Two BA Theatre and Performance with Enterprise students, Harry Baker and Bethan Corner, set up a theatre management company as part of their studies. Their course - a collaboration between Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies (CEES) and School of Performance and Cultural Industries (PCI) at University of Leeds – allowed them to develop a business that blended both areas of their degrees and gave them chance to explore new career opportunities.
Showing ambitions for business growth
Harry had already set up a number of businesses before he started at University of Leeds, yet he soon found his enterprise studies and new connections great tools to progress his ideas. ‘I’ve always enjoyed working for myself and figuring out new ideas to see how they’d be received by consumers,’ he explains. ‘I saw the enterprise arm of my degree as the perfect way to go beyond the world of theatre and meet people with different primary study areas to share with and learn from.'
It was through their final year module that Harry and Bethan worked together to set up their own theatre company, Slip Theatre. ‘From the first session of the module, it was clear we wanted to put ourselves forward for this management role,’ Bethan says. ‘We’d already discussed our interest taking this on, knowing it could form part of our enterprise consultancy project and marry our key areas of study.’
Developing a theatre management company
Harry and Bethan took their enterprise knowledge and applied it to their theatre and performance studies to run Slip Theatre. ‘There was a lot of work involved,’ explains Bethan. ‘Our responsibilities included directing, overseeing finances, keeping an eye on budgets, managing the full eight-week rehearsal period, and looking after the wellbeing of every individual involved. We worked with marketing teams to discuss production and sales goals, putting on four shows at the end of the eight-week period. The show was then staged at University of Leeds.’
‘Combing different roles within the theatre, from management skills to working directly with teams and performers, was the perfect way to integrate both areas of our degree study,’ Harry adds. ‘The idea behind our enterprise project was to encourage us that we could do anything we choose and use resources in any way we could, so it was great to develop this in a way that suited us and our degree course so well.’
Furthering opportunities with the security of Spark
Harry has high praise for the Spark team. ‘Throughout my three years at University of Leeds, Spark has supported me with my enterprise goals and provided opportunities to bounce ideas off a network of business people,’ he explains. ‘After Bethan and I set up Slip Theatre and saw its potential, I was naturally keen to explore what might happen if we took it further and managed another performance.’
‘It’s something I’m still exploring,’ continues Harry. ‘But Spark is the place not only to find funding but to talk directly to people with first-hand experience of setting up a business. It’s always tough when you’re starting out and, naturally, making a few mistakes. Yet going through the Spark system gave me a safe place to make errors – and learn from them. I’ve received so much great advice that’s put me in the entrepreneurial mindset to get my ideas moving.’
Exploring new ideas with an entrepreneurial approach
Since graduating, Bethan has become the Education Officer at Leeds University Union. ‘I was a course representative for the last two years of my degree,’ she explains. ‘From that, I was nominated to run in the Student Executive election - and won. I’m getting used to the role, meeting wider university teams, and sitting on the senate and the board. It’s new, but it’s exciting!’
‘It might seem a departure from my studies at first, but I do truly credit the enterprise modules for leading me on this path,’ Bethan adds. ‘The module leaders gave me such individually-focussed support, showing me I can take my future in any direction I choose. It encouraged me to think of opportunities not directly related to my studies, inspiring me to approach other possibilities. Next, I’m thinking about a career in public speaking.’
‘Before studying in the CEES and PCI at University of Leeds I would doubt myself and my business ideas all the time,’ concludes Harry. ‘Yet the theory I’ve learnt, the practical projects I’ve worked on and the people I’ve met have helped me work out my plans after graduating. I’ve really proven to myself what I can do.’