UWE Alumni Spotlight: Bristol Sport’s Growing UWE Alumni Contingent

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We caught up with some former UWE Bristol Faculty of Business and Law students who are operating within key roles at Bristol Sport – the organisation that encompasses Bristol City Football Club, Bristol Bears Rugby and Bristol Flyers Basketball, housed at Ashton Gate Stadium.

These alumni share how their UWE journey and experiences prepared them for their careers in the sport industry.

Jess Berry headshot

Name and role

Jess Berry, Head of Retail and Wholesale

UWE course studied

Business Studies

Current job role and responsibilities

“My role at Bristol Sport spans across the retail and wholesale departments for the group as a whole. The depth of my role means I can do be doing anything on a day to day basis, such as working with manufacturers to develop playing kits for rugby, football or basketball, to agreeing terms with couriers delivering our product, or attending photoshoots with players to get content for launches.

Retail is a very varied industry, but sports retail can often be hard as it can be affected by a lot of external factors, particularly on field performance. Having said that, there is a lot of scope for creativity within the job, bringing out new and exciting products to share with an engaged base of fans.

Broadly speaking my role consists of the strategy management of the retail department, ensuring revenue and profit targets are met, buying, overseeing both the bricks and mortar store as well as driving our e-commerce business. I also manage our wholesale department, which I am looking to develop over the next few years.”

How my UWE experience helped

“My course was a 4-year sandwich degree, in which I spent a year working as a recruitment consultant. I enjoyed the job, and although I didn’t feel like that industry was what I wanted to pursue, it gave me invaluable skills in how to work within a corporate environment. The sales training in particular meant I learnt key negotiation skills, and how to build lasting relationships, both of which help now with my buying, and with working with manufacturers.”

Steve Devereux headshot

Name and role

Steve Devereux, Commercial Manager – Bristol Flyers Basketball

UWE course studied

Business with Marketing

Current job role and responsibilities

“Managing, implementing and coordinating the day-to-day commercial and operational activities of Bristol Flyers Basketball Club.

My main areas of focus include:
Partnership management and activation; Commercial strategy; Commercial services co-ordination (ticketing, media, communications, retail, marketing etc.); Gameday management and delivery. Flyers are set to move to a new purpose built circa 3,000 capacity venue in the next few years (Ashton Gate Sports & Convention Centre), so I am currently focused on helping to build the commercial foundations to make this a successful transition.”

How my UWE experience helped

“Studying Business and Marketing at UWE provided knowledge and understanding of core concepts that underpin many of the activities undertaken as part of my role. However, it was my extra-curricular UWE activities that benefited me the most, specifically being president of the UWE Basketball society. This role gave me responsibility and a project relevant to my degree and future career path. We were given a budget, targets, the ability to create roles and the creative freedom to rebrand and raise the profile of the club digitally. Running this society was like running a small business and also led me to make the connections that helped me gain the job I have today.”

Rob Shotton headshot

Name and role

Rob Shotton, Commercial Account Executive/Partnership Activation Team

UWE course studied

Business and Management

Current job role and responsibilities

“At Bristol Sport, I work within the sponsorship activation team, where I ensure that all sponsors’ contractual obligations are met whilst always looking to go above and beyond the client expectation. Furthermore, I account manage over 25 main sponsors across the Bristol Sport group including national and international clients. I also work very closely with Premiership Rugby, the English Football League and their respective partners.

I work matchdays at Ashton Gate, welcoming match sponsors and ensuring that the commercial activities run smoothly. I am also responsible for ensuring that matchday assets such as the perimeter LED advertising are playing the correct content.

At Bristol Sport, we are very dedicated to changing lives through sport and inspiring the community with sporting success. To see sponsors and fans alike become engaged and passionate when it comes to sport is fantastic!”

How my UWE experience helped

“The ability to combine my University degree with a sandwich placement year was very beneficial for understanding the industry that I wanted to forge a career in. During my third year of Uni’, I secured a placement at Macclesfield Town Football Club where I worked in all departments, specifically within Commercial, Events, Media and Marketing and I was responsible for the transition of kit supplier, moving from Carbrini to Umbro. With the knowledge and business know-how gained at UWE, I was able to transfer these skills into getting the most out of my placement year.

In my final year, I was given the freedom to merge my studies with writing a dissertation on my chosen topic – Sponsorship in Sport and How it Benefits Both Parties. This is something that then helped me to understand the commercial world of sport in further detail before applying for jobs in that particular sector.”

Tom Kent headshot

Name and role

Tom Kent, Marketing Assistant

UWE course studied

Business Management with Marketing

Current job role and responsibilities

“Setting up campaign promotions including social media advertising and other paid advertising for product areas including ticketing, membership retail and hospitality. I also build and send weekly email campaigns across all the business areas (Bristol City, Bristol Bears, Bristol Flyers etc). I liaise with the internal design team & external printers to obtain departmental requirements and manage print deadlines.”

