What it’s like to be an entrepreneur

Each year the Careers Service can give up to £40,000 in funding to University of Bristol student and staff business ideas through the New Enterprise Competition (NEC) and Enternship Scheme. Some of our previous successful candidates have share their stories here.

Simmy Dhillon
Economics, Finance & Management student and founder of Rice n Spice (RNS)

Can you explain your business idea in a nutshell?
RNS provides healthy, tasty and convenient chilled meals to clients to save them time shopping, cooking and cleaning. We serve a lot of gym-goers and athletes but our meals are also used by all sorts of professionals, students and even grandparents!
When was the idea conceived and how did it all start?
I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial and given my passion for food and healthy living, everything just kind of fell into place. I started RNS during my first year at university to provide fellow students with a healthy takeaway option, it has since developed into a meal prep business with a far more diverse client pool.
Which competitions/schemes did you apply for and what was the result?
I successfully applied for the NEC development stage. I would like to apply for more competitions but applications require a lot of time which can be difficult to find alongside running the business and studying!
How have you found the Basecamp Enterprise Team programme and support?
The support from Basecamp has been great, being able to get advice from experienced people and funding from competitions is so valuable. Especially for students, we’re inexperienced and lack capital.
What top tip would you give other budding entrepreneurs?
Ship and iterate. It’s difficult to get your product perfect, I look back at photos of the product when I first began and I can’t believe how much it has improved since then. It’s important to get your product out there, seek feedback from users and continually improve it. If you’re not embarrassed by your initial product then you’ve probably waited too long to release it.


Ruth Bannister
History with Innovation student and founder of Roo Bannister Jewellery

Can you explain your business idea in a nutshell?
In a nutshell, I design and make pieces of jewellery inspired by Ancient World histories, to brings artefacts into the everyday and make ancient design both accessible and educational.
When was the idea conceived and how did it all start?
The idea was conceived in 2014 whilst I was studying for a BA in Ancient History and Egyptology at UCL. I would drool over treasures in the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert, and I wasn’t the only one with my nose pushed up against the glass in the Louvre. I wanted more than to just look at the old gold, I wanted to touch the pieces, wear their adornments, and learn more about their past. I decided to make myself some jewellery inspired by some favourite artefacts, and then I decided that I wanted to fill the market gap I had discovered.
I’m studying History with Innovation, which means I’m  able to study things like the history of alcohol and take inspiration for my jewellery designs. I’m also studying silversmithing part-time at the Bristol Folk house and I am developing the future of my brand as part of my innovation coursework. I’m gaining credits for designing the future I want, and I love it.
Which competitions/schemes did you apply for and what was the result?
I applied for the University’s Enternship scheme and I was lucky enough to gain a place. After a mentor matching speed date session, I was matched with Danielle Morgan who comes from a marketing background and works as a consultant to many businesses including a fabulous independent shoe designer. I did a little happy dance when I got matched with Danielle, as she was the only female mentor in the room and she was just perfect for me. I knew we’d get on well and I’ve loved the support I’ve received from her. We’re still in touch even after the summer Enternship scheme.
The funding the university gave me has allowed me to make such positive progress this year. My obstacles right now are predominately financial but the financial support allowed me to pay my Bristol rent over the summer and keep my makings to pump back into the business to produce my collections, create samples and organise my first photoshoot.
I now sell online, I am stocked with with five UK independent retailers, with a few more organised for the coming months, and I had my first press feature in the September edition of AnOther Magazine. My name was alongside Dior, and I can honestly say without this support this wouldn’t have happened.
How have you found the Basecamp programme and support?
Basecamp have been great. I love my little meetings to catch up with the staff and get advise. They’re so genuinely excited and interested in what I’m trying to do. Their suggestions are always valuable and their ears have been open when my boyfriend is just bored of my jewellery talk. They’ve given me the encouragement to go for this, and I shall!
What top tip would you give other budding entrepreneurs?
Take opportunities wherever you can. I am so grateful for the Enternship scheme, but I also took the summer to do an enterprise course with PrincesTrust for additional support.
If you’re interested in starting something up, then maybe use your time at university to play with potential business ideas. Being at university is sort of a safe bubble to explore ideas and see what works. I have some free time and I have a student overdraft (which I exploit wisely!). It doesn’t take much money to get something started, and social media is on our side. Just play and explore, and see where it takes you!


