 and lockdowns have added extra challenges. As a business school, we can only offer innovative programmes such as this by leveraging the support of the fantastic business community. We are always looking for mentors who want to get engaged with Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship and help the next generation of entrepreneurs to succeed.”
Student Thomas Abrahams, who is looking for support for his sports business ‘Univarsity’, said: “From a young age, I have always been fascinated by start-up businesses and success stories, watching programmes such as Dragons’ Den. The Applied Entrepreneurship module started perfectly in time with the ‘Univarsity’ project and is a great chance for me to start my entrepreneurial journey and hopefully begin to make a positive impact on society.”