A successful Spark scholarship application allowed Masters student Rego Pal to build connections and gain vital feedback to develop his business, which coaches students in public speaking.
Combining engineering with events management
Originally from Hungary, Rego was attracted to the prestige of the University of Leeds. ‘I wanted to study to become an engineer and I liked the look of the module content of the university’s MSc in Mechanical Engineering,’ he explains. ‘The degree included plenty of practical study and had clearly defined paths for specialising in a particular field of engineering. This really appealed to me.’
Rego had already set the foundations for his own business idea – a public speaking course called Speak Up University – so chose to apply for an Integrated Master’s Mechanical Engineering, with a year in industry to give him chance to explore his entrepreneurial interests. It was during his placement year that Rego first discovered the enterprise opportunities available through Spark.
‘My placement was within employee engagement at the University of Leeds,’ Rego says. ‘I organised events with hundreds of employers who came to the university to showcase their businesses to students. This gave me great exposure to all university departments, including a chance to work with Spark. I quickly discovered Spark offered amazing enterprise opportunities, so I decided to apply to them for scholarship to progress my business idea.’
Finding ways for students to develop crucial skills
Speak Up University was born out of Rego’s personal challenge to overcome his shyness. ‘About three years ago, I had the chance to participate in a three-month public speaking course, which I knew would help me meet my goal,’ he says. ‘I loved it. It was fantastic to end the course by giving a speech in front of an audience, using the techniques I’d learn to keep them engaged.’
It soon became clear to Rego that his peers would benefit from a similar course, too. ‘A crucial part of engineering is presenting our ideas in an accessible way,’ he explains. ‘The topics are often complicated and can be quite dry, so I knew public speaking techniques would develop audience engagement these skills and boost student confidence. I couldn’t find a course that offered this anywhere within higher education, so set about creating my own.’
Applying to Spark to support business growth
‘I launched a YouTube course, and asked my coursemates to compete it and give me feedback,’ Rego says. ‘It was a big learning curve, and one that showed me my idea had potential. My placement year taught me how well employee engagement and public speaking complement one another, providing communication skills and confidence to improve student employability. I knew I could take that further with the right help.’
‘Applying for a scholarship through Spark took dedication, but was a simple process to follow,’ continues Rego. ‘I submitted my business idea and was asked some questions about it before progressing to the next round. At second stage, I had to give a ten-minute presentation to pitch Speak Up University to a panel. Then, I was given the chance to attend a two-day business bootcamp in Leeds – before being awarded the Spark scholarship.’
Building connections to shape entrepreneurial ideas
The Spark scholarship has given Rego the chance to organise in-person public speaking workshops within the university’s careers service and various societies. He’s also been part of a collaboration between CEES, Spark and the Entrepreneurs Society. ‘Through a series of week-long events, I’ve engaged with students to tell them what Speak Up University is all about and gather their feedback to help me finalise the content for my online course,’ Rego explains. ‘I hope this will be ready by summer, and give students chance to develop their skills which, in turn, should help universities improve their student experience rates.’
‘I don’t believe my business would have taken off so quickly and progressed so well without the support of Spark,’ concludes Rego. ‘Nor would I have had so many opportunities to network with previous Spark enterprise scholars. It’s so inspirational to see how these former students have gone on to huge entrepreneurial success – and proves that I can do the same, too.’