Tag: entrepreneurship

Glow: how reflective packaging could help pedestrian visibility on unlit roads

GlowDeborah Smith was on her degree placement in Africa when she had the idea for a product that might help people walking on rural roads at night to be more visible to drivers.

Her degree at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) in Geography and Environmental Management gave her the chance to go to Swaziland for four weeks. There she measured pollution levels in the Komati river to assess a possible link to nearby sugar cane plantations.

But it was when Smith drove home after sunset that she noticed how difficult it was to see pedestrians on narrow, unlit roads. “At the end of every day we tried to get home before dark because you couldn’t see cattle or pedestrians,” she recalls. Later, during a trip to South Africa, the car she was travelling in almost ran over two pedestrians wearing black clothing who were walking on a road with no lighting.

Smith knew that reflectors could make a difference to pedestrian safety. “I wanted people to access more visible materials, but knew that selling reflectors in local shops wouldn’t work, as the little money people have, they spend on food,” says the entrepreneur. She therefore came up with the idea of incorporating reflective material into the packaging of everyday consumer goods, such as bread or tea.

After returning to UWE Bristol, Smith pitched her idea at Pitch and Pie, a yearly University-run event for students to pitch a business idea to an audience. “This served as a springboard because afterwards I was encouraged to take part in the University’s eight-week self-employed summer internship,” she says.

The internship provides students with £1000 to try out an idea for a project or business. After gaining a place on the scheme, Smith was given access to free desk space at the University,  where she researched how to progress her idea commercially.

A mentor provided through the scheme advised her on how best to apply for funding and how to pitch to corporations like Unilever or Coca-Cola. The adviser also provided her with contacts, including a health professional with expertise on road safety.

Later, Smith presented her project – which she named ‘GLOW’ – during one of the University’s Bristol Distinguished Address Series (BDAS) talks. These lectures feature industry leaders talking about topical subjects. Smith’s presentation before the main talk, gave her the opportunity to present to students, staff and local businesses, and receive invaluable feedback.

Smith says her participation in the University’s various enterprise activities has taught her how better to network, the importance of using social media in business, and allowed her to push herself outside of her comfort zone. “I don’t think this idea would have gone any further than my head if it hadn’t been for UWE,” she says. “The biggest thing I learned was not to give up, and to look at different aspects to approaching a problem,” adds Smith.

As well as pursuing her business idea, the mother of two has gone on to study for a Masters in Environmental Health at UWE Bristol. She is also involved in BoxED, a UWE Bristol scheme involving postgraduates who go into schools to inspire and advise on the possibilities of higher education, and to help pupils map out their potential career paths.

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Dunissa: how two psychology students’ food stall helped them prepare for the world of business

Dunya Elbouni and Melissa Sargeant share a love of cooking and baking. While studying for a degree in psychology at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) they often compared recipes, posting their meals on Instagram and blogging about food, with a dream of one day running their own food-related business.

They never imagined the extent to which the University could support them in setting up such a business enterprise, especially as they were not on a business course.  They were therefore pleasantly surprised to find out about UWE Bristol’s £20 challenge.

The scheme involves the University lending would-be entrepreneurs from any faculty £20 to set up a business with the challenge of generating as much income as possible in a week. Participants can keep any profit they make, with a prize awarded to the most innovative team. Melissa and Dunya took part, setting up a sushi and cupcake stall on the Frenchay campus. Working just two hours a day for four days, the pair made £400 profit and came second in the competition.

DUnissaFollowing their success selling food on campus, Dunya and Melissa were encouraged to apply for the University’s Innovate Internship. This offers budding entrepreneurs with support to set up and run a business venture. Successful candidates are given £1000, provided with desk space (if required), and allocated a mentor who helps them set and achieve goals.

The pair pitched their idea of setting up a food stall at St Nicholas’ Market, based in Bristol’s city centre, as they saw an opportunity to sell fusion Middle Eastern and Malaysian cuisine. Gaining a place on the programme, they used the money to buy cooking and serving equipment, produce flyers, rent the space for a pop-up stall and, of course, to buy the ingredients.

Calling their business ‘Dunissa,’ a contraction of both their names, they served an array of food and drink over a six-week period in the summer. Their fare included halloumi fries, Tabbouleh and meals such as Beef Rendang (a spicy meat dish).

“We definitely learned how hard it is to run a business and it wasn’t as easy as we initially thought,” says Dunya. “I learned a lot about time management, teamwork and the importance of networking and learning from other traders,” she adds. Their allocated mentor had previous experience working with market stall holders. “He taught us about retailers, how to track our business and helped us with the marketing side,” says Melissa. “Most of all, he acted as a sounding board, and helped us with teething problems, given that he had previously encountered some of the issues we came up against,” she adds.

The market stall was a huge success, and running their own business gave them confidence when it came to applying for jobs after graduating in 2017. Melissa subsequently got a job in PepsiCo’s marketing department. “Going into the interview and being able to say that, at such a young age, I had worked as an entrepreneur who handled buying, selling, marketing, and made a profit, gave me the edge,” says Melissa. “Even now when I mention it in the company, it’s very different to what some of the other graduates have done,” she adds.

Dunya, meanwhile, landed a job at Screwfix head office, also working in its marketing department. “A lot of the interest I have for business came from that internship and running our food stall,” says Dunya. “It took us out of our psychology [course] and more into the business field,” she adds.

As well as offering a Team Entrepreneurship business degree course, UWE Bristol actively encourages and supports students wishing to set up business ventures as part of, or alongside their studies. To find out more about these opportunities, click here.

Do you have a hi-tech business idea? Launch Space offers free desk space for one year

Recent graduates from across the UK who have a bright idea for a high-tech business are invited to apply for a free residency in ‘Launch Space‘ at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

‘Launch Space’, a graduate high-tech business incubator that provides start-ups with one year of free desk space and innovation support, is now accepting applications for new residencies that will commence from the end of October 2017.

High-tech, innovation and research focused graduate start-ups can benefit from the chance to develop business contacts, gain access to mentorship and talks by visiting companies.Press release image with logo

They are also able to access UWE Bristol’s research community, tap into student talent through work placements, internships and recruitment, and make full use of all the facilities offered on campus.

The Launch Space incubator forms part of a larger UWE Bristol innovation support programme funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Located in the £16m University Enterprise Zone on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay Campus, alongside the Future Space technology incubation centre and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, its residents benefit from co-location with other growing, innovative enterprises.

“We are particularly excited that, through launch Space, we can provide office space and innovation support to graduate-led start-ups. This helps the West of England to retain and nurture entrepreneurial talent and the University to build on its commitment to supporting enterprise,” said Professor Martin Boddy, who is UWE Bristol’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Business Engagement.

Residency in the incubator is available to individuals who have graduated from any UK university in the past three years. Those applying are required to have a UK-based business located or operating in the West of England (Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, and North Somerset). If they are a pre-start enterprise, and have not yet registered their business, the Launch Space team can help with this process.

Interested graduates can apply for the new residencies online until 30 September 2017, with interviews planned for the first week of October. Those selected will then attend a three-day induction.

Current residents of Launch Space span a wide range of innovative technology ideas. One entrepreneur is designing an environmental mask that filters out harmful pollutants and automatically notifies the user when contaminants are present in the air. Another is designing an app to make it easier for the rental of student accommodation. The platform bypasses estate agents and removes the need to pay a deposit upfront.

Launch Space is part of a larger UWE Bristol programme that is receiving up to £2,000,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is the programme’s Managing Authority.

Established by the European Union, the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects that support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.