James Nightingale
Engineering student and founder of Abon

Can you explain your business idea in a nutshell?
How many of the people that read this eat a nutritious meal every day? It’s embarrassingly few of us, we’re busy people and don’t necessarily have time or inclination to slave away in the kitchen every night. The ideal ready-meal is tasty, nutritious, cheap and quick to prepare. Currently, there isn’t one product that ticks all the boxes, and supermarket shelves are filled with uninspiring compromises. The solution is A Bag Of Nutrition (Abon), a frozen, vacuum sachet of curry or pasta sauce. Each sachet guarantees three of your five a day, is vegan, gluten free, preservative free, and can be prepared in less than five minutes. Just add the sachet to a pan of boiling water with your rice or pasta, snip it open and enjoy!
More and more people are recognising the benefits of a plant based diet, but being vegan can be really hard- our products are a shortcut to this healthier, more ethical lifestyle.
When was the idea conceived and how did it all start?
I first came up with the idea for Abon halfway through last year. It all happened by accident. I cooked too much pasta sauce and poured the surplus in to a freezer bag. I forgot about it, and then found it months later. Rather than thawing it out I impatiently added it to the boiling pasta water. Unfortunately, it resulted in a horrible mess- but got my creative juices flowing and resulted in Abon!
Which competitions/schemes did you apply for and what was the result?
I applied to the New Enterprise competition ‘ideas’ and ‘growth’ rounds, as well as the ‘Enternship’ programme. I received all of the funding I needed for initial product validation, market research, product development, public and product liability insurance, a website, brand development and many other overheads which I wouldn’t have been able to finance privately.
The support has been more than just financial. Basecamp provided office space at the Centre for Innovation over the summer, introduced me to a fantastic mentor who has been instrumental in Abon’s success, and provided the guidance and advice I needed, as someone not from a business background.
How have you found the Basecamp programme and support?
Basecamp has been invaluable for Abon. Early stage businesses outside of the University typically have to relinquish some equity early on at relatively poor rates, as the risk to investors is high. The grants from Basecamp have meant I can focus on developing an excellent product, growing the business sustainably and still owning 100% of the business. They also secured me tickets to various networking events, awards shows and workshops, all of which have helped me to become a more rounded entrepreneur.
What top tip would you give other budding entrepreneurs?
Just give it a go! The only way you can be certain your idea won’t work is if you don’t try. Startup success rates can be really intimidating, but from my point of view the rewards of running your own business justifies the risk.

Before You Go: 5 things to do before you leave for the summer

The days are getting longer and warmer, summer is around the corner and some of you will even be saying goodbye to the University of Bristol. Whether you’re leaving for good, or coming back again in the Autumn, there are several things you could do before the summer to help you get where you want to be.

(Image from Pixaby)

  1. Plan your career

If you don’t have any clear idea what you want to do after university, then let us help you to get the foundations in place, so that you can begin to identify the options of most interest. If this sounds a little daunting, don’t despair – our ‘Confused about your future career?’ workshops explain everything and provide you with friendly support from our careers experts. (more…)

Finalists: what next?

For some of you, it won’t be long before you’ve completed your undergraduate studies here at the University of Bristol. Whilst a few of you may return to undertake further study, for most of you this will be the beginning of the next stage of your lives. Many of you will have been in education for the past 17 years, so entering the world of work may feel daunting. 

Some of you might have secured a graduate career already, whilst others may be planning to study elsewhere. A few will be preparing to travel. Several of you might not have any plans. Everyone has their own unique situation, so we thought it would be helpful to remind you that we’ve got your back!

(more…)

Looking for a summer internship?

The University runs internship schemes that enable you to gain quality, paid work experience.

We work with SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) including charities, social enterprises, and start-ups, as well as larger organisations across the UK.

There are many reasons why you might want to do an internship: (more…)

How I secured an internship: Q&A with Rob Angel

We asked Rob, an Economics student at Bristol, to write about his experience of getting an internship at JP Morgan.

What did your internships involve?

I often worked in market teams, which are responsible for researching and identifying opportunities and risks for clients across asset classes – for example; stocks, bonds or commodities – and developing and executing complex financial transactions.

Completing an internship is a really enjoyable experience as it allows you to learn about yourself and your skill set, as well as to understand if this is the career path that you want to pursue.

How did you find it and what was the application process?

A typical application for a bank internship, in my experience, involves submitting a CV and a cover letter. From there, numerical, analytical, situational judgement, verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests will often have to be completed. After this, a bank may have a video interview, followed by a phone interview.

