The range and quality of student entrepreneurship at the University is growing year on year, according to SPARK, the University's business start-up support service.
Now in its third year, the University of Leeds Enterprise Scholarships programme offers financial and professional support to the very best undergraduate entrepreneurs. Thirteen Scholarships have been awarded this year, including two group awards - four more than the previous year. Each Scholarship offers a package worth £4,000, with the programme funded through the generous financial support from Leeds alumni Martin Penny, Neil Munro and Ray Stanbridge, who are themselves highly successful entrepreneurs.Kairen Skelley, SPARK business adviser, said: "Applications this year came from right across the university and from all Faculties, which was great to see. The standard of applications is definitely getting higher and competition for these highly valuable Scholarships is tough."
The 2011/12 Scholarship winners are involved in a wide variety of business ventures, several of which are already trading successfully. Businesses include an orthopaedic sports consultancy, language summer camps for schoolchildren, a swimming school, training DVDs for the catering industry, a vintage clothing e-commerce venture, as well as the development of novel inventions.
In addition to the financial support, all twenty Scholars attended a two-day residential Bootcamp in December, run by SPARK. Held at Weetwood Hall, Bootcamp comprises a mix of workshops and presentations from members of the region's professional business community, giving the students a grounding in key business areas such as planning, finance, IP protection, marketing and PR, tax and legal matters.
"We're grateful to the friends of SPARK who give up their time each year to support the Scholarship programme," says Skelley. "We also have a growing number of alumni Scholars with established businesses who come back to inspire the next generation of successful entrepreneurs, which is another invaluable resource. I'm not aware of any other universities running this type of scholarship programme and when I speak to colleagues at other universities, they're extremely envious!"
Scholarship winner Joe Hawkwood is an entrepreneur who's looking to start a product design, manufacture and distribution business. A former landscape gardener, Joe is a mature student, currently studying Mechanical Engineering at the University. He says: "Bootcamp's been an incredible experience. It's been really informative and we've learned a lot. More than that though, it's been great to meet the other Enterprise Scholars and the network of professional advisors."
Helen Whitwood and three colleagues, Matthew Stanford, Scott Murgatroyd and Ayelet Melman, were awarded a group scholarship which they will use to pursue their idea for a wireless medical device. They were inspired to apply for a scholarship after taking a week-long enterprise module for medical undergraduate students, during which they had to think of and research a novel product or service for the healthcare industry and pitch the idea to 'business angels'.
Helen said: "Bootcamp's been brilliant as it's given us insight into so many crucial areas of setting up and developing a successful business.
"On top of the specific information and advice given in the sessions, the presenters also shared their own business experiences with us, which will help us avoid common pitfalls and improve our chances of success. I don't know where else we could have accessed that level and quality of knowledge and experience all under one roof! We learned such a huge amount in just two days and came away completely motivated to make the most of the amazing opportunity that this scholarship has given us."
Speaking at the Bootcamp dinner, PVC for Student Education Professor Viv Jones said: "This programme is all about giving students the chance they deserve to fulfil their ambitions - whatever these are, learning about what success means to them and learning about overcoming setbacks on the way to success. We're very proud of the enterprise activity here at Leeds and it's very rare for a university to provide this level of support."
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