The rise of student entrepreneurs

Student life today is about much more than supermarket meal deals, excessive hangovers and minimal study. The reduced employment opportunities afforded by the recession mean that students are re-evaluating their future prospects.

In a 2013 study by The Prince’s Trust, Professor Michael Hays from the London Business School stated that there is ‘a change in the attitudes of young people towards self-employment’. According to this report, although youth unemployment rates are still high there has been an increase in self-employed young people in the UK since the recession. A quarter of young people hopes to be their own boss within the next 5 years, while 30% expect to be self-employed in the future. This is a refreshing move from what we hear about the disaffected ‘Generation Y’, towards more positive comments about the ‘Start Up Generation’ – a generation of go-getters, innovators and creators.

As student entrepreneur and writer Angelica Malin wrote last year, many feel that in today’s climate ‘you need more than just an MA to make your CV shine’. Starting a business, however small, may make all the difference when it comes to your employability. Being a student is a great time to test ideas out, and build a portfolio of work in preparation for the real world – especially as employers (unless of course, you end up working for yourself), value candidates who are proven to be proactive.

As a student you have access to a range of resources to help you on your way, a few of these are below.

Join societies

Student events and organisations are a great way of meeting like-minded individuals who can provide support, help you spread the word about your business, and even collaborate in some way. If your university has a business or entrepreneurial society, then join!

Make sure you network

It’s important to ask as many people as you can for advice – just making an acquaintance with someone more established can prove really useful later down the line. Getting involved in activities is a great way to gain skills, and build a list of potential clients/business partners, so attend as many conferences and networking events as you can. For your idea to work you need to put yourself out there as much as you can and chase as many opportunities as possible. Regularly checking Eventbrite, Kweekweek, Meet Up, and signing up for workshops and talks from the likes of Google, Yahoo or even TED can help you to meet more people and broaden your horizons.

Get a mentor

Find a mentor, or just seek advice from those in a position that you aspire to. It can be extremely helpful, in helping you carve out your path, and avoiding mistakes. A mentor will also often have good connections with industry and funding bodies.

Find funding

The one thing that prevents most people from taking the leap and getting started on their new venture is a lack of finance. It’s tough for anyone, no matter what their status, but there are bodies dedicated to supporting student and youth startups. A few good examples are Student Upstarts, The Prince’s Trust and Start Up Loans.

Look online

This is obviously not just an option for students, but being part of an online academic network gives you an advantage when to spreading the word about your business. Of course, there are endless online resources to help you plan and prepare for starting your business, and take advantage of the multitude of free social networks that are perfect for self-promotion.

This post was kindly contributed by James McCaffrey of Sage.

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