How my UWE experience helped

“My time at UWE helped me to understand the theory behind the practical requirements of my current job role. During my time at UWE, I was able to learn and understand the different areas of marketing, which I have since been able to put in to practice. This knowledge has proven to be crucial in my current job role. As well as the theoretical side of my studies in my third year at UWE I also partook in a placement year where I worked at a Bristol-based Marketing company. This year in industry was crucial for my professional development and is something I would highly recommend.”

Student Enterprise Scholarships a huge success

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The UWE Enterprise Skills Team in collaboration with The Faculty of Business and Law at UWE Bristol provided 16 Summer Enterprise Scholarships in 2020 to enable undergraduate and postgraduate students to develop an idea or venture.

The programme was divided into two strands:

  1. The Start-Up Scholarship; aimed at students with an idea for a business or social enterprise.
  2. The Impact & Innovation Scholarship; aimed at students with enterprising projects such as community projects and public engagement.

Faculty funding covered an initial 10 Scholarships with additional funding provided through Student Experience as part of the Vice-Chancellor’s ‘finishing well’ initiative. Alongside this, a new Accelerator fund sponsored by Santander Universities was launched which provided 2 high achieving FBL Scholars with additional grants of £2,500 to boost their project post-Scholarship.

As part of the programme each student received £1000 in funding, 1:2:1 support from the Enterprise Skills Team, weekly seminars, an external mentor and access to the Student Ventures Incubator digital co-working spaces.

The Accelerator Fund winners were FirstGens, Clink & Drink Mobile Bars and Velvaere Studios Ltd.

FirstGens aims to support those who are the first of their family to go to university and they used the scholarship to build a website, conduct market research, set up social media channels and more.

Clink & Drink Mobile Bars caters to weddings, celebratory events, small-scale festivals and corporate engagements and the scholarship enabled them to purchase a horse trailer to convert into a mobile bar, build a social media following and create successful collaborations.

Velvaere Studios is a home gym design and equipment fit out company and throughout the scholarship they were able to work with an interior designer to create a design inspiration book for home gyms, created and distributed marketing materials and established supplier partnerships.

Student feedback

“I really enjoyed the workshop sessions run by the enterprise team. I always learn something new about the topic of the week. I also really enjoyed interacting with the other scholars and learning about their journeys so far.”

FBL student on the Start-Up Scholarship

“I enjoyed seeing my idea become a reality. I enjoyed making contacts with people that are company directors and the fact when they heard my idea they were so happy to be speaking to me and I felt like they really cared and appreciated what I said.”

FBL student on the Impact & Innovation Scholarship

 “The classes and lunch and learn sessions have been fantastic, I’ve really enjoyed being able to attend daily webinars and learn so many different things each day. There was a real community feel amongst the group, which has been great for helping me stay positive and for interacting with everyone.”

FBL student on the Start-Up Scholarship

All Scholars were invited to contribute to a Scholarship to share their achievements as part of the celebration of the 2020 cohort. You can view the Yearbook here.

Celebration Event and Student Case Studies

To mark the end of the 2020 Summer Scholarship programme, Scholars, Mentors and Staff were invited to a Celebration Event (recording of the event can be found here). A representative Scholar from each Faculty shared their Scholarship journey with the audience. You can hear from the FBL Scholar, Katie Hounsham (final year, Business Management and Marketing) here.

My study abroad story

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By Megan Gosling, Business Management with Marketing student at UWE Bristol.

As part of my degree, I made the decision to take a study year abroad rather than a work placement and this is certainly a decision I don’t regret. Surprisingly, I got accepted to my first choice which was the Berlin School of Economics and Law. Looking back after such a turbulent year it’s hard to remember how it felt to arrive in a new city all by myself but I definitely had some experiences that will stay with me for a very long time.

Arriving for the induction day felt like starting 1st year all over again crossed with being on holiday and I was meeting people from all over the world which was exciting and truly one of the most unique days of my life. Following this came many welcome activities organised by the University and these were the perfect way to get to know other students and the city; things such as brewery tours, football games, bar crawls and history tours. If you like beer and modern history I really recommend considering Berlin, not to mention the nightlife which really was beyond anything I have seen before. The clubs were open all night and in some cases, all weekend. There was so much vibrance and edge to the city as well as expansive forests and lakes and to be able to see it all with such ease and cheap accessibility and to call it home was one of my favourite bits.

