Taking part in the Enterprise Consultancy module gave a York-based gin and whisky distillery the chance to progress market-leading ideas and created opportunities for students to improve their employability.
Chris Jaume, Co-Founder and Director of Cooper King Distillery, met University of Leeds enterprise Lecturer Dr Richard Tunstall, through the NatWest Accelerator programme. ‘We had so many ideas for where to take our business next, but no time to put them into action,’ explains Chris. ‘I learned about the Enterprise Consultancy project, and it was immediately clear it had lots of potential for us. I knew talented students could test out our concepts to see if they were viable, progressing ideas with fresh input.’
Enterprise Consultancy is one of the best modules I have studied at university.
Engaging students based on interests and ideas
Chris sent a proposal for the students to review and decide if they wanted to be part of the project: researching the viability of an off-site gin refill station. ‘I liked this approach to selecting a placement,’ says Chris. ‘Knowing students chose us, rather than being assigned to the Cooper King Distillery project, meant they were engaged and interested from the start.’
Biotechnology with Enterprise student Marcus Hinchon selected Cooper King Distillery for his Enterprise Consultancy module placement. ‘The sustainable nature of the business really appealed to me, as did the chance to challenge my knowledge by putting theories into practice,’ says Marcus. ‘I loved the idea that our student contributions could potentially help Cooper King Distillery roll-out a new concept, which was hugely motivating.’
Fellow Biotechnology with Enterprise student Stuti Dalmia also chose Cooper King Distillery, confident the project complemented her degree. ‘I want to work in the food and drink industry, so was really intrigued by the refill project,’ she explains. ‘I hadn’t come across gin refill stations before, and was curious about how they could work.’
Progressing projects with university support
Chris set the students the task of talking to retailers and stockists to gather market interest for the gin refill station. ‘We knew the gin refill project was quite novel, so we needed to get it moving quickly’, Chris explains. ‘The students brought in some new ideas, looking at things from a different perspective and expanding on our existing thoughts. They helped us take the concept further, putting in a lot of hours that the business simply didn’t have to spare. It would have taken far longer to progress the idea without the students’ input.’
The module was superb, I’d really recommend it to other businesses, and I’m really glad we decided to get involved.
Though the module was led by the business’ aims, academic studies continued. ‘Every week, we’d attend a lecture that would link to our project,’ explains Oliver, a third Biotechnology with Enterprise student on placement at Cooper King Distillery. ‘For example, we’d learn how to do a business analysis, primary and secondary research, and present findings to a company. The lectures ran at the same pace as the project, so we were continually supported to get the most out of the placement for both us and our client.’
Exploring opportunities for career development
Taking part in the Enterprise Consultancy module has helped the students cement their career plans. ‘It’s opened up opportunities for me, giving me chance to enhance my business skills and explore consultancy as a potential career,’ says Stuti. ‘I’m currently applying for jobs, and can discuss my skills, such as talking to retailers and stockists and running focus groups, which I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t taken the Enterprise Consultancy module.’
‘I feel like I’ve had the experience of employment for an innovative company,’ Oliver adds. ‘I’ve learnt a huge range of skills, from bringing teams together to coming up with new ideas. Now, I know how to look at a business problem and solve it, understanding entrepreneurial spirit is not simply about doing your job but helping a business to evolve.’
Securing roles thanks to real-world experiences
The students and Chris are full of praise for the module and the opportunities it provided. ‘Enterprise Consultancy is one of the best modules I studied at university,’ says Oliver. ‘The companies I’ve had interviews with since graduating have been impressed that I have experience engaging with clients and helping improve a business efficiently. In fact, many have said they’d wished they had opportunities to take modules like this themselves.’
‘I’d highly recommend the Enterprise Consultancy module for the practical, real-life experience it offered to work with an active business,’ adds Marcus. ‘It’s given me great client communication skills and consultancy experience to boost my employability. Having the module on my CV has helped me secure an assistant scientist position, as the teamwork experience I gained helped me get the role.’
Oliver echoes Marcus’ thoughts: ‘As a student, it’s great to have experience of making a real-world impact as well as getting good grades. The module’s boosted my career too. I’ve secured a consultancy life sciences job, thanks in part to demonstrating how my time at Cooper King Distillery shows I have experience of sustainable ways to increase profits.’
‘The module was superb,’ Chris adds. ‘I’d really recommend it to other businesses, and I’m really glad we decided to get involved.’