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.

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…)

My Assistant Editor Internship

Iona describes her experience of the SME Internship Schemes during her final year at the University of Bristol. If you’re inspired by her story, you can find out more about the schemes and how to get involved here

Hi, I’m Iona. I graduated with a degree in Cellular and Molecular Medicine in July, and from March to June interned as an Assistant Editor at the leading events website in the city – 365bristol.com – through the Santander scheme. (more…)

Interning for an Arts SME

Have you heard about our SME Internship Scheme? It’s a great opportunity for students to find quality, paid work experience opportunities with small and medium enterprises in the UK. Here’s one student’s experience: 

 

My name’s Tom and I did a 3-month producing and marketing internship with MAYK, a theatre-producing organisation who host Mayfest, a Bristol-based international theatre festival.

The producing aspect of my internship was built around helping to organise Demostage, an event that provides a platform for people to share ideas for creative projects with an audience and ask for feedback. This involved contacting our sharers and the venue on the run-up to the event and also helping out on the day.

(more…)

My SME Internship at a science start-up

Manan Vaswani describes the opportunity he received to apply his computing knowledge in the real world. The role was part of the SME Internship Scheme run by the Careers Service, you can find out more about the scheme and how to get involved here. This is what he had to say about his experience:

The word ‘internship’ used to conjure visions of long monotonous days, working for large companies on projects to which my only contribution would be slogging out the most mundane of tasks. This perception, however, was flipped upside-down after Spin Up Science arranged for me to carry out an internship with the science start-up, QLM Technology. (more…)

UoB Internship Scheme – From an Internship to a Full-Time Job

Máire Power participated in our UoB Internship Scheme as a marketing intern for the science company, NuNano Ltd. We spoke to Máire and NuNano about their experiences. 

Máire Power

Can you give us a summary of your internship?

‘I spent two months as a marketing intern for the science company, NuNano Ltd, based within the science incubator, Unit DX. NuNano manufacture nanoscale probes for the sensitive measurement technique, atomic force microscopy. I was tasked with designing and creating content such as articles, videos, and social media posts to increase the awareness of their brand.’  (more…)

Funding internships/work experience, volunteering and travel

We meet a lot of students and graduates who are looking for funding for a range of career-related activities, such as internships/work experience, volunteering and travel. This can be a difficult question since there are few straightforward sources of funding for any of these things. However, if you are creative in your search, there are some options to explore.

Funding internships and work experience

The University of Bristol Internship Scheme is open to all University of Bristol students and graduates from the last 3 years, including international students (as long as you have permission to work in the UK). The scheme provides funding for internships with a Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) i.e. not employing more than 250 people, or a Not-For-Profit Organisation (NPO).

There is also a lot of useful information on our work experience and internship pages e.g. advice about things to consider when taking unpaid work in the work experience and internship FAQs section. If you would like any further advice on this topic please do come and talk to one of our Careers Advisers.

Funding travel and volunteering

The University of Bristol Student Funding Office invites applications for the Knowlson Trust Travel Awards for travel which is not part of the applicant’s academic studies. These are made from a bequest by Mr John McKerrow Knowlson, Chartered Mechanical and Electrical Engineer of Bristol, and supplemented by grants from the University of Bristol Alumni Foundation.

The following information on travel grants and bursaries was compiled by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) and NASES (National Association of Student Employment Services) members. 

Organisations that offer bursaries or funding:

Other possible sources of funding:

Alternative sources of funding 

There are some general Careers Service pages about funding. Although these are written with postgraduate study in mind, the section about trusts and charities may help you to fund a wide range of activities. For example, the Careers Service subscribes to the online searchable database: Alternative guide to postgraduate funding.  You can also access the latest edition of the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding (PDF, 3.54 MB), or come in and use the reference copy in person. This provides details of how to find and apply to various sources of funding. There may be organisations in there who would be interested in funding someone for education or career-related travel, volunteering or work experience.

There are a number of useful books and websites mentioned on the pages above. In addition to these, the Careers Service has a reference copy of the Guide to educational grants, available from the Resources Help Desk. This is a comprehensive list of sources of non-statutory help for people in education who are in financial need, up to and including first degree level. It contains information on over 1,400 national & local grant-making trusts, which together distribute more than £54 million in grants. Browse our online resources for ‘funding’ to see full details of all relevant resources, both print and online.

Further help and support 

If you are able to come into the Careers Service in person then Information Specialists and Welcome Desk staff can show you the funding guides and talk you through the resources above in person. You can then also make an appointment to talk to a Careers Adviser about funding applications. For example, you may want to draft some applications and bring these in to get feedback.

Megan Wiley, Information Specialist

Finding hidden sources of funding for your postgraduate study

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So, you’re thinking about doing postgraduate study. You’ve researched all your options, chosen the subject you want to specialise in, found the institution you want to go to. Your dream of further study is almost within your grasp, but that nagging question remains: how exactly are you going to pay for it?

Or perhaps you’ve already started your postgraduate course and you’re looking for some extra funding to attend a conference, do some further research, or top up your dwindling maintenance allowance.

Whatever your situation, you’ll know that obtaining funding from more mainstream sources, such as funding councils and scholarships, is becoming increasingly difficult as budgets go down and competition for the remaining money goes up. What you might not know is that there is another significant source of postgraduate funding which could potentially help you: the voluntary sector.

There are a large number of charities and trusts which are prepared to give small but significant amounts to postgraduate students. The downside is that these funding opportunities are all advertised separately in various different places (if at all) and it can take a huge amount of time and perseverance to find them. However, the University of Bristol Careers Service has a subscription to a resource which can make looking for this funding a whole lot easier.

