Progress Update: 40FATHOMS

For the next in our series of progress updates I am pleased to announce a launch of a new business from a repeat University of Exeter entrepreneur Tom Frew. Having built on the success of Instabear, an automated Instagram printing business – with the photos being delivered directly to your door, Tom has been at it again! 40 Fathoms is a new business that looks to print heavy weight design posters both for the artists that produce them as well as the clients who want to purchase them. The posters, boasting some of the highest paper quality available on the market, are then expertly shipped to your door – a great business model that I am sure is bound to be a success (especially considering the experienced team behind it).

However, as someone from a website background I wanted to draw attention to the beautifully designed website that fits perfectly to the businesses professional branding. Indeed, it is certainly worth taking a look through the website to get a feel for how well made it is. This is something that all online entrepreneurs should look to aim to: building a website that fulfils its functional purpose as well as portraying its brand in the correct light. Interestingly the team went for a new domain ending, with the website domain being 40fatho.ms which is a clever branding decision (though we have to wait to see how it will impact the website in searches). I can’t wait to see how the business develops over the next year or so; all in all a well put together online business, with a tight brand and website that should stand for other Exeter students as a bench mark to presenting a professional business online.

40 Fathoms

40 Fathoms – A beautifully designed & branded website

In terms of business I have had the pleasure to have had Sina Shakiba, a University of Reading student, undertake his work experience with me for two weeks – he has helped immensely in the launch and creation of Singing Lessons Milton Keynes and the Drum Lessons Leeds websites, as well as getting involved with the customer relation side of the business. It is the first time I have had someone undertake work experience within MGR Music Tuition and I have to say that I felt as if I learned as much as Sina did. Specifically, how it was possible to “outsource” some of the repetitive tasks within the business giving myself more time to concentrate on “business critical” tasks that only I could complete (for example hiring new teachers). This experience gives me confidence to bring onboard other members of staff to help aid me in growing the business longer term – I would thoroughly recommend taking on a student on work experience if you are a startup business thinking about hiring someone, this will give you the ability to test if you really do need to hire someone, how you could structure a group of tasks for that person as well learn about your own managerial style – all of which valuable business experience.

Posted under 40 Fathoms, Instabear

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on August 9, 2014

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Week Nine

This week marked one of the most exciting SETsquared events of the year – The Deloitte Business Pitching Competition! Held in their London Stonecutter Court HQ, just of Fleet Street, the universities of Bath, Bristol, Southampton, Surrey & of course Exeter sent their top five entrepreneurs to win cash prize investments into their businesses. Last year one of the businesses that won the competition went on to gain a reported £100,000 pound investment into their idea, helping to expand their business throughout London – (see where they are now at The Underground Book Club). Representing the University of Exeter at this years’ prestigious event were Instabear, SoundSYNK, Macaw, Carverts and George Edwards. Arriving at the Deloitte HQ at 12 we were quickly thrown into a full networking event before being split off to present the business ideas, along with over 20 other business drawn from the other four universities. First to go was Ali of Macaw Designs, a tailor made fabric business where Ali personally designs iPad, iPhone, Kindle & laptop cases from beautiful materