The Independent View: Looking at ways to help student entrepreneurs

The slogan ‘Stronger Economy, Fairer Society’ is only as strong as the policies that support it.

We, at the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE), are pleased that the Liberal Democrats, in partnership with the Conservatives, have introduced a series of measures to put meat on the bones of this catchphrase.

Vince Cable’s Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) department has been busy beavering away on initiatives that help small businesses, including young entrepreneur start-ups. Young people like Arnold du Toit, who is worth £8 million in his mid-twenties after inventing a motorised golf trolley, and Jamal Edwards, whose YouTube videos progressed to a TV channel, show the kind of innovation Britain needs more of.

NACUE is a charity that works with students who want to launch their own businesses. Our work in setting up 200 student societies on Britain’s campuses was noted in the Lord Young Enterprise for All’ report – published earlier this year – which BIS are keen to implement as far as possible. One of the report’s recommendations was that there should be an enterprise advisor in every school. Integrating business and education is a key plank to creating tomorrow’s enterprise economy.

We were also mentioned in the 2012 Wilson Review that suggested an expansion in entrepreneur-orientated university qualifications. The 2013 Alan Milburn review into increasing social mobility, commissioned by Nick Clegg, recommended improving enterprise skills amongst undergraduates, local enterprise partnerships and building stronger links between business and universities in general. These reports point the way forward. Small business and entrepreneurship harness the pent-up creativity of our youth and also offer a pathway out of youth unemployment.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill contains some useful measures around access to finance, but there is more that can be done to improve the situation for young entrepreneurs. They struggle the hardest to get funding for their business plans, often turning to things like crowdfunding. But there can only be so many ideas that get lift-off from other peoples’ charity.

Our economic recovery depends on business; indeed small businesses account for a third of the economy. An extra 1.5 million jobs is impressive, but how many  more can be created if students with a keen desire to start their own enterprise made their dream a reality?

As I visit campuses I have found that, whatever the political opinions of student entrepreneurs, they care passionately about opportunities to see their ideas reach the marketplace. All they need is a break.

We welcome ideas in the recently-published 2015 pre-manifesto for a ‘new community banking’ sector to support small businesses and enterprise in a way the big banks sometimes fail to do, and devolved power to local town halls to support enterprise partnerships.

NACUE and Santander are hosting a Student Entrepreneurs Question Time at party conference (Tuesday 7th October, 6pm, Barra in the Crowne Plaza), and we hope that many delegates will come and be part of the conversation.

The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

* Johnny Luk is Chief Executive of the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE).

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2 Comments

  • Phil Beesley 1st Oct '14 - 3:09pm

    Quotes from Johnny Luk above.
    “Our work in setting up 200 student societies on Britain’s campuses was noted in the Lord Young Enterprise for All’ report – published earlier this year – which BIS are keen to implement as far as possible. One of the report’s recommendations was that there should be an enterprise advisor in every school.”
    But who should the advisor be? Somebody like John Timpson who wishes to run a different ethical business (http://www.timpson.com/about/26/upside-down-management-at-timpson), or like John Caudwell (http://www.caudwell.com/) who makes more money and gives a lot away? Perhaps there is room for both styles?
    I have noticed many lower profile enterprise advisors in everyday life, however. Everyone who runs a shop, building business or whatever has their own opinion about how to do it. Why not talk directly to those people rather than creating a single point of advice in schools and colleges?
    “Integrating business and education is a key plank to creating tomorrow’s enterprise economy.”
    Err, no thanks. You can create bridges between the two, maintaining transfer of knowledge, but you should not merge them. The end results of education and business are different from one another.

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Oct '14 - 12:00am

    This article gives me happy memories of some of the great times I had in college and university trying to set up businesses. I was part of Young Enterprise at college where we set up a one-off band competition at a local club and I was part of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) at university. At university I set up some more band nights, tried to set up a biofuel business and imported some arts and crafts from Tanzania made by disabled people and sold them at a stall on campus.

    The main thing I learnt from all this was the importance of skills, which is why I studied financial planning on my own straight after university. About three years later I set up a financial administration business. It was profitable, but then I went into depression as I realised my dream of setting up a sustainable business, but got bored of it.

    Business is still my main passion, but the point of giving my story is to get across how much youthful entrepreneurship and social enterprise means to me and my experience in it. I recommend people go to the talk at conference. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it.

    Best of luck 🙂

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