The first group of students to embark on a pioneering degree course which has produced a flurry of new ventures and start-up companies are preparing to graduate.
Next week, the first cohort of students to join the Team Entrepreneurshipprogramme at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) three years ago will pick up their degrees at a ceremony at the city’s cathedral.
The course is one of only a handful of its type in the UK dedicated to giving undergraduates the practical experience to launch and run their own ventures.
An alternative to a traditional degree, students on the course work to a tailored programme to equip themselves with entrepreneurial and teamwork skills ready to launch their own businesses or become effective team players within dynamic and changing organisations. On graduating, many of the 35 third year students will go on to run their companies on a full-time basis.
Among the fledgling firms launched by Team Entrepreneurship students are:
· Crowdreach – An agency which helps entrepreneurs raise capital through crowdfunding. Formed by undergraduates Rob Wilson, Bradley Green and Will Dooley, the business has raised more than £135,000 for a variety of innovative products since it was established 18 months ago.
· Pelico – A healthy food delivery service developing meals using locally-sourced and organic ingredients, transporting them to time-strapped office workers by electric vehicle. The company – started by Leyth Hampshire and Alex Gatehouse – has been accepted onto the Seed Fund accelerator programme for promising food industry start-ups.
· Unique Insights – Uses sophisticated analytical software to help universities reduce their undergraduate drop-out rates. Two universities have agreed to use the system and another five have expressed an interest in the approach, devised by Jamie Rawsthorne and George Sanderson.
· Classic Bahnstormers – A business buying and restoring classic BMWs. Steve Curtis, the company’s founder, plans to open a dealership having secured premises in Gloucestershire.
Up to 60 students a year are now joining the ground-breaking BA (Hons) Team Entrepreneurship course which was inspired by successful methods pioneered in Finland and tested in Spain and Hungary. The programme’s undergraduates – known as Team Entrepreneurs – develop skills in everything from event and budget management to marketing, PR and graphic design.
Adrian Rivers, Lead for the BA in Team Entrepreneurship programme, hailed the course a major success.
He said: “Those that join the course come here because our Team Entrepreneurship is a radical programme suited to those that want to develop and practice entrepreneurial skills.
“Students put into practice the topics that they would learn about on a traditional business degree and their learning is embedded as they reflect on their experience with the support of a Team Coach and other University academics. When students are learning about marketing, they are actually doing it and when they are learning about finance, they are actually doing it.”
Mr Rivers said the students, known as Team Entrepreneurs, are actively involved in the running of the course which is structured to feed undergraduates’ creativity and strengthen their self-reliance.
He said: “The Coaches and other staff on the programme give huge amounts of support to the students, but we don’t spoon feed them. They have to spot the opportunities and make the best of the programme. That’s what entrepreneurs do – make the best of the opportunities around them.
“Rather than waiting in the classroom to be told what to learn, the students have to practise being self-reliant in order to be successful.
“What everyone says is the students on this course have a degree of maturity, self-reliance and confidence which is above what you would expect.”
Following the success of the degree programme, a master’s course in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship will be launched at UWE Bristol from September which will use the same methods as the undergraduate programme. Both courses will be based in the new £50 million Faculty of Business and Law building on Frenchay campus from December.
Of the new course, Mr Rivers said: “It will be a one-year programme based on the Team Entrepreneurship principles. It is ideally suited to people who might have a business idea they want to develop or who might be looking to develop ideas in the future.”
Former music teacher Steve Curtis, 31, founder of car restoration start-up Classic Bahnstormers, is among the students preparing to graduate from the course on Monday (July 18).
He said: “I had always bought and sold cars as a hobby, making a few hundred pounds here and there, but I wanted to make it scalable. This course has shown me just that – how to build a brand, develop a reputation and have people coveting your work. Throughout the course the support we have received from our Team Coaches has been staggering.”
Andy Francksen, founder of Target Student, which connects SMEs in Bristol with the local student market through a range of cost-effective promotional services, said: “The biggest thing that I have learnt on the course is the ability to work in teams. I have also grown in confidence and can now speak to anyone in any situation. If you go through this course your mindset will change for life.”
Those sentiments were echoed by fellow student Jasmine Sommers, who said: “I have found this course amazing. It suits my needs as I have been able to be flexible with my learning within a supportive environment. I am a much better team player now, a better listener and much more employable.”
Toby Bartholomew, who established innovation consultancy services company Creative Monkey Solutions while on the course, said: “I can genuinely say that I am proud to have been on this course. I am proud of the person I have become and I am proud of the team that is around me. I would not change the process I have been through.”