Of course, as cliché as it sounds, the most special experience for me was the people that I met in Berlin. I really made some friends for life, no matter how far apart we are. With these people I had the opportunity to explore other parts of Germany and Europe. I visited the Christmas Market in Leipzig, the beautiful city of Krakow, the sketchy neighbourhoods of Hamburg and more. Of course certain events thwarted my plans for more travel, but this didn’t stop me having an unforgettable year.

Naturally, it’s not all fun and games and there is a lot of administrative work that goes into a study year abroad both before and after you arrive; especially in Europe and even more especially in Germany. In fact, the bureaucracy was probably the biggest culture shock for me at the beginning. However, as long as you remember to get the right people to sign the right documents, both UWE and your host institution will handle the rest.

Although the study year abroad is all about you discovering things for yourself, there are definitely three tips that I would give to those considering making the move; things that certainly would have made my life easier at the beginning too. The first surrounds accommodation. This will vary country to country but if you’re not going to get accommodation through your university, find alternatives well in advance. Whether this is private student accommodation, private rentals or finding housemates, it’s really best to do your research a few months before you move so you have something solid when you arrive.

The first few days are stressful enough as you find your feet at university and it will make your life so much easier if you don’t have to move from Airbnb to Airbnb with all of your possessions. My second tip would be to take full advantage of your location if you can. I can only speak about Europe but there’s so many buses and trains to take for very reasonable prices. Of course it is important to attend university and to complete your SYA project as this will really help you for final year, but also don’t miss opportunities to see more of the world around you while you are there.

My final and most important tip would be, don’t be afraid to be the first to speak to people. This can be daunting if you’re not naturally extroverted. You may feel like everyone else knows each other but in reality, most people around you will be in the same boat. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people and ask them if they want to explore the city or have pre-drinks etc. I know I found it quite difficult initially moving from a city where I had a strong group of friends to a place far away where I really knew no one. Had I had more confidence at the beginning I think it would have really prevented some of my early struggles and enriched my experience. So, don’t be shy, and you’ll meet some great people.

Not only did I have an amazing year learning and exploring, but I continue to feel the benefits that the study year abroad has brought to my life. Firstly, my confidence has grown immeasurably. Throughout the year I found myself being pushed out of my comfort zone quite a lot but in such a positive way and now I feel like nothing scares me anymore, especially when it comes to giving presentations and talking to strangers. As well as confidence, my independence and perseverance have really grown. Going from living with my parents to then moving to university I feel like I always had my hand held, however moving into a place on my own in a country with a different language (which I couldn’t really speak) forced me to figure things out for myself, make more of my own decisions and just have much more responsibility for myself, which I know I’ll need when I graduate.

Furthermore, from living in such an international environment and having the opportunity to study courses such as intercultural communications I feel like my eyes have really been opened to the world and the people around me. I have so much more knowledge about and understanding for others from all walks of life. Although a study year abroad isn’t “work experience” I wouldn’t let that put you off.

Confidence, perseverance and cultural competence and understanding are some of the most important skills you can acquire both for life and career-wise and I certainly don’t think I would have gained these had I not taken this opportunity. I wouldn’t change my experience for the world and I can only recommend this adventure.

To find out more about studying abroad with UWE Bristol, visit our website.

Team Entrepreneurship students tackle Global Business Challenges

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A group of 13 students on the BA (Business) Team Entrepreneurship programme at Bristol Business School have been selected to take part in the Global Business Challenge, a three-month experiential learning opportunity focused on solving real challenges for real businesses. Throughout the three-month programme, students will be working in cross-cultural teams with fellow entrepreneurial students from four different countries – the UK, Ecuador, the USA and Finland.

The Global Business Challenge has been co-created by six universities: UWE Team Academy, Aston Team Academy and Team Entrepreneurship at Bishop Grosseteste University in the UK; the University of Holy Spirit Specialties in Ecuador; Southern New Hampshire University in the United States and Proakatemia within Tampere University of Applied Sciences in Finland, the birthplace of the Team Academy methodology on which UWE Bristol’s Team Entrepreneurship programme is based.

Staff from across the six universities, which include Team Coaches and other academic staff specialising in entrepreneurship, have collaborated to provide a unique learning opportunity for their students, adopting the self-directed, team-based, experiential learning approach that is core to Team Academy degree programmes. Staff are supporting the learning of their students by taking on the role of Team Coach for one of the 10 cross-cultural teams that have been created.

The student teams meet virtually on a weekly basis to collectively ideate and problem solve around a specific business challenge from one of the five international businesses that are partners for the Global Business Challenge: the UK’s team profile company Belbin, First Republic Bank from the USA, business incubator ASAP Business in Ecuador, Canadian organic production supplier Organic4Greens and global translation and localisation specialists Lionbridge.

