As Lord Alan Sugar would no doubt tell you, launching a business is no mean feat. But a programme at the University of Wolverhampton is enabling budding entrepreneurs to launch a business idea alongside their studies.
SPEED WM offers students and graduates from any course the opportunity to develop their business ideas while receiving specialist advice and support.
Partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund, SPEED WM provides students with experienced mentoring support, tailored training, networking opportunities and a limited amount of financial support.
Here we meet some of the students and graduates benefitting from the programme.
Launching a quirky jewellery business through SPEED WM has helped Lynsey Harris to increase her self confidence while doing something she loves.
Her business Lynsey Luu includes items such as bracelets and necklaces with comical elements inspired by things she enjoys like Monty Python and Terry Pratchett. The Textiles graduate is now hoping to expand into prints for stationery and clothing.
She says: “You can get jewellery from anywhere on the high street but I wanted to offer something quirky and a bit different. I wanted to offer people things that I like.
“I had produced the brand myself but SPEED WM helped me to get business cards and other materials. It also paid for the moulds so I can produce my items in mass quantities. My mentor really helped as she is always there but does not sugarcoat things – she tells me the truth.
“The benefits of doing this alongside your studies are that you can use things like the School of Art & Design studio space. I also used my modules towards my business, for example my final major project is about using print for stationery and shoes.
“My self-confidence was very low before I did SPEED WM. We had a talk from business mentor Ian James and it was so inspiring. The programme has changed my life.”
After working for other people for ten years, Luke Mills felt it was time to give running his own business a go.
Set to graduate from the School of Technology in 2012 with a Masters in Computer Science, Luke launched Computer and Information Systems, a business focused on software development and background software for e-commerce websites.
Luke says the help from mentors has been really beneficial. “I’m a software developer, not a businessman, so SPEED WM has helped me to build up the business side. It encourages you to manage your expectations of what you are going to get out of your business and the work you need to put in. The last three months I have been working seven-day weeks but it is for a good cause.
“My mentor Phil Oakley really helped me to focus, and it is good being able to ask questions. I wanted to submit a proposal for a tender so I emailed SPEED WM and the mentors for advice. They came back to me with the information to put together a proposal.”
And Luke hopes to expand his business in the future by employing someone from a college part-time, to enable him to focus on research and development to build and advance his products.
Freelance animator and illustrator Gavin Phillips found SPEED WM enabled him to think big with his business plans.
Producing bespoke content for the educational, commercial and cultural sectors, Gavin completed a year out before starting on the SPEED WM programme in 2010.
SPEED WM has helped Gavin’s business Cyberdonk Developments to work in partnership with other companies, enabling him to take on bigger projects. One partnership has been with a company called Igloo working on using 360 projector screens with the Xbox Connect. He hopes to produce a full animated film in 360 in the future.
Gavin, who graduated with a BA (Hons) Animation in 2009, says: “The mentoring has been excellent. You have the framework around you, so when you get into an area you don’t understand there is someone there to help you through it. The main support has been the advice and guidance.
“It has helped me to have the confidence to branch out into other areas and begin to turn those potentials into reality. As an artist you only have two hands so you can reach capacity really quickly. SPEED WM has enabled me to create strong partnerships with other companies that can help me take on bigger projects and ideas.”
Whilst growing up in southern Africa, Duduzile Moyo always enjoyed looking at beautiful objects and finding out how they were made. Now she is able to put that passion to good use through her business, Chic Exotik Interiors Limited, which sells home accessories with a contemporary African twist.
Duduzile, who is about to start her third year of an Interior Design course, says: “My vision is to have a design studio. I want to source as many creative things as possible from Africa – it has so much to give and I want to be the person that will be the link.
“SPEED WM helped me in terms of the knowledge, the expertise, the contacts and the funding. The best thing is that it has developed me as a person. I am able to deal with situations and challenges which is what you need in a business but also as an individual.
“I think it helps to link what we are studying with our business, as we need to look at the bigger picture. It has helped me focus on what I want to be doing – designing beautiful spaces.”
For more information, visit www.wlv.ac.uk/speed