The Enterprise Project’s Small Business Growth Module has given three postgraduate students experience of the working world, and seen them hugely impress a local business.
Dan Branston was already an undergraduate at the University of Leeds when he signed-up for his MSc at the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies (CEES). As a Biology student, he’d gained strong experience in laboratory work and theory, but felt he needed to be better equipped for the working world.
Dan knew the University of Leeds was the place he wanted to continue his studies, but was unsure of his future plans. In February 2018, he attended the Leeds University Business School (LUBS) open day and found himself chatting to Dr Stephen King, the Masters in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Programme Leader. ‘Steve was so down-to-earth and approachable,’ says Dan. ‘He took a genuine interest in my business idea, brewing beer, which I’d begun to do using my biology knowledge and at-home brewing equipment. I rang him for a chat after the event, and knew in one conversation that his course was the right one for me.’
Jesha Effendie had begun learning what it takes to build a business through her Public Relations course in Indonesia. After graduating and working in HR, she set up a social enterprise. However, she knew CEES could help her learn more about making this family business, and her own plans, a success.
The Masters in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship really stood out as unique. No other universities seemed to have an academic entrepreneur centre, CEES, and student start-up support service, Spark, which offer the balance between theory and the practical world says Jesha.
Small Business Growth
It was Dr Stephen King’s Small Business Growth module in the first semester that gave the students the chance to work with operational local businesses. Dan and Jesha chose to work with JudgeService: a business based in Harrogate, Yorkshire, which is a review and customer service specialist. After Director Neil Addley came in to speak to the students, they were tasked with helping JudgeService expand into new markets.
Dan’s idea involved estate agencies. ‘I knew JudgeService mainly worked with car dealerships,’ he says. ‘But, I felt they could regulate the difficult student accommodation market and solve many of our housing problems.’
Jesha’s views were similar. ‘As an international student, my idea stemmed from my own experience,’ she adds. ‘I’d found it hard to find the right accommodation, and knew students needed a platform with credible and reliable reviews of the houses and agencies available.’
The course teachings proved hugely advantageous when presenting ideas to JudgeService. The students used SWOT analysis, competitor analysis and other course materials to create 50-page reports to detail their expansion ideas.
With both of their ideas being complementary, JudgeService chose to work alongside both Jesha and Dan. The company also had high praise for the thoughts of another student on the module, Daniel Aroesti. His idea that JudgeService could allow people to find the best private healthcare clinics available to them was well-received. Together, Daniel and JudgeService decided dentistry would be the easiest, and most widely used, sub-market to enter. They are keen to look at this option after Brexit.
Jesha and Dan’s work impressed JudgeService. After the module was completed, the company contacted both students and asked them to continue their work. Dan explains, ‘It was exciting to be offered this paid contract, knowing the company liked the work we’d done so far. Steve King was hugely supportive, encouraging us to take on the part-time role alongside our studies.’
‘It was a great consulting experience for me,’ adds Jesha. ‘I could put myself in the company’s shoes to understand their visions and goals, mixing both academic study and a real-life situation.’
It’s not only the Small Business Growth module where the University of Leeds have supported Dan and Jesha’s entrepreneurial ideas. Dan’s Research and Enterprise Consultancy project saw him demonstrate concepts for launching an interactive survey app to market. Jesha’s study of the education business, Twinkl, launched by a university alumni and Enterprise Ambassador, Jon Seaton, allowed her to look at how the business, which develops educational resources for schools, could enter a new market. Jon is also an Enterprise Ambassador for the University of Leeds. In this role, he voluntarily provides business mentorship and advice to students who take an Enterprise module.
The MSc also gave Jesha the opportunity to speak on a social enterprise panel. ‘It was an incredible experience and an honour to be asked,’ Jesha says. ‘I was able to share the stage with a brilliant lecturer, Steve Curry, talking to an audience of people who were involved with, or wanted to start out in, enterprise. Without the programme at CEES, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity.’
‘The University of Leeds is hugely popular in Indonesia,’ says Jesha. ‘CEES at LUBS was recommended to me by others who’ve studied here before: I looked at a range of courses, and CEES seemed quite unique. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’ve made great introductions into the business world and strong LinkedIn connections alongside my studies.’
Dan is also full of praise for the CEES postgraduate course. ‘Other courses seem less hands-on, and more theory-based. This has been a practical business course, with hugely supportive lecturers at a great university. Prior to the course, I’d learnt a lot in a lab but didn’t have anything business-related that I could share in a job interview. Now, I’ve had some truly hands-on experience: I can talk about my direct consultancy work straight out of university.’
‘The Small Business Growth module gave me the confidence to walk into a room full of business owners and share my ideas,’ continues Dan. ‘Before the course at CEES, I’d have found that daunting, if not impossible. It’s given me the tools to approach new situations, bridging the gap between university and the real entrepreneurial world.’