At the end of the programme the teams will present their solutions to their partner business, receiving invaluable feedback from the business professionals and identifying future opportunities to continue working together. The Global Business Challenge offers UWE Team Entrepreneurship students a unique opportunity to form meaningful connections with fellow students and business professionals on a global scale. This is the first international collaborative business challenge of this kind that has been established between the partner universities and the team of staff behind the programme are hosting regular virtual meetings to discuss further opportunities.

Within UWE Team Academy, the Global Business Challenge has been supported by Team Coaches Lauren Davies and Valtteri Melkko who are each coaching an international team, in addition to continuing to coach their own Team Company within the UWE Team Entrepreneurship programme. The Global Business Challenge is one of the many opportunities for UWE Team Entrepreneurship students to “learn by doing” and Valtteri and Lauren have been encouraging students to grasp this and the many other opportunities offered by the programme and beyond. Valtteri commented:

“It’s amazing to see how much growth and excitement it’s possible to see in our students when they are put to work in an international team in a challenge that is longer than a few days or weeks – they are full of energy.”

Valtteri Melkko

Reflecting on her experience of the Global Business Challenge so far, second-year Team Entrepreneurship student Natalie English said:

“Being part of the Global Business Challenge has allowed me to explore a new international team environment, a business challenge and working in an online space – all in one. Obviously, this hasn’t come without challenges, but having a coach means we are able to talk about these challenges in a safe environment. However, the most exciting elements for me so far have been putting my UWE course into practice and getting to see how those techniques are invaluable in any teamwork environment. Working with a real business, with a real challenge has opened my eyes to all the possibilities there are out there, as well as getting to network internationally!”

Natalie English

UWE Bristol alumni launch new Family Wellbeing app

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Benjamin Draper, Business Management with Economics graduate and William Testeil, International Business graduate, have created an app that makes it fun and simple for families to improve their wellbeing by encouraging them to exercise, eat well and stay mentally active together, and all within their own home if necessary – very pertinent in the current climate and beyond.

The app differentiates from what currently exists in 2 primary ways:

Firstly, it is the first app specifically catered to families, covering all 3 fundamental elements of wellbeing, exercise, nutrition, and mental health.  Within each category is a variety of challenges and activities, appropriate for both children and parents. These range from simple workouts to more innovative challenges with different difficulty levels and time taken to complete them. This range of activities means the app can adapt to a busy family lifestyle and diverse needs. This allows families to easily implement health habits into their routine to achieve their desired health and effortlessly spend more quality time together.

Secondly, the app combines health activities with gamification through an engaging personal avatar that tracks their progress. This enables the family members to visualise the positive impact their healthier lifestyle is having on them, providing a fun and motivation experience to improve wellbeing as a family. Keeping everyone’s character healthy = keeping the family healthy! Additionally, to further motivate each family member, the app also contains a simple and engaging rewards system. Each time you successfully complete a challenge you gain a seed, collect multiple seeds in a row and you can earn a wellbeing flower! The aim is essentially to grow and collect as many wellbeing flowers as possible while enhancing your own health and happiness.

As we all know having a healthy family unit is incredibly important. When a family spends more time together and keeps a healthy routine, they tend to be much happier.

Benjamin and William say that “while there are a significant amount of health and fitness resources to help individuals, we have recognised a lack of solutions and support available to families. The current lack of solutions to this problem can result in children becoming disinterested to engage in healthy activities, and with parents having numerous responsibilities and limited time, it can be a challenge to implement essential health habits into a family routine.”  

From this realisation, they believed it was time to fill this gap in the market and provide the tool families deserve to help them stay healthy and happy.

After a full year of extensive market research, they have been able to gain invaluable insights from talking directly with children and parents. “Through this customer-centric research approach, we built numerous prototypes, to test our assumptions and allow families to give us feedback to develop a compelling concept. In turn, the combination of our passion for health, helping others and our research has led us to leveraging modern technology to provide this simple and engaging mobile application with one objective in mind – help children and parents collectively achieve their desired health in a fun and convenient way.”

The app has had very encouraging feedback from both children and parents:

Parent’s feedback;

“This is a great idea and would have been amazing when my kids were younger. I searched for similar at the time and never found anything like this”

“I love this idea, my girl is 6 and she loves anything that may be a challenge!”

“Translating the health of the app-user into a facial expression is a great way to motivate the user to care for themselves”

“I really like the selection of challenges. Cleaning or climbing upstairs is something you do every day without realising the benefits”

Children’s feedback;

“I think it is really cool to take care of your own character, and it has definitely motivated me to be healthier”

“This makes improving my health fun and not so boring sometimes!”

