Launching a new business is hard work in normal times, but even tougher during a pandemic. A group of entrepreneurship students at Henley Business School has risen to the challenge - and they are looking for support as they head towards graduation.
Students from a mix of degree courses joined the new Applied Entrepreneurship module at Henley that allows students to run their own business as part of their final year. Admission to the module is selective, as students are not starting pretend businesses, but the real thing.
Over the last year, students have set up real limited companies, built their own products and services, participated in public pitching events, successfully applied for grants, made sales, and mastered social media to grow rapidly to thousands of followers and new customers.
When they graduate later this year, the students will not only leave with a degree from Henley, but also with a fledgling business where they are their own boss.
As with every entrepreneur, they have put in long hours, and dealt with a lot of uncertainty along the way. Best-laid plans fail and textbooks can’t always answer what to do next – making this a final year module full of practical lessons and hands-on experience.
The students, who can access business incubation space on campus but also work from their halls of residence or their homes, report on their progress every two weeks and set themselves new goals. Academics from the Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship support them with networks, advice, small seed-investment and introductions to its community of entrepreneurs and angel investors.
As with every new business, the student entrepreneurs are constantly on the lookout for new customers, partners and investors to help them grow faster. Their business ideas – detailed below – include property investment, fitness platforms and a vegan food brand.
Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship Dr Norbert Morawetz, who set up the module at Henley, said:
“Imagine a programme where on graduation day you not only leave with a degree, but as the founder and CEO of your own company. This is a difficult time to be young; graduates face an increasingly uncertain job and business environment. As a business school, we are proud to support entrepreneurial talent in all students, and the resilience and imagination of this group of students is just inspirational. They are exceeding our expectations; creating jobs not only for themselves but also for their peers.
This programme proves that education is most successful where it encourages students to apply the skills they learned to problems they are keen to solve. Getting a business off the ground is hard in normal times, but COVID-19 and lockdowns have added extra challenges. As a business school, we can only offer innovative programmes such as this by leveraging the support of the fantastic business community. We are always looking for mentors who want to get engaged with Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship and help the next generation of entrepreneurs to succeed.”
Student Thomas Abrahams, who is looking for support for his sports business ‘Univarsity’, said:
“From a young age I have always been fascinated by start-up businesses and success stories, watching programmes such as Dragons’ Den. The Applied Entrepreneurship module started perfectly in time with the ‘Univarsity’ project and is a great chance for me to start my entrepreneurial journey and hopefully begin to make a positive impact on society.”
If you are interested in helping Henley’s new generation of entrepreneurs, they would love to hear from you. Please contact Dr Morawetz at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Meet the students
Laetitia Weigel, 21, from Germany
Business: Planet Glib
“Planet Glib offers several digital marketing services including creating promotional videos from either stock videos or provided material. Whether marketing videos should follow an animated style or include cinematic scenes, anything is possible. Furthermore, German/English translations are available, for example, for product descriptions, websites, or social-media posts."
Looking for: “Mentors, experts in the marketing sector."
Kevin Hayes, 25, from the UK
“ProppedUp is a real estate investment start-up that aims to revolutionise the buy-to-let market. We combine a crowdfunding business model with lean start-up methodology, using algorithms to evaluate buy-to-let investment opportunities across the UK. This reduces financial barriers to entry for our investors to become landlords. Our management service allows a completely hands-off approach for investors. ProppedUp allows individuals to invest from as little as £1,000.”
Looking for: “Expertise in the real estate market and financial backing to help drive us forward.”
Dylan Lief, 21, from the UK
Business: Revive Foods
“My plant-based food company, Revive Foods plans to introduce a variety of nutrient dense product lines. The vast majority of snacks on the market are high in sugar, unhealthy fats and use ingredients that are harmful to human health. We want to offer snacks that people can consume without the guilt, while achieving a sustainable and environmentally friendly business model by using biodegradable packaging, ethically sourcing our ingredients and using carbon neutral shipping. Our first product line we will be launching is a snack/meal replacement bar.”
Looking for: “Food scientists or employees who work in this space.”
Toby Khaleque, 23, from the UK
“Propelled is a new app in development that will virtually reward you for achieving your fitness goals. Rank up, unlock gear for your avatar, compete with friends and show your local leader board what you are made of! Being rewarded for walking, running, or completing workouts will provide that day-to-day gratification to keep you set on your goals on those sluggish days.”
Looking for: “Qualified fitness instructors interested in supporting content creation.”
Benji Norval, 21, from the UK
Business: Cyrus Clothing
“Cyrus Clothing began a few years ago as a school project and launched in May 2020. It is a high-quality clothing brand focusing on limited edition, seasonal products. With a minimalist design, the products are everyday wardrobe essentials. As Cyrus works on a limited-edition seasonal basis, it allows for hype and tension to be built surrounding the launch of the next products.”
Looking for: “Like-minded and enthusiastic individuals with a marketing mind and/or an aim to help develop a fashion brand to the next level.”
Harry Newton, 21, from Cyprus
Business: Blob Media
“Blob Media is a digital marketing agency that creates 3D and augmented reality content. We help brands and agencies in this new frontier of e-commerce and social media by creating hyper-realistic product showcases and virtual tours. We provide end-to-end services to bring our clients viral content, sales lifts and brand recognition while making everything look stunning.”
Looking for: “Networking and the opportunity to work with a big brand.”
Thomas Abrahams, 21, from the UK
“Univarsity is a new student-led start-up focused on increasing sports participation at university. After conducting extensive research, the Univarsity team has come to together to create a new and innovative sports-based platform all about enhancing the student experience. By increasing the number of students engaging and participating in sports, Univarsity can help play a role in improving students’ mental and physical wellbeing.”
Looking for: “Any relevant contacts within the sport, health and wellbeing sectors at university would be highly appreciated.”