MSc Enterprise and Entrepreneurship student Hannah Shirley has taken advice, ideas and inspiration from her studies in Leeds University Business School (LUBS) to develop two business ventures.
Studying at LUBS
After a three-year undergraduate degree in Management at the University of Leeds, Hannah began a one-year Masters degree in 2020. ‘Admittedly, I’d planned to go travelling after my undergraduate degree,’ says Hannah. ‘Yet when the pandemic prevented that, I chose an MSc, which has given me some incredible opportunities.’
Hannah’s modules of study include New Venture Creation and Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Creation, which have both helped her come up with new business ideas. ‘Within each module, we’ve been tasked with creating a new business venture,’ explains Hannah. ‘We’ve had to explore why our ideas represent a good opportunity, discussing the different dimensions within our business plans and putting practical steps in place to set the business going. It’s certainly got me thinking of what I can create and how I can bring my ideas to market.’
Hannah’s studies have helped her develop two business ventures of her own: Gi Adelfi and Huggi Hoops. The former is the idea Hannah’s spent the most time progressing. ‘I’m a runner, and I was struggling to find good quality sports socks that didn’t lose elasticity,’ she explains. ‘I saw a gap in the market to create a sustainable, ethical female sock brand. The concept is about fashionable and comfortable socks made from a bamboo yarn, and I want to ‘pair’ every sock purchase with a donation of one pair of socks to women and children in need in the UK.’
The Gi Adelfi brand has been designed, but Hannah is conscious it’s a high initial investment. It’s this first financial outlay that she plans to fund in part by her second venture, Huggi Hoops: an earring business she’s launched with a friend. ‘I appreciate the idea of making and selling earrings as a good venture in itself,’ Hannah says. ‘Yet it was one of the talks that was part of an MSc module that really set off the idea that Huggi Hoops could be successful. The talk explained that if we saw someone running a business well, yet knew we could do the same more cheaply, we should find a way of making it happen. That message really inspired me to build this other brand.’
Gaining knowledge from enterprise ambassadors
The enterprise ambassadors have been instrumental in helping Hannah get the knowledge and advice to progress her business ideas. ‘I feel so fortunate to have access to amazing people,’ says Hannah. ‘I’ve really benefitted from some great advice from Sam Morgan, a CEES enterprise ambassador and Leeds University alumnus who founded and runs the online cycling apparel brand, Paria. I asked him about how to run a clothing business and find manufacturers, and the advice he gave me was realistic, honest and supportive.’
Hannah also had the opportunity to hear from other ambassadors in group activity through Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. ‘At the start of my Masters, we did a group pitch Dragons’ Den style,’ she explains. ‘I was able to speak to people who were knowledgeable about the clothing market that I wanted to enter. It gave me insight I’d have otherwise been unable to gain.’
Hannah will be graduating in 2021. ‘Before my MSc, I’d have told you I’d be going to get a job in the city!’ smiles Hannah. ‘Yet my Masters at CEES has really opened my eyes to the benefits of starting a business when you’re younger. I’m putting together an idea based on my dissertation, which is combining a new venture with current market research. I’m looking to develop a product that can improve employee morale, and the productivity and wellbeing of remote workers. I want to use what I’ve learnt in my Enterprise and Entrepreneurship studies to focus on my long-term business interests that have purpose and can provide support for others.’
Spark – Continuing Support With Starting A Business
Being an Alumni of the University means that I am able to access the business start-up support provided by Spark for seven years after graduation! This is a huge benefit to students past and present. They offer advice on financing a business, scholarships, business plan competitions and further training opportunities. I will definitely take advantage of their advice and support again, and keep up the relationship between myself and the University of Leeds.