I strongly believe that students can start a business at university – as long as they’re willing to put in some serious hard work and know how to manage their time well.
My business partner Jeff and I had the idea for our business, Twists Pasta Bar, in our first year at the University of Huddersfield and now in our third year it’s really getting going. We just opened a store in Huddersfield town centre and our ultimate dream is to have a store in every town and city across the country to help people stay healthy on the move.
Everybody said we should wait until we graduated to start the business and that we wouldn’t have time alongside our studies. However, I am pleased we went ahead with it as it gives us some time to get it up and running.
There are always concerns about starting any business, let alone when you’re studying too – there’s the worry about whether the business will work and the hours you’ll need to put in to get it to the level you want it to be at. However, we are both really determined and very motivated to succeed.
I think there are so many benefits to running a business at university, rather than waiting until you graduate – we believe being at the University of Huddersfield whilst starting the business has been integral to our success. There are so many transferable skills, both from business to university, and from university work to business – having them run alongside each other has been so helpful.
There are the contacts as well – you’re mixing with so many people. A friend that we made at university has been really helpful with ideas and other contacts. The university has also been a massive help to us and so supportive.
We do still have a social life as well as running the business and studying but we’re obviously not out five times a week like we used to be in the first year! We still manage to go out and have a drink on a Friday evening and see our friends regularly – we’re still studying and living with them too. We’re also still part of the sports societies at university.
We’ve got a good balance at the moment, and I think you’ve got to have that to enable you to concentrate at work.
Time management is the only way to make it work. If you let yourself slip, then you’ve had it. We don’t get a break and we are busy all the time but you have to make sure you are actually completing the task you’ve set for that time so you can keep on track and move on to the next thing.
Using tools like QuickBooks also saves you time on financial admin, leaving you free to get on with other important business tasks.
My top tips
- Network with as many people as possible and bounce your ideas off others. Ask everyone for advice – they’ll give you their honest opinion most of the time
- Trial your idea, test the market and measure the risks – if you’re still happy, go for it. We successfully tested the market over a three-month trial period, which enabled us to take what we learnt within university lectures and apply it to a real-life business.
- Funding is available as long as you can prove the business is viable – we set up the business using a business credit card and a business loan. Our bank has been tremendously helpful. There are also great schemes like StartUp Loans and Funding Circle.
- Remember, there’s nothing holding you back – there’s information and support to help you. Seek out initiatives from the government. For example, we really benefited from the Local Business Accelerator.
- Don’t waste money on things that you don’t necessarily need to start up. For example, we bought everything for the shop first, and then we did the office when we realised we had enough money to. However, if we’d done the office first and then opened the shop, we would have run out of budget, so focus on the important things to spend the money on first
- Have a back-up plan. If you’ve got a budget of £5,000 to set up a shop, allow at least an extra 10% – you’ll probably need it!