Bec Evans, Author and Founder of Prolifiko Consulting Ltd, is an enterprise ambassador at CEES, mentoring and supporting students to develop their ideas and explore different routes into business.
Finding a way into enterprise
After studying English and Philosophy at university, Bec secured a role in publishing. ‘It was the traditional, old school way of getting a job – working on the shop floor in a bookshop,’ says Bec. ‘I didn’t start off as an entrepreneur. My domain is publishing, and specialising in digital projects led me to a role in innovation. This gave me the skills to set up my own business.’ With this experience, Bec wrote a book on innovation and making ideas happen, How to Have a Happy Hustle, which won the StartUp Inspiration Prize at the 2020 Business Book Awards.
Bec was working as Head of Innovation for a global publisher based just outside Leeds when CEES Associate Professor of Enterprise Dr Richard Tunstall asked her to deliver a guest lecture about innovation in industry to the CEES Managing Innovation in Business Module. ‘Instead of a lecture, I ran a practical workshop, just like I’d run in-house about how to have ideas in business,’ Bec explains. ‘I loved it, so when I was asked to become an enterprise ambassador after leaving the publishers to launch my own business, I was keen. I was only just starting out in my new venture, so I knew the early ideas stage would be where I could really add value to the students.’
Hearing ideas and supporting their growth
The ambassador role has been full of variety for Bec, and she’s found a real love for the Dragons’ Den-style pitching sessions CEES run. Here, Masters students are brought together in teams to come up with a new idea, then pitch it to a panel of ambassadors after just one week.
‘I love meeting different students from all over the world - each with different experiences and different ideas - giving them feedback on what they’re doing well and what they can develop further,’ says Bec. ‘Early ideas take life when you start to talk about them. You need confidence in your idea to explain it, so whether you start pitching to a friend in the pub or to a panel of ambassadors, you’ve got to take action. Ideas only really take shape when they’re out in the world – it’s a form of prototyping. That’s why this part of the process is so valuable.’
Hosting workshops is Bec’s real love, though she still does CEES guest lectures and Q&A sessions for students. ‘I did a lecture with over 350 people in the audience alongside Barney Quinn, a serial entrepreneur who’d launched and exited five businesses,’ adds Bec. ‘We were poles apart, but I think it is so important for CEES students to see the experiences of two very different people.’
Mentoring students for lifelong confidence
Mentoring is a big part of Bec’s CEES ambassador position, and another role she finds really rewarding. ‘Building long-term relationships with individual students means I’m there to help them out whenever they get stuck with their ideas,’ she explains. ‘A lot of people find it hard to ask for help, so I want them to feel heard and build their confidence each step of the way.’
‘For me, it doesn’t matter what the students do with their idea - after all, for some it's just a project, for others their passion,’ Bec continues. ‘But my role as a CEES mentor helps them build the skills they can apply throughout the rest of their lives regardless of their goals. Listening to ideas, building on them, and seeing the collaboration between the students sets them up for the future.’
Demonstrating different paths to success
Bec is keen to show CEES students that entrepreneurs are diverse, and there are many different routes to enterprise. ‘Time, confidence and money are often barriers to making ideas happen,’ says Bec. ‘I want to show students there are multiple approaches: you don’t have to be young, or old; you can work full-time on your idea, have a job, or build a business from a side hustle. There’s no right or wrong way, and it’s incredibly important to demonstrate this.’
‘I feel my role as a CEES enterprise ambassador gives the students a balanced view of business,’ concludes Bec. ‘Of course, it’s crucial the students see what success looks like. But I’m not a multi-entrepreneur, so I think it’s important to show a full range of experiences and see what business looks like when you’re starting out. For me, success begins with sharing ideas, collaborating with others, and taking on feedback. This approach is central to CEES, and what I value most about representing them as an enterprise ambassador.’