If you are successful in all the above you will usually be invited to an assessment centre where there will often be face-to-face interviews, group work, presentations and informal networking events. This will vary across banks and you will be told before your assessment centre what to expect.

What struggles did you face in the process of applying?

Working several part-time jobs, running university societies, playing rugby several times a week, keeping up going to the gym, staying on top of my studies and also sending off countless internship applications meant I had to manage my time really efficiently! Travelling to and from London for assessment centres can also be very time consuming.

Coming from a state school education with no contacts in finance, and not knowing who to speak to in order to get the right information was also a struggle. Though this may seem overwhelming to some students, it is certainly feasible to do this while also maintaining a good social life and an enjoyable time at university.

What impact has your internship had on your development and career plans now you are in your final year?

Often internships give the opportunity to ‘convert’ to a graduate job. I chose to accept a graduate job with J.P. Morgan after interning there in the summer of 2018.

What advice do you have for other students looking to do an internship this summer?

Here are three tips that may be useful to students:

1. Do your research.

If someone has given up their time to speak with and interview you, then make sure you have done your research. For example, if you are interviewing for a markets role, make sure you know where the FTSE index is trading at that day. If you are interviewing for a mergers & acquisitions role, make sure you have examples of a recent merger or acquisition that has taken place. If interviewing for a technology role, then be sure to research Java, C ++ and C, for example. These are just a few instances of useful things to know, though the list is certainly longer than this!

2. Network.

Take the time to speak to people from the firm you are applying to. Show up if they are hosting an event on campus. Don’t just go to an event and be the first to leave; stay and ask questions that are actually of interest to you. Speak with other students at the event too; it’s possible that some of them could become your colleagues in the future.

3. Be yourself.

Do not try and be someone you are not. Be open and honest; you’ll be happier, you’ll know more quickly if this is the career for you and you’ll connect better with your colleagues and clients. Your unique perspective is valuable – it would be a shame to mask it.

Looking for an internship this summer? Take a look at our internship pages, or if you’re a finalist apply for a Work This Way Internship.

How might the Bristol PLUS and Outstanding Awards support your career journey?

The Bristol PLUS Award deadline is approaching on June 14. If you are close to completing the Award or are one of the hundreds who have completed in the past few years, you may want to reflect on how you could progress to the Outstanding Award. Adam Jellett, a Biochemistry (PhD) student explains how completing both awards supported his career planning. 

How did you come to achieve the Outstanding Award? 

PhD students can get tunnel vision of only considering an academic career, and there is even some stigma around considering other options. This is ridiculous – what will suit one person will not necessarily suit others! Part of the problem is that the main mentors available for PhD students are academics, who may not have experiences outside of a University setting. I have genuinely enjoyed my Biochemistry PhD and have no regrets but have come to realise that I personally would be better off pursuing a different path. Even if you do think academia is for you, there is no harm (and likely a lot of good) in considering and preparing for wider options.   (more…)

Time for Graduate Plan B…


(Photo from Pixaby) 

“so, what’s your backup plan, then?” 

“pardon?” 

“your backup plan – you know, in case things don’t go as you expect?” 

“oh” 

Have you ever been in this situation, where you’ve got a great idea for something and it seems brilliant, but then someone bursts your bubble by asking what you’ll do if things don’t go as planned? Often, it’s not what you want to hear – why are they raining on your parade, suggesting that the thing you’re so passionate about won’t work? 

(more…)

Careers advice from your future self

What advice would your future self have for you? With their benefit of experience and hindsight, would you listen to them? We’d like to think so! 

 Of course, we obviously can’t bring your actual benefit of hindsight to you, but we can do the next best thing. Throughout the year there are several events that bring back alumni to share their career stories with current students – so maybe you can benefit from their hindsight?  (more…)

5 reasons to fill in the Graduate Outcomes survey

If you graduated from your course after August 2017, you will be asked to complete the Graduate Outcomes survey by HESA (the Higher Education Statistics Agency). The Graduate Outcomes survey asks questions about your current situation, so whether you’re in work, studying, travelling or doing something completely different, we want to know!

You can expect to hear from HESA around 15 months after you finish your course. You can find additional information about the survey on the Graduate Outcomes website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Image from HESA)

Why should you be part of the picture?

1. To inspire people like you

Completing the survey and sharing what you’re up to now could help to inspire people like you – people that are currently studying your degree subject or are thinking about applying for it.  I mean, we all looked up the possible jobs where our degree could take us before committing in UCAS, right? (more…)