School of Medicine student Izzy Rycroft combined her final year of her Medicine and Surgery MBChB study at The University of Leeds with a launching a business.
Developing a life-changing business idea
As a fifth year student in the School of Medicine, Izzy’s venture blended her medical knowledge with an understanding of current healthcare business challenges. ‘My business idea came from the time I’ve spent working in Covid wards,’ Izzy explains. ‘I noticed dehydration was a huge concern. Factors such as reduced thirst drive, inability to reach a cup of water, and staff being just too busy to monitor fluid intake were really common – but preventable – issues.’
Izzy did a lot of research into how hydration could aid recovery. ‘It soon became clear to me that I could try and develop a product that could benefit so many conditions and save the NHS millions of pounds,’ she says. ‘I created a business called Encelladus. Through this, my aim is to create a product that will help prevent dehydration in patients in hospitals, or care home residents. But I knew I needed support to get this idea off the ground.’
Connecting medicine with entrepreneurship
Izzy’s connection to the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies (CEES) came about almost by chance. ‘I discovered CEES and Spark through a Google Search!’ smiles Izzy. ‘I had my idea for Encelladus, but with no experience or study in business development I had no idea where to start, or what to do. I’d been a careers rep in the Medical Students Council, where I’d come to know of previous scholars who’d studied medicine yet also created their own businesses. I knew it was possible, but I needed some support.’
‘I saw CEES as a place where I could be connected to people who could offer me some great advice. Once I discovered opportunities were available to me through CEES, at the facility where I was already studying, I knew I had to explore more.’ Izzy soon booked onto some of Spark’s free workshops. ‘The subjects covered everything from marketing, web design and social media to registering a business trademark and any legal issues. There were loads of topics, and it was incredibly useful.’
Receiving a grant to fund a business venture
After seeing the Enterprise Scholarship advertised through both CEES and the Spark team, Izzy pitched her business idea. ‘I explained to the panel what I’d do with the money if I was awarded the grant,’ Izzy explains. ‘I believe there were a lot of applicants, and I was lucky enough to be selected for the scholarship. It’s given me access to more support, advice, training and contacts, and the chance to attend a business boot camp with other scholars from previous years.’
The money Izzy has been awarded as part of the Enterprise Scholarship has given her start-up the funds to get going. ‘It’s been invaluable,’ she explains. ‘It’s meant I could go ahead with my idea while still studying, instead of thinking I needed to wait until I was working full time to support my ideas. It’s also given me chance to learn how to develop a business with support as my company grows.’
Izzy’s time as a careers rep and as an enterprise scholar has sparked ideas of things she can do other than medicine. ‘I do plan to begin my training as a doctor, and have a training post at Harrogate Hospital beginning after I graduate’, she explains. ‘After two years of training, I’ll have more flexibility in my medical career. My aim is to keep my business ticking over until then by focussing on product development, further support and investment.
‘Medicine certainly doesn’t narrow down your choices,’ Izzy concludes. ‘My time with CEES has shown me I can do a lot of different things if I choose to. This business idea is one of them, and I’m excited to see where it goes.’
Students at The University of Leeds can access Spark business start-up advice not only whilst at the university, but also for up to 7 years after graduation. To find out more, please visit https://cees.leeds.ac.uk/profile_type/leeds-enterprise-community/