Partnerships, People, sbarc | spark

A Covid-19 boom in student start-ups?

We live in unprecedented and uncertain times. Despite the economic gloom, Cardiff University’s Enterprise and Start-Up team have experienced a surge in demand for 1:2:1 business mentoring since March 2020, and a 73% increase in bookings for 1:2:1 mentor meetings. Why? Claire Parry-Witchell, our Student Enterprise Business Mentor, shares some thoughts on the story behind the start-up statistics. 

“I can only assume that over the summer, with time on their hands, and with such uncertainty in the future of the job market in general thoughts such as “what can I do with my future” have passed through many minds. The conclusion could have been to think about starting a business. 

As a team, adapting and reacting to the current situation due to COVID19 was priority to ensure we were able to continue to support our students and graduates. The entire careers service has been taken online and work and placement opportunities are currently virtual, which is amazing.  

Here at Enterprise we developed online resources in the form of pre-recorded workshops on Your Career Journey, and we continue to deliver our schedule of workshops live online. We also launched the new virtual YMLAEN scheme, now in its second cohort.   

It’s true that entrepreneurs are experiencing challenging and times and yes, I’ve had difficult mentor meetings with some anxious students, but on the whole I have found that most have found a way to pivot their ideas to adapt to fit the needs of their customers. 

Our student start-ups have shown resilience and have shown wonderful creativity, like MohameBinesmael and his company, Route Konnect.     

Our student start-ups continue to inspire me and amaze me with their creativity and I believe that one silver lining to come out of these times is that more students have been exploring the idea of working for themselves.

My friend Lauren Ellse, Enterprise Officer at Bristol University, has a similar story to tell. When they held their first pitching competition on 20 March (start of Lockdown part 1), all 12 students had already pivoted their business model or made the most of the current situation.  

Student entrepreneurial podcasts exploded, according to Ellse. Eight popped up to support their businesses, keep themselves sane and to create community, start discussions and inspire others. And a student travel blog business flourished despite the lack of travel, raising £5,000 in crowdfunding and winning £6,000 from the Santander Entrepreneurship Awards.  

There are downsides. At online events, there is a reticence to turn on cameras or mics to ask questions. Most are just being typed in the chat function. Whilst this may open our events to students who would never usually attend, there are drawbacks in terms of working a crowd, or questioning a speaker directly in front of an open audience.  

Students are also absolutely inundated with emails! More than usual. Getting the message out about the support available is increasingly difficult.  

We appreciate times are But we’re here to listen, advise, and help Cardiff University students build a business. When the pandemic is over, it could lead to a bright and productive future.” 

Claire Parry-Witchell 

Life Coach, Enterprise Project Officer at Cardiff University and Business Mentor at Business Wales. 

For more information on Cardiff University Enterprise and Start Up, contact enterprise@cardiff.ac.uk  

 

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