Progress Update: Macaw Designs

Today I caught up with Ali Gillum for the fifth in our series of University of Exeter student business updates. Ali is the founder of a fantastic social enterprise called Macaw Designs, which creates beautiful bespoke iPhone, iPad, laptop and glasses cases. I last time wrote about Macaw Designs in March 2013 the foundations of the business were just being set-up; by Easter 2013 Ali had started designing the Macaw Designs website as well as locating a factory in England to produce her designs.

Bespoke iPhone cases

Macaw Designs – Bespoke iPhone, iPad, Glasses & Laptop Cases

By autumn 2013 Macaw Designs boasted four unique design collections and officially launched the entire brand in October 2013 in association with Her Campus. Since then Ali has been carefully building the brand by undertaking craft events as well as Popup Macaw events in Exeter and Durham. Sales have been building since launch, with Macaw Designs being selected by the University of Exeter to represent it at the SETsquared intra-university business competition held in Spitalfields Market in June. Ali will also take the brand to summer festivals like New Wine and Somersault, capitalising on the release of two new collections that are aimed at the male market. Post graduation Ali is looking to continue to grow her social enterprise, which has receive grant backing from the Innovation Centre and the UnLtd Fund, into a business that not only creates bespoke cases but also impacts local communities through running craft events. No doubt that next twelve months will be really exciting for Macaw Designs and I will keep you updated!

Macaw Designs

Macaw Designs – one of two new collections for men!

In terms of my week here at MGR Music we successfully managed to launch the Singing Lessons Reading, Piano Lessons Leicester and Guitar Lessons Winchester websites, with our most exciting news being that we are nearly almost there in signing an advertising deal with a London guitar store for the for the Guitar Lessons London website. This would be a massive achievement for us, generating a new stream of income that can be used to create more fantastic content. The week also saw us hire teachers in Aberdeen and Oxford which kept us on track for our two teachers per week expansion!

Posted under Macaw Designs, Progress Update, SetSquared, Student Businesses

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 30, 2014

Tags: ,

Progress Update: Jollie Goods

For the forth of our progress updates I met up with Ed Vickers, founder of one of the University of Exeter’s most successful social enterprises Jollie Goods. I originally posted about Ed’s business, a “wear a pair, share a pair” social enterprise helping provide socks for homeless people, in March 2013 and boy has the business come on a long way since then!

In December 2012 Ed had just launched his social enterprises’s first product, “Jollie’s Socks”, making his first sales on a weekly market stall on campus in The Forum. Sales of the socks through the website quickly went through the roof, helping Ed to sell over 100 pairs of socks before Christmas 2012. By March 2013 Jollie’s Socks had been selected as the product of choice to represent the University of Exeter at a SETsquared intra-university business competition held in Spitalfields Market London, winning the UnLtd price for “Best Social Impact”. This provided Jollie Goods with the platform to start selling their products through multiple independent stores located throughout the south-west and London including Maker Maker and Good Golly Miss Molly in Exeter (two good stores to start with if you run a clothing business at the University and are interesting getting your goods into local stores).

Jollie's Socks on sale in the Forum

Ed selling Jollie’s Socks on campus in The Forum, December 2012!

By December 2013 the Jollie’s Socks range had expanded to three different coloured socks, with all the manufacturing being moved back to the UK. Yet, it was Jollie Goods success within the John Lewis’s PitchUp business competition that really highlighted the potential of the business – from the hundreds of entries made Jollie Goods was shortlisted with 11 other companies to pitch to John Lewis for the chance to be stocked in the retail giant’s stores. From this pitch Jollie Goods were successful and won the opportunity to be stocked in John Lewis – the only company to be selected that year! From Christmas 2012, were Ed had sold socks at the Forum, to Christmas 2013 where Jollie’s Socks were being sold in their hundreds through John Lewis’s Peter Jones, Oxford Circus and Online Stores.

Continuing to be sold through these three John Lewis stores, as well as an ever growing network of independent stores, Ed has big plans for Jollie Goods now that he has graduated from the University of Exeter (summer 2014). Looking towards December 2014 Jollie’s Socks will expand from three products to five, as well as moving into producing Jollie’s Hat and Scarves – both having similar “wear a pair, share a pair” concept providing the homeless with durable winter hats and scarves upon each purchase. Indeed, the social impact of Jollie Goods has been truly outstanding with over 2,000 fresh socks being given to homeless shelters to distribute, touch numerous lives across the UK. Ed’s ultimate goal is not only to continue to grow his social business but enable young people to get directly involved to help the homeless throughout the nation.

Jollie's Socks on sale at John Lewis

Jollie’s Socks selling in John Lewis, December 2013!

Perfect for quirky christmas gifts Jollie’s Socks has to be one of the best products to be created by a University of Exeter student and no doubt Jollie Goods has a great future in front of it! On the MGR Music Tuition business front this week we have had a really exciting development, with the launch of Piano Lessons Swindon that will be jointly run with the Guitar Lessons Swindon and Singing Lessons Swindon teachers. It is the start of a new business model that will enable teachers to create small music tuition businesses, rather than simply building up their own students numbers. Exciting times!