“Downloaded the app 15 minutes ago, we have completed something out of each category. I think the workout 1 is the most I’ve been able to happily get my 5-year-old to move during lockdown. Also the food lucky dip he has just happily eaten an apple. He’s already asking what else we can do next. Really enjoying it so far. “Yep I’m enjoying it” – George 5 years”

What was your biggest challenge?

“One of the biggest challenges so far has been funding for the project. While we are very driven individuals, we have only recently graduated university and lacked the start-up capital we needed for this amazing project. That is why we set up our Kickstarter campaign, to present our idea to the public and get people as excited about it as we are. Fortunately, the campaign got amazing support and we achieved 115% of our funding goal.”

“Another challenge we face concerns choosing features to include in the app to further its development. We want to make sure we are providing families with exactly what they need and want to achieve their wellbeing goals, so making sure the correct features are included is very important to us. While we have conducted extensive research on this, there is still room for more improvement by testing not just what features will be included but also how they are integrated to provide families with maximum value.”

How does it feel to have launched the app and secured funding?

“We were completely blown away by the community involvement in our app, as well as the belief in us and this project. Securing 115% of our funding goal was amazing and we did not take it lightly!”

“Since then, we have worked very hard to create something that truly helps families and that we would be proud of. To have all this hard work come to fruition and get the reactions we have already had from parents and children feels amazing. It is a very fulfilling feeling to see and be told by your own customers about the positive impact that we are making on their lives.”

“One of the most exciting things for us is that we are only at the very beginning of this exciting journey and we are only going to improve what we provide from here. We cannot wait to introduce the app to more and more families to help them achieve the health and happiness they have always wanted.”

What are your hopes for the future?

“Our ambition is to be the go-to, trusted platform, families can easily access to effectively improve their health in an enjoyable way. Offering a simple solution to a large problem.”

“We also hope to create partnerships with schools, as well as local gyms, to reach and positively impact tens of thousands of families on a global scale. On a personal level, we cannot wait to continue positively impacting families lives and get more people healthier and happier. At the moment we are only able to work on this part time so getting funding to enable us to have this as our full-time work would be amazing. These are our goals over the next 12 months.”

Find out more on the family wellbeing website.

Team Entrepreneurship case study: Anton Bailey and Invicta Audio

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We have spoken to several Team Entrepreneurship students and recent graduates who own start-up businesses about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. This case study is from Anton Bailey, founder of Invicta Audio.

I have always had a passion for learning by doing rather than learning through academic studying, and team entrepreneurship gave me the chance to do that whilst gaining a degree at the same time. I’m currently a 2nd year student at UWE Bristol.

Invicta Audio

My business is called Invicta Audio, previously Invicta prior to Covid–19. I set up Invicta in March 2019 as an events company as I had a huge passion for events and Bristol nightlife. I was also an aspiring DJ trying to find my way into the highly competitive music scene, working for Blue Mountain club and Lakota on several projects. This helped the brand to gain a more regular and loyal following. We also put together a fresher’s event at Blue Mountain club with another member of the team entrepreneurship course. The event was a huge success and was amazing for both of our brands, helping us to grow within the Bristol music industry.

The impact COVID-19 has had on how I run my business

Before lockdown, I had been organising a mental health fundraiser event and also another show for the end of summer. Unfortunately, both events have been cancelled due to covid-19, which was a bit of a knock down. However, I then had the idea of starting a label as it had been something I had thought about before. I decided to diversify my business into Invicta Audio, making it a label and events company.

I came up with the idea of doing a massive launch project and with free time at hand it gave me the chance to sort everything out. I hired one of my close friends, a label manager, to help me out with the launch. I came up with idea of the launch LP, which is a 19 track LP where you download the tracks for free and in return the downloader subscribes to our social media channels and SoundCloud.

I used my social media marketing skills learnt from running events to promote this launch LP. It ended up doing so much better than I could’ve ever imagined. We gained over 1.5k SoundCloud followers in under a month and are currently at 1.7k followers and it’s growing every day.

We have now managed to create a platform where we can sell music to our followers and when events come back we now have a wider consumer base to sell our events to. We are now releasing music frequently on our SoundCloud and I’m currently working on new projects to help grow our business even further and will hopefully be able to throw a huge event for our new consumers after lockdown is fully lifted.

What I’ve learnt

During this time, I have learnt so much! I have learnt about how to run a label and what goes into the release of music behind the scenes that you never would’ve realised before. I have also developed my skills with social media marketing and will definitely be using those skills with my events when they’re back on. I have also learnt that just because we are in lockdown it doesn’t mean your business has to stop or you can’t start a new venture which isn’t affected by covid-19.

If it hadn’t been for covid-19, I probably wouldn’t have started this label as I didn’t have the time, and my brand definitely wouldn’t have grown the way it did. I know it’s very cliché, but I have learnt not to keep all my eggs in one basket!

