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My Flux 500 Experience part 2

Yesterday we left Jordan exhausted after the first day of the Flux 500 competition. Read on to find out how he and his team fared on day two…

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By the start of the second day, the time seemed to fly by even quicker than the first and the nerves of remembering lines for the presentation was intense. And before we knew it, we were summoned to give our presentation, not only in front of the judges, but also in front of the other three Universities within our group that we were competing against and it almost felt as though I was back in second year at University taking part in an in-class presentation that was worth a percentage of my final grade!

However, from the beginning to end, the presentation seemed to run seamlessly and everyone seemed confident in the way the presentation had gone. Straight after the presentation followed 10 minutes of Q and As on our business ideas which was quite challenging. This was quite difficult to deal with at first because it involved business experts in a range of different areas to ask specific questions but the team managed to tackle every single question, often chipping in to help if a member of the team seemed to be struggling with a particular response.

After this was done, we were allowed a short break and then told about task two which was a 5 minute pitch to all judges, sponsors and 12 Universities. The topic was slightly different and focused on a scenario where the directors needed a four month goal to show instant success in increasing profits to prevent the organisation from closing down.

The catch however was that the winners of the first round were not announced until after preparation for the final pitch was done and only the winners of each stream were allowed to present! And we only had 45 minutes in order to prepare this.

We rushed back to the drawing board and got straight back to work knowing that time was against us and somehow managed to streamline our original ideas into a four month plan, ready to give the final pitch our all and then shortly after, we were summoned to hear the results…

As the winners of our stream were announced, our whole team felt disheartened that we did not qualify for the finals and would not get to pitch our final idea to everyone but we left proud knowing that with the limited amount of time we had, we were able to come up with a strong strategic business plan and deliver an effective 10 minute presentation to business professionals getting our ideas across.

Although we didn’t win, not only did I learn a great deal and develop my key skills in the short amount of time but I also got the opportunity to network with global organisations whilst being at the competition. It was a fantastic experience which I would recommend any enterprising students or even students who watch The Apprentice’ and say “I can do a better job than them!” to step forward, get involved and take on the challenge next year!

 

My Flux 500 Experience part 1

Last week a team from University of Hertfordshire went to Lancaster to represent the university in the Flux 500, the largest student business challenge in the UK. Jordan Batchelor, part of team UoH, tells us how he got on.

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Exciting, thrilling, insightful, chaotic, exhausting and rewarding.

These are some of the key words that spring to mind when I think about my Flux 500 experience. In the very early hours of the day as I was making my way to Euston Station to meet the team my mind was racing with ideas and business plans – and I didn’t even know what the scenario was yet!

As it seemed that no one was particularly looking forward to the lengthy train journey, it gave us all a chance to properly introduce ourselves to one another and allowed us to merge into a cohesive team rather than a group full of individuals.

Upon arriving at Lancaster University, we were shown to our accommodation and then given our schedule for the day.

Our very busy schedule involved a number of events such as meeting the sponsors of the event which included organisations such as Deloitte, Milkround, IBM and BAE Systems. After this was completed, we were given instructions on how the day ahead would be run and important timings to follow and this information was closely followed by revealing what our mystery business scenario would be!

At first, the reality of being on an Industrial Placement for the past six months started to sink in as I was panicking, worrying whether I had forgot everything I had learnt in the past two years. And my confidence was not eased by the sight of many of the other teams fully equipped with up-to-date Business textbooks but nevertheless I was ready to take on the challenge!

We then found out that we were split into three groups of four; with each group having one team that advanced to the finals and then the wait was finally over… We were told what our task was.

Our task was to “Explore and suggest new and innovative ideas that will increase profitability (in a department store) and whether this is achieved through lowering costs, increased revenue or a combination of the two.” At first this seemed to be a dream question because it focused on a business who was not making as much profits as is used to and now relied on our team who were Business Analysts to present the Board of Directors with a strategic plan to rectify this. However, the more information we got with the task made it incredibly challenging to find a new ideas and display how the idea/s would make the business more profitable in both the short and long term.

Once we had been given the task, we went off in our groups to plan for our presentation that would follow the next day. At first, we nominated a Project Manager to ensure that there was a head figure to keep the team on track at all times. Although I was not the Project Manager, I found myself working very closely with him making certain that the team stayed on track as well as making sure no one was left out and if any individuals were struggling with a particular section of work, we could all support them to the best of our ability.

At first we had loads of ideas flying around the table and the ‘Apprentice’ style feel for the task had really kicked in as we had started to run out of flipchart paper – scribbling down all of our creative ideas. In this time we managed to divide up tasks on who felt confident researching in particular sections and started to pull key facts and statistics to bring up for our presentation.

We were only given a limited amount of time with our Enterprise Champion in order to relay all of the information that we had researched for the task and allowed time for brief guidance and advice.