We are also in the final stages of negotiating a deal with a guitar store in London who are interested in advertising in the London Guitar Lessons Blog, this will be great news if it comes off as it will be able to fund content creation through hiring a sub-contracted blog editor and a teacher to produce further Youtube guitar lesson videos – all creating more traffic and then more revenue from advertising. On the website expansion front Singing Lessons Cambridge, Piano Lessons York and Singing Lessons Peterborough we all completed and launched this week, with teachers being hired in Belfast and Southampton. All in all a truly busy week!

Posted under Jollie Goods, Progress Update, SetSquared, Stocking Goods in John Lewis, Student Businesses

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 25, 2014

Tags: , , ,

Progress Update: UniCoRide

For the third in my series of progress updates on University of Exeter students who run businesses I met up with Charley Allen, a fourth year French, Spanish and Philosophy student, who has created a business designed to reduce the costs of transport for uni students. The idea came to Charley during her year abroad as she frequently made the most of car sharing websites like BlaBlaCar to travel throughout France and Spain. Yet, she noticed that at this time there was no similar businesses offering this type of car sharing within the UK.

UniCoRide

Why not carshare?

By the time she had returned to England BlaBlaCar had launched within the UK, however, there was still a massive opportunity to create a car-sharing website aimed exclusively at students – this is how UniCoRide was born! Charley along with some fellow students started to undertake market research for the concept, using her business idea in a fictitious business competition for a module on her Spanish course. The business idea won the competition further encouraging Charley to take this project on as an actual business. As of 2014 Charley is now undertaking further market research, looking to develop and launch her UniCoRide website over the next few months, as well as to continue her application to the Student Green Unit which give out around £25,000 to empower our students to make a difference in environmental and ethical issues. Charley is also currently running a questionnaire for students – if you are interested in taking part click here to carry out the survey during 2014!

In terms of business at MGR Music this week has seen us expand by creating Piano Lessons Liverpool and Piano Lessons Cambridge, as well as creating Singing Lessons Bournemouth, but still to hire teachers in these locations. On the hiring front proud to say that we have successfully recruited two new teachers this week, Frank Lucas who will become the Guitar Lessons Swindon guitar teacher, and Pete Hicks who has taken over the Guitar Lessons Milton Keynes website. We have also been working on an entry into a new sector of the music tuition industry over the next few weeks which is going to represent the first major change in the business for around 12 months. All will be revealed next week!

Posted under Progress Update, UniCoRide

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 16, 2014

Tags:

Progress Update: Tight Threads

For the second progress update on a University of Exeter student business I met up with Nathan Dundovic, founder of Tight Threads – a photographic clothing company. Nathan, now a third year student, came up with the idea in 2011 when he saw an opportunity to improve the quality of photograph prints on clothing, a style that had become popular and widely sold in shops like Topman, Republic and other high-street stores from 2010 onwards. He focused on creating high quality photographic prints, releasing his first range in 2012, which consisted of 15 t-shirts, 15 sweatshirts and several snapbacks.

Tight Threads

Tight Threads – cool t-shirts, sweatshirts and snapbacks!

Selling under his business name Tight Threads Nathan’s first range sold really well, shifting 75% of his stock and even getting a wholesale order from a shop owner located in Kent to supply this store with his snapbacks. Yet, it was the sales that he made through clothing marketplace websites like Asos Markekplace, TheLostLanes.com and the University of Exeter Guild Shop that drove his business forward. Nathan was keen to point out that these websites are great outlets for any students who are interested in selling their clothing products, with the physical location of the Guild Shop giving great exposure to the brand to the thousands of students on campus.

Nathan also really made the most of the Career Zone’s eXepert scheme, were entrepreneurial students are linked up with University of Exeter alumni that have experience in their field. In Nathan’s case he was fortunate enough to be introduced to a successful clothing businessman who had graduated from Exeter years before, this contact provided Nathan with invaluable industry advice and mentorship – something that he would strongly suggest that other Exeter students should make the most of if you run a business! With this in mind Nathan is now looking to continue to build Tight Threads by introducing a new range of cool t shirts and cool sweatshirts for the summer! You can keep an eye on Nathan’s progress by checking out the Tight Threads website or to find out more what it is like running a clothing company while you are at university get in touch with him via his nathandundovic.com website!

eXepert scheme

Career Zone eXepert scheme provided key support for Nathan

It has been an exciting week here at MGR Music Tuition as well, hiring teachers for the Guitar Lessons Bristol, Singing Lessons Swindon and Piano Lessons Oxford websites. We also had the exciting announcement that the Guitar Lessons London website is now starting to provide online guitar lessons – with our lead guitar teacher in London creating tuition videos to help guitar students across the world to learn guitar for free! I have also been working with local Exeter company 1010 Media to create an automated invoicing system for the business that will hopefully help consolidate a core operation of the company (invoicing all 75 teachers with their lessons taught for the month) which is currently all done via email. After several meetings this week we are at the stage to give the project the go-ahead which is simply great news!