How I’m feeling about the future of our business

I am feeling very positive about the future of Invicta Audio – the launch LP was just the start of many projects. I also want to further expand the business into a booking agency – keep your eyes open! I’m hoping we can continue to provide quality music and events for all of our consumers and I will do my very best to make this happen alongside finishing my degree. My dream one day is to be involved with putting on a festival.

Check out the Invicta Audio SoundCloud.

Team Entrepreneurship case study: Abbie and Organiko

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We have spoken to several Team Entrepreneurship students and recent graduates who own start-up businesses about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. This case study is from Abbie Lifton, founder of Organiko.

I am young entrepreneur currently in my first year of the UWE Business (Team Entrepreneurship) Program. I am also the founder of a vibrant start-up, Organiko.

From a very young age I have always wanted to run my own business. Having joined the program in September I quickly realised this course would be my opportunity to begin creating my first business venture, Organiko.

Organiko

Organiko, is a start-up currently providing high-quality, eco-friendly, organic cotton t-shirts personalised with our unique logo or leaf icon. Our future aim is to provide eco-friendly loungewear and activewear to a diverse audience. The business formed from my passion to find affordable and accessible sustainable clothing, in particular sportswear, which can biodegrade or be reused when such items are no longer needed.

The impact COVID-19 has had on how I run my business

COVID-19 has had a huge effect on Organiko and has led us to have to make dramatic changes to our business model. Initially, we were going to sell on market stalls as it was a cost effective, efficient method of selling but also, allowed for direct face-to-face feedback from our consumer. However, government restrictions meant taking such approach was not possible at this time. As a business, we have had to adapt and change and are currently in process of developing a website to enable ourselves to sell online and reach a wider market.

An advantage of COVID-19 on Organiko, is that it has allowed the launch to happen much quicker than initially expected. Being in lockdown has meant I have been able to focus on planning and completing the initial steps of development which has allowed for the launch to happen much sooner. Obviously, developing the website alone has taken longer than expected however, we do expect to launch in the next few weeks.

What I’ve learnt

Before COVID-19, my knowledge of how to develop a website and construct a successful social media page was minimal. However, this lockdown has allowed myself to begin exploring such areas and learn from the challenges I faced. Lockdown has not only enabled me to launch my business on social media but has also allowed me to understand the benefits of being able to sell online. Both are experiences which I wouldn’t have considered this early on if I had followed my initial plan.

From this experience I have discovered the importance of being able to adapt within business. This isn’t necessarily diverting completely from plan A to plan B , it’s about being able to take a different approach when things haven’t gone to plan. For Organiko, this involved turning to trade online rather than trade via market stalls. Personally, I saw this as being a diversion from the original plan rather than a dismissal of the market stall option.

The final lesson learnt, is to be resilient no matter what. Even though I am still within the early stages of development, there have been multiple occasions where by I could have given up. However, having known I have already invested money and time into this project I am not willing to give up easily. For me, it’s about failing efficiently and having tried all avenues before I give up. At the end of the day, an entrepreneur’s mistakes allow for lessons to be learnt and ultimately, the business to succeed from them. Being resilient through these failures gives the progression for both myself and others to succeed.

How I’m feeling about the future of our business

I am feeling positive about the future for Organiko. The market is expanding as consumers are becoming aware of the impact waste within the fashion industry is having on our environment. In particular, as the younger generation are becoming aware of the global issue, the need for sustainable clothing will increase. Obviously, there is a worry that consumer spending has been impacted by the current situation. However, I do believe that I have a unique product which addresses the evolving environmental issue, currently present within the media, that consumers will only want to invest in.

Visit Organiko’s Instagram here and Facebook here.

Team Entrepreneurship case study: Luke Gandolfi and FLAVR

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We have spoken to several Team Entrepreneurship students and recent graduates who own start-up businesses about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. This case study is from Luke Gandolfi, Head of Marketing at FLAVR.

FLAVR

FLAVR is a recipe-based, grocery shopping platform, which innovatively combines the benefits of both conventional online supermarket shopping with meal kit companies (for instance, Hello Fresh or Gousto). Thus, providing an efficient, end to end grocery shopping experience where customers benefit from an abundance of choice, flexibility on commitment, the freedom to try new and exciting meals, all while saving you time and money.

The impact COVID-19 has had on how I run my business

Covid-19 has not had a significant impact on the way we run the business. For a tech start-up, remote working is familiar. It does not pose many difficulties, especially when compared to the plethora of other challenges we face from the economy as a whole. In any case, the team were predisposed to work in isolation before the presence of Covid-19 (isolation, of course, being the natural habitat for Tech geeks), which allowed for a swift and smooth transition to wholly remote working. 