It felt as though we were only at work for a couple of minutes before being told that we had to wrap up for the day and it didn’t hit us until we stopped working that we were all knackered! As a group we decided to get an early night’s rest and meet up a couple of hours earlier than expected to further plan in an attempt to gain an advantage over our competitors.

 

8 Steps to Starting up a Social Enterprise

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Starting any business can be more than a little daunting and adding a social element to the start-up process might make you feel like you have a huge mountain to climb, but broken down into smaller parts you may well find that it’s not quite the uphill struggle you thought it would be.

1. What’s the idea?

It’s likely that your social enterprise idea is driven by a want to help others, a wish to contribute to the community around you or perhaps a strong environmental focus. Whatever the idea, it’s likely your passion, drive and determination will get you a long way.

2. Where to start?

As with any business start-up you should go about your competitor research and exploration of the market in the same way. Consider your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, understand who your competitors are. Have a clear idea in your head as to why your product or service is unique and how it meets the needs of your potential customers.

3. Problem solving

You don’t need to be attempting to solve the world’s problems, just the one will suffice. Whatever the problem, whether it’s a social, environmental or community related issue be clear that you can tackle it in a way that’s relatively unique to your organisation.

4. What’s out there already?

If you find a social enterprise that mirrors your own, then have a good think about what you will be achieving by throwing your organisation into the mix.

5. Support close to home

Who can support you on your journey and what does their support look like? Find the right people to help drive your social enterprise forward. Contacting your favourite celebrity via social media isn’t necessarily going to bear fruit, but looking to those around you, close friends, family, colleagues is a good place to start. If you can inspire them to get behind your organisation you may feel more empowered to keep moving forward.

6. Accessing funds

Now to the tricky part; seeking funding can be a scary prospect but don’t despair there are a whole host of finance options available to you. All funding options have their pros and cons so make sure you do your research! Social Enterprise UK have a long list of organisations that may be of use to you.

7. Legal structures

Of course you will need to consider what legal structure your organisation is going to take, so go to GOV.UK to find out more.

8. Now what?

And when you’re ready, you can start to formulate that all important business plan. Templates are available from the Careers, Employment and Enterprise team and if you get stuck then book in an appointment with one of our Enterprise Advisors or look out for our next Business Planning workshop on campus, both bookable on CareerHub.

Overcoming the competition hurdle

From left to right – Most Sustainable Business award winner, Samuel Dallimore, with Health Hut Products Ltd. Best Growth Business winner,Greg McClarnon, with Splaat Media. Best Idea award winner, Porscha Mbawu, with Pernnelle Ltd.

Last week we celebrated 10 years of flare with a fabulous awards ceremony, bringing together players from the local business world, respected academics from across the University and some of our most exciting student and graduate start-ups. Awards and cash prizes were handed out for Best Growth Business, Best Business and Best Idea from this year’s competition and we raised a glass in memory of all of those fantastic flare entrants from the last 10 years.

Of course, proud as we are to have our own university enterprise challenge, you may feel that this one doesn’t quite meet your competition needs. If you’re totally baffled by the sheer number of enterprise and business start-up competitions out there and can’t quite decide which one to enter, then don’t panic! The enterprise team has taken some of the hard work away and highlighted a handful of the UK’s top competitions to sink your teeth into.

Taking the plunge and filling out that first application form or standing in front of the camera to produce a video entry can be a daunting prospect. There’s often a theme to enterprise competitions that goes a little something like this:

Step 1 submit a 60 second video entry/short pitch of your idea. As the saying goes “practice makes perfect” so start by finding a family member or a friend you can trust and give it a go. 60 seconds isn’t long so write down the key things you want people to learn about your business. What’s your unique selling point, how did you come up with the idea, what research have you carried out and how do you see yourself marketing the product/service bearing in mind you may have a limited budget.

Step 2 – prepare a detailed business plan. Tricky at first, but if you break it down into its constituent parts, work on your stronger areas first and if you need a little help on the weaker areas then look to those around you, classmates, academics, entrepreneurs, book an appointment with one of our enterprise advisors. What starts out as an uphill struggle can soon seem like a walk in the park. Whatever happens on the competition front, you can be proud of the fact that you have written a detailed plan of action. Next time you’re looking for that loan, talking to a potential investor or just having a chat at an enterprise networking event you can feel confident knowing that you have this business plan to hand should anyone ask for more detailed information.

Step 3 – the final round. If you make it to this stage you can give yourself a pat on the back as you’re probably down to the final few, so whatever happens from here on in it’s fair to say you’ve already impressed the judges and made a big impact.

Please click on the link: http://bit.ly/1LXbvBv, to find out more about the competitions we are promoting and feel free to call us on 01707 284791 if you would like to learn more about how the Enterprise Team can support you.

Categories: Enterprise Tags: ,

To pitch… or not to pitch… There is no question

When you start a business – you are bringing something new into life. Nobody will know it exists unless you tell people about it.

