On Tuesday the 29th of October, the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies (CEES) hosted their annual enterprise networking event; which brings together students from across the Masters, Partner Masters and Undergraduate With Enterprise programmes and connects them to our CEES Enterprise ambassadors and academic staff. This is a popular event which enables students to develop their networking skills and learn invaluable advice from the founders and CEOs of various growing businesses. For the first time ever, the event was also hosted in the universities prestigious new Nexus building.
Smile – by having approachable body language this will put the other person at ease, and the best way to achieve this is by smiling!
The Enterprise ambassadors in attendance were: Jonathan Straight, a serial-entrepreneur and founder of Straight plc; the UK’s leading supplier of waste and recycling retainers which he ran for 21 years before he floated it on the London Stock Exchange. Caroline Wherritt, the founder of Re:Work; a Yorkshire based Social Enterprise which is passionate about creating employment, sustainable businesses with an ethical tone. Meirav Sasson, a director at Yorkshire More; a young social enterprise producing jams and chutneys with and for people with mental health problems. Louisa Henry, the founder of Opposite Café; a local café in Leeds, opposite the Parkinson’s building.
Before the main networking event, there was a panel session where each Enterprise ambassador was asked to provide their top networking tips for the students in attendance. Jonathan gave his ‘Top Five Tips’ which were:
- Smile – by having approachable body language this will put the other person at ease, and the best way to achieve this is by smiling!
- Be genuine and be yourself – you are unique and there is only one you. This is what makes you interesting to other people.
- Be curious – there is always something to be learned from others, therefore it is important to be curious and to ask questions.
- Listen – it is more useful to listen than it is to be the one speaking, as there is much more to be learnt this way.
- Do not sell! – In order to sell to another individual, you firstly need to develop a rapport. Therefore, the first time you meet someone is not the time to sell, this should be left until the third or fourth time meeting that person.
Jonathan also noted the importance of utilising LinkedIn, as a non-threatening way to network and make contact. Furthermore, he advised that if you say you are going to follow up on something, to do so!
And it is never too early to hand out your business card, even for our students.
Meirav also gave some great advice, saying that before attending networking events it can be useful to do some research on those attending. This allows you to target attendees who you know you have a link with and to network with purpose.
Networking can also occur at any time; as highlighted by Lou Henry. Although networking can initially seem quite daunting, she suggested that networking can simply be meeting someone in a coffee shop or being introduced to a ‘friend of a friend’. She too spoke about utilising LinkedIn as a tool to easily connect with others.
Lastly, Caroline highlighted the importance of knowing how to leave a conversation. There may come a time when conversation has died down and it perhaps becomes slightly awkward. Caroline’s top tip was to simply say “Thank you for you time, it was lovely to meet you!”. This is straightforward and very effective advice.
Before the networking element of the evening began, Alannah Chauhan (final year undergraduate student and Vice President of Enactus Leeds) gave a shout out to attendees, encouraging them to join Enactus Leeds; a voluntary society that’s acts as a platform to set up social enterprises. She also thanked Jonathan for his help in setting up their most successful social enterprise project, Revive, that works to help reduce food wastage. Jonathan played a vital role in connecting the students to their supplier The Real Junk Food Project. This highlighted not only the importance of networking, but also the importance of thanking those who have given their time to help you.
Hosts Dr Richard Tunstall and Dr Stephen King encouraged students to network via a ‘People Bingo’ competition. This involved the students, staff and ambassadors circulating the room, introducing themselves and mingling in order to find those who met a specific criterion which they could then tick off their sheet. Criteria included: owning a cat, having climbed a ‘big’ mountain and having windsurfed. This was a fun way to ease attendees into networking and provided students with the perfect opportunity to put the tips learnt into practice.
Winners of the competition were Masters Students Samar min Allah and Ashutosh Bansal. Having spoken to Samar, she found the event particularly useful as she aspires to own her own catering company. Prior to the event, Samar researched the Enterprise ambassadors in attendance and targeted both Meirav and Lou Henry for advice on how to contact chefs.
(Dr Stephen King with winners of the Competition, Ashutosh Bansal and Samar Min Allah)
The event was extremely successful; with it being a fantastic opportunity to meet new people, develop vital networking skills and eat some pizza! Students commented, that in our every day lives it can seem unusual to approach and introduce yourself to strangers. However, by attending networking events such as this one, this initial ‘barrier’ is removed making it seem much easier and less daunting to approach others; enabling students to make the most of their networking experience.
(Dr Alex Kevill with students Rachel Barry and Katie Mayer)