That said, albeit not strictly regarding the manner in which we run the company, the most drastic companywide challenge for us came down to team focus; and more importantly, where to direct it. 

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have assiduously focused our resources on finding and building solutions that alleviate some of the most frequently experienced issues within our domain. 

For example, the pandemic has resulted in situations whereby most people want to avoid going to busy supermarkets and waiting in long queues. To address this, we created a concept which we are incredibly proud of – the ‘Slot Spotter’. The slot spotter allows users to track down online delivery slots to place orders online conveniently. 

Another problem which is frequently faced by customers is the annoyance when products are out of stock. This is compounded when customers are unaware beforehand meaning people have to re-plan their weekly shop or meal plans.

To address this, we curated product availability-based recipes; recipes that consist only of available products, in real-time, at your chosen store. Due to our ability to collect live data on locally available products, we have the means to provide a shopping experience that significantly reduces the chances of having to put up with out of stock items!

To assist customers further, we decided to make our services free during this time.

What I’ve learnt

The following are a few key learnings that have become apparent to me during this time.

1.    Team alignment has become crucial, even more so than before. In a period when the team cannot meet up face to face and absorb one another’s energy and excitement the source of motivation must be derived elsewhere.

2.    The benefits of a team routine are not trivial. When the majority of your time spent is in one area, most likely inside, it is inevitable for routine to slip. The transition from mid-week to weekend becomes blurred and therefore having a team routine, keeping accountable to one another is crucial to maintaining healthy headspace and an attempt at normalcy. 

3.    Another interesting concept I have discovered to appreciate more is the importance of body language when communicating effectively in face to face situations. The lack of ability to read peoples body language due to reliance on video platforms has become noticeable when participating in meetings and giving presentations (task’s which primarily rely on reading the room and adapting to the situation and atmosphere of the people around you). Weight has now shifted onto the interpretation of tonality and intonations in speech.

4.    It is also interesting how the use of technology has made way for better team democracy. As a start-up company that spans two cities, it is often the case that the city with more members becomes the centre of our ecosystem or the ‘hub’. With the use of technology; being no longer bound by any geographical limitations, we have seen an equal split between the two cities. 

How I’m feeling about the future of our business

Positive, undoubtedly. 

Whilst this pandemic has caused extensive hardships to families who have lost loved ones and to the economy, which may well take years to recover. I do believe the situation has proved to be a significant test to people’s mindsets, and there are definitely positive aspects to come from it. Individuals who have and can continue to maintain an optimistic and opportunistic mentality will prosper. 

At this moment in time, the government and population are focussed on the considerable changes to the economy, which are unequivocally viewed as disastrous. The detriment to the economy has been noted as much worse than the financial crisis of 2007/2008, a period which most people recall as being full of despair and uncertainty and when nothing positive came about as a result. 

However, it is not often considered that there is a contrary perspective. The crash of 2007/2008 proceeded into a time that gave birth to some of the most influential and successful companies of this day and age; to mention but a handful – Airbnb, Uber, WhatsApp, Slack, Square and Groupon.

Opportunities present themselves, especially in time of crisis. Although these opportunities may be riskier and are often more challenging during a period of economic downturn and uncertainty, the upside is tenfold. The reality is, valuable businesses can succeed and prosper through crises. 

If we ask ourselves fundamentally, what the purpose of business is, I would insist that it is merely finding solutions to problems (as trite as that may be). Therefore, is there ever a more noble time than a crisis to make this a reality—a time where there are more urgent challenges and demanding problems to address. This sense of finding problems to solve is certainly what gets us out of bed in the morning; the opportunity to have a more significant impact on the world should we succeed.

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Team Entrepreneurship case study: Joe Stallion and Solvi Solutions

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We have spoken to several Team Entrepreneurship students and recent graduates who own start-up businesses about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. This case study is from Joe Stallion, co-founder of Solvi Solutions.

Solvi Solutions

Solvi Solutions is an organisation specialising in Marketing Automation, using technology to streamline the marketing process, while delivering relevant and personalised experiences to a company’s audience, saving both time and money for busy workplaces.

The impact COVID-19 has had on how I run my business

The drastic impacts of this pandemic have been reflected across the local and national economy, affecting the daily operations of many businesses. Whether sales are booming or declining, this environment calls for a response.

At Solvi Solutions, face-to-face interactions are preferred, but not essential, when delivering our service. This has allowed us to continue with some level of normality. We strive to maintain our high standards, giving our clients one less thing to worry about during this time. 

The focus of our account management strategy shifted to support a broader spectrum of client needs, often ranging from a friendly chat about business to website development and maintenance. We have continued to build our community through digital networking events, looking to expand this support to others.