Posted under Clothing Companies, Guitar Lessons London, Progress Update, Tight Threads

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 8, 2014

Tags: , , , ,

Progress Update: The Ember Club

I thought a year on from my last blog post it would be great time time to start a series of progress updates on some of the entrepreneurial students that we have worked with here at the Innovation Centre. This not only includes current students, but students that worked with and graduated alongside the first Student Entrepreneur in Residence Tom Carrington-Smith to see where their entrepreneurial journeys have lead them now three years on. I will also talk to the students I worked with during my time as the Student Entrepreneur in Residence, as well as the students that are currently working with Mithil Shah, our current Student Entrepreneur in Residence.

Mithil Shah & Kimberley Martinez

Mithil Shah & Kimberley Martinez (the Innovation Centre’s & Students’ Guild’s Student Entrepreneurs in Residence for 2013-14 academic year)!

As a Student Entrepreneur in Residence Tom (2011-12), Matthew (2012-13) and Mithil (2013-14) saw on average about 100 University of Exeter students per year – all pitching business concepts that covered a huge range of industries and products. We met with students at all different stages of their businesses, from students who simply had an idea to students that had been running fully fledged businesses while at the university. The role of the Student Entrepreneur in Residence is to provide support and advice for all entrepreneurial minded students at the University of Exeter, regardless of where they are with their idea or business. The SEiR also helps to create a small community of like-minded entrepreneurial students who are encouraged to help each other with the challenges of running a business while trying to complete a degree at the same time! Over the last three years this community has grown exponentially, in this series of blog posts I will look to talk to just a few members of this community to hear about their business stories. We would love you to become a part of this entrepreneurial community, so if you have a business idea (no matter where you are with it!) or are thinking about starting a business while at university don’t hesitate to get in touch – you can contact the Student Entrepreneur in Residence by emailing .

I thought that a fantastic business to kick off the progress update blog post series would be The Ember Club, a platform for like-minded entrepreneurial students from a range of different universities to connect, solve business problems and meet investors, mentors and industry experts. Founded by Tom Charman, Edward Noel (serial entrepreneur; founder of Soundsynk and Exeter University Calendars) and Nathan Dundovic the trio where keen to ensure that there was a platform for genuine entrepreneurial students to connect on, providing the business support that they felt was often overlooked for young business founders.

Tracking back a little, I first met Tom Charman in 2012 and blogged about his first year business idea George Edwards – a British made clothing company that looked to produce quality shirts, socks and sweatshirts for students. Indeed, Tom was a student that pitched his business at the SETsquared 2013 Deloitte pitching event. His business has been progressing slowly, with his official launch being set for Summer 2014 – yet one of the main reasons for the this is Tom’s business attention has been refocused on founding and running Ember Club which has proved extremely successful amongst entrepreneurial university students across the country.

By contrast The Ember Club has moved extremely fast since its launch in November 2013, with the founding members attending events like the Student Enterprise Conference held by NACUE to network with other business mined university students & pitch their idea. The business was quickly shortlisted for the Shell Live Wire Awards (Shell give 4x £1,000 grants to young entrepreneurs each month + £10,000 to a single Young Entrepreneur of the Year) as well as winning a £500 grant from the UnLtd fund.

http://unltd.org.uk

The Ember Club founders won a £500 grant for their idea from the UnLtd Fund!

By January 2014 The Ember Club had grown to 30 regular uses, a figure than now stands at well over 100 today, drawing in students from across the nations universities, as well as investors from as far a field as India and Australia. Continuing to drive their business platform forward Tom, Nathan and Ed are looking community to build their user base, increasing the value of the network to each member of the community, as well as grow the affiliate network that has been so successful for them so far. To become part of this community of young entrepreneurs simply Google The Ember Club. With great plans for the future there is no doubt that we will be hearing a lot more from The Ember Club as they grow in size and begin to bring their young enterprise platform to institutions like the University of Exeter business school and others on a national level. I will let you know how they get on over the next 12 months in my 2015 update!

It has been a big year for MGR Music as well – growing rapidly to over 75 music teachers located across the country tutoring over 4,500 students piano, guitar, singing and drum lessons. The most significant development has been successfully entering the London guitar tuition market, expanding rapidly to have multiple guitar teachers across London tutoring students in Fulham, Camden and Islington, in addition to continuing to grow on a national level taking on teachers even in the last few days in Glasgow and Ipswich, as well as for the Piano Lessons Cardiff website. We have quite a big announcement to make in the next few weeks as the business looks to enter a new market so I will keep you updated with what is happening on a business front as I write the progress updates! Want to get involved, don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing .

Posted under George Edwards, Guitar Lessons London, Progress Update, SEiR, Student Businesses, The Ember Club

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 1, 2014

Tags: , , , , , ,