The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding pulls together information about over 600 charities which provide awards to postgraduate students into a single searchable database. The database includes brief details about each body and the funding it offers, with web links or contact details so you can find out more information. The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding also includes advice about how to make a successful funding application. And because the guide is not exhaustive, it also includes tips and strategies to help you search for other sources of funding which might not be listed in the guide itself.

You can access the guide in three different formats:

Web resource: This version has a searchable database, video clips giving helpful advice, and some handy tools to help you in your search for funding, including a ‘Personal grants manager’ and a ‘Personal statement assistant’. Go to the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding gateway page and set up a free personal account, or log on directly if you’re using a PC on campus.

PDF document: The guide is also available as an electronic document via the Careers Service website. Go to our ‘Browse electronic resources‘ section and search for ‘Alternative Guide’.

Print copy: We also have a print copy of the current guide, along with copies from previous years, in the red folder at shelf location 4b in the Careers Service.

The guide is available to all current University of Bristol students and to registered graduates.

And, remember, if you need further help looking for postgraduate funding, the Careers Service Information Team will be delighted to help you. You can contact us by phone or email:

Tel: 0117 9288237

Email: careers-resources@bristol.ac.uk

Alternatively, you can drop in to the Careers Service and chat to us in person. See the Careers Service website for details of our current opening hours.

Best of luck finding your funding!

Tim Riley, Information Specialist

What aspiring solicitors & barristers need to know

legal

The legal sector has not escaped the effects of the current economic recession and competition for both training contracts and pupillage is still very high.  Many graduates are finding it harder to secure work after their professional legal training (Legal Practice Certificate or Bar Professional Training Course) and many are spending time as paralegals before being able to apply for training contracts.  Available work at the Bar has become increasingly limited due to an increase in solicitors taking on advocacy roles in the High Court.  With the majority of barristers being self-employed, they now have to work harder to find cases even when installed in chambers.

So, here are a few things you should take into account if you are set on working in the legal sector:

  • Make sure you can afford the training

Professional legal training is very expensive and, while these fees may be paid for you if you successfully obtain pupillage or a training contract, you need to be able to cover the costs if you can’t find a position. Fees vary between training providers, and training in London is more expensive but essential with ‘magic circle’ and top tier firms.  Expect to pay £13-17k for the BPTC, £10-14k for the LPC and, if you need the Graduate Diploma in Law as a non-Law student, another £7-10k.  You may be able to obtain a bank loan to cover these costs, but be aware of any debt you are adding to your existing undergraduate costs.  Most providers offer information about payment plans and loans on their websites.  It’s also important to look into bursaries and scholarships, including those offered by the Inns of Court.

Be aware that some graduates will complete the LPC/BPTC and still find no legal work available to them. In this case, you need to be able to identify and market the extra skills and knowledge gained from this training to non-legal employers, so do be prepared for this eventuality.

  •  Get as much legal work experience as you can

Having relevant work experience on your CV is becoming increasingly important in the legal recruitment market.  Along with finance, it has become a sector where many organisations recruit onto graduate schemes directly from vacation and internship programmes, so it’s vital that you look ahead and apply early.  Non-Law students won’t be expected to have done quite as much, but it’s still important to show commitment, so you will need to seek out work experience and shadowing opportunities where you can.  This will require you to contact firms directly and ask what’s available to you, so don’t be shy if you want to get ahead!  Firms want enthusiastic and interested graduates, so approaching them directly is a great way to show off what you have to offer.  Don’t just use email – your message will get lost in a busy person’s inbox – so make sure that you’re phoning the right people as well. Have a look at our ‘I want to work in Law’ pages for employers, organisations and contacts.

  •  Build your contacts and use social media

With the majority of students being regular Facebook users, there’s no excuse not to be using social media to stay ahead of the game.  Big firms have their own Facebook pages and Twitter feeds where you can see what’s happening and work out who’s who. Linked In allows you to produce your own online profile, join in with legal group discussions, follow particular firms and view the profiles of legal professionals so that you can build your list of contacts.  Intelligent commenting, use of discussion boards and Q&A features will help to get you noticed. The Careers Service offers regular social media workshops, so sign up if you’re not sure how to make the best of it all.  Don’t forget our own Careers Network, which lists many Bristol graduates who are now legal professionals and can be emailed directly.  Crucially, using your contacts and social media will help you to tap into the ‘hidden job market’ and potentially find vacancies and shadowing opportunities that may not otherwise be advertised. 

  •  Develop your commercial awareness

It’s absolutely crucial to understand that firms and chambers work as businesses, and that they need you be aware of current affairs, events and market trends that will affect legal practice and the firm’s income.  You should be staying on top of the news every day and looking at ways in which items can be interpreted from a legal perspective; this will impress when included in your applications and interviews.  Many of the good quality newspapers are available online, so you don’t even have to buy a copy.  The Guardian has a regularly updated online Law section.

  •  Be patient 

Career paths have never really been that direct but, in these currently challenging times, they can be even more tangential than usual.  You may find that it takes several years before you end up where you wanted to be, so it’s important to keep setting goals that you can work towards, as well as maintaining your contacts so that you can keep up to date with what’s going on in the sector; there’s no point setting your heart on getting a training contract with a firm that is downsizing due to the recession, so stay on top of the news and be realistic.  Don’t forget that you can also continue to use the Careers Service for three years after graduation to help you make those crucial transitions and get help with your applications.

Good luck!

Dr Tracy Johnson & Emma Keen, Careers Advisers