And people’s attention spans are becoming shorter. Much shorter.

A pitch is a concise (usually 15 to 30 seconds) and tailored message that you use to get across the key benefits of your business – it can be used in any situation and not just for formal ‘Dragon’s Den’ moments – it can be used on your website, in casual conversation and even to your staff.

Many people love talking about their business but get very nervous when delivering a pitch – which is understandable as you are passionate about your idea and humans naturally get nervous when they feel they are judged. It is also difficult to know how to structure a pitch.

However the biggest cause of nerves is the unrealistic expectation people set on their pitch – the purpose is not always to make a sale right away – it is to start the conversation towards a possible sale – so imagine the pitch as a conversation and enjoy the direction that it takes you – you never know, you could get a lot more than you thought.

I promise to make this article as concise and useful as possible – I want a promise from you to start to articulate your message to the different people you want to be interested in your venture. I will use an example of fictional company, Z to A child-care.

What is the purpose of a pitch?

  • Capture the persons interest
  • Intrigue the person to want to know more
  • You want to get an invitation to a meeting

What a pitch isn’t?

  • An opportunity to go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on

The pitch is not about you – it’s about the person you are talking to – so think about what they will be thinking

  • They don’t care to hear about everything!
    • They are always thinking ‘What’s in it for me?’
  • Know your audience!
    • What do they want, how and why?
  • Prioritize your information”
    • What do they need to know now (what can I save for later) – How do they need this communicated to them?

Structure of your pitch

  • Start with a question / scenario / introduction – examples:
    • Question: How much money do you spend on normal childcare for your children during holiday periods? Is this value for money?
    • Scenario: During the holiday season, working parents spend an average of £1,200 on normal childcare – my company can halve this price and deliver a healthy and stimulating experience for your child.
    • Introduction: Hello, my name is Barry and I am here from Z to A child-care where we look after children using healthy and stimulating activities.
  • Think about the persons motivations and identify 1 – 3 benefits that your venture delivers to them
    • Examples:
      • To a time poor cash rich family: We know time is precious so we pick up and drop your children to the family home or your office at a time suitable for you
      • To a health conscious family: There are so many scary ingredients in food today, which have been blamed for poor behaviour and learning in children – at our centre we only use organic and wholegrain ingredients for your children.
      • For value added focused family: At our centre, we don’t believe in just letting children run around whilst supervised – we have a whole program of activities that help build social, academic and physical skills in children to equip them for the best in life.
    • Close with a call for an action – this is not always to ask for the sale – make it something small and easily agreeable to that will move you towards your ultimate aim – whether it be a sale, investment or an agreement of some sort.
      • Example: It’s very easy for me to tell you about Z to A child-care because it is something I am passionate about, hence why I started it – I’ve got a great testimonial video from loads of other parents – why don’t I send you that today and I’ll call you before the weekend to hear your thoughts.

Pro-tip: Don’t try and memorise every word of your pitch – the pitch is just a base from which you adapt, add to and subtract from according to the situation you are in, enjoy it.

Some exercises to help you pitch

Write down a pitch of yourself to a potential love interest if you meet in a supermarket

– What would be your end goal of your 15 to 30 second pitch? Would you propose marriage/couple-hood straight away (remember what I said about unrealistic expectations)?

– What do you think the 1-3 things they would want to know about you right there and then?

Write down a pitch for convincing your grandparents to use Facebook

– What do your grandparents like that Facebook helps them do

Write down a pitch to convince your someone to give you a promotion

 – What are they looking for?

– How would you start the pitch? Would it be weird to start with an introduction to someone you        already know?

– Are the one to three main points you choose relevant to them or just you?

– Do you close demanding a promotion (remember what I said about the pitch                               being the beginning of the conversation)

If you want to book a 1:1 advice session to discuss your pitch, you can do so through careerhub.herts.ac.uk/enterprise advice.

If you are unable to get onto campus, don’t worry, Skype appointments are also available upon request.

Follow us on twitter:@UHEnterprise

Take the shortcut! Get your idea to the market faster by using the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) strategy.

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a strategy to quickly develop an idea and share it with those who care and then begin to make sales. Watch the video below, where Enterprise Adviser, Mohammed Ali, explains how the MVP strategy can be used to maximise return on investment versus the risk taken.

If you want to book a 1:1 advice session to discuss your business ideas, you can do so through careerhub.herts.ac.uk/enterprise advice.

If you are unable to get onto campus, don’t worry, Skype appointments are also available upon request.

Follow us on twitter:@UHEnterprise

Starting a business at the University of Hertfordshire

A short video from Enterprise Adviser, Mohammed Ali, on why every University of Hertfordshire student should want to start their own business. 


If you want to book a 1-2-1 advice session to discuss your business ideas, you can do so through careerhub.herts.ac.uk.

If you are unable to get onto campus, don’t worry, Skype appointments are also available upon request.

Twitter:@UHEnterprise

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