Internally, it has been a similar story. We have facilitated change to look after our most important asset: people. For some, home working is a dream, but for others, it can lead to burnout, loneliness and declining productivity. Many of these challenges can be attributed to a lack of structure, making it important to engage in daily video calls to address pressing tasks and business objectives. It is also a great opportunity to engage in the social element of business we all very much miss.

What I’ve learnt

In both life and business, adversity is one of our most effective teachers. COVID-19 and its wider economic impacts continue to represent a formidable opponent for many businesses, including my own.

In times like these, strategic partnerships and business relationships are key to survival. This pandemic represents a common enemy through which businesses in both local and national markets can collaborate for the greater good. We have done our best to exchange the currencies of knowledge and information to assist those struggling in this time. 

At Solvi Solutions, we have reached out to our network providing cost-free advice and guidance surrounding the digitalisation of business operations and processes. In return, our network has granted access to networking circles, software discounts and testimonials. This transmission of value has been instrumental not only to coming through this pandemic afloat, but also becoming more resilient than ever before.

I came across a quote from Simon Sinek, one I wish I had seen earlier, but am glad to share with you now:

“Always plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan.”

As a business, we had never planned for viruses, volcanic eruptions or meteor showers… and I don’t think we ever will. Successfully planning for every eventuality makes a couple of big assumptions (1) we can accurately predict what that situation might look like and (2) that our plan goes to plan.

Adaptability in the face of change triumphs stringent planning, while also being useful outside of a global crisis. We have leant to use our agile nature to adapt to market demands and continue providing value to new and existing clients.

How I’m feeling about the future of our business

The future for businesses, including my own, remains unpredictable. However, the entrepreneurial traits of optimism and open-mindedness can overcome the uncertainty that this pandemic has created.

Feelings of negativity can become overwhelming in times like these. After discussions with my co-founder and the wider business community, it became clear that everyone was feeling a similar way. Most businesses had to adjust the direction of growth away from their desired path, adding to the pressures of the pandemic. 

It becomes important as a business to accommodate this new path and view it through a positive lens. At Solvi Solutions, we have proceeded to re-frame our offering to help those recovering from this crisis, and our marketing automation continues to support a range of businesses in the South West. Pivoting, transforming and conforming to fresh market needs is our anchor in remaining positive moving forward.

Visit the website here.

Team Entrepreneurship case study: Benjy Johnstone and Milkman Store

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We have spoken to several Team Entrepreneurship students who own start-up businesses about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. This case study is from Benjy Johnstone, founder of Milkman Store.

Milkman Store

Truthfully, the Milkman story began one night; sometime around three am while out with friends from university in Bristol – my beloved and cherished home town.

I have always been intrigued by architecture and home design: often finding myself gravitating towards interesting objects in friends’ houses, fascinated by why they were there and what they represented to that particular person.

And so the next morning – feeling slightly worse-for-wear – I began planning my venture. Soon I was doing hours of research online and creating scores of mood boards (for drawing was never my strong point). Smell has always been something I’ve been acutely aware of, and after a while, I began to realise I wanted to focus on scented products.

I started small, working on designing candles myself, trying to perfect even just one small batch; until finally, it was time to branch out. This is when I curated my first saleable product: our wonderful 001 Lis d’Ambre soy candle. And from that point on, I decided to make it the company’s mission to create high quality, design-conscious products.

Having the ability to design and curate the products myself whilst working with high-quality suppliers and new & exciting materials has given me an amazing platform to explore, design and discover new and exciting talent to work alongside.

The impact COVID-19 has had on how I run my business

Customer interaction and engagement has always played a big role in what we do, and there is a huge amount of emphasis within our small team to create genuine conversations with customers and suppliers.

During this period we have moved away from in-store sales and set up our website to manage sales online. This proved challenging, as we were tasked with generating sales and customers engagement purely from our social media channels. As we have moved forward, we have noticed that most of our sales are now coming through our new website – something we had hoped would be the final result!

What I’ve learnt

We knew that when this whole situation started that our sales were going to dip due to the closures of our stockist’s stores, so we made the decision to pull the trigger on designing our website and began introducing this to customers through our social media channels. We have learnt that it is crucial to be adaptable and flexible with your approach to business and actually, putting the time and thought into that adaptation ultimately pays off and pushes you forward. Building a website was something we had always hoped to do, but these circumstances meant we had to get on with it and I am really grateful that we did.

Are you feeling positive about the future of your business?

Yes, and no. I don’t think any self-respecting business owner can confidently say they were 100% set on their future and that everything was going to be plain sailing. The ever-changing landscape means that we have to be prepared for obstacles and change, but, and it’s a big but – I am confident in my team and the friends who have supported this journey so far and we are all very proud of the products that we have worked so incredibly hard to curate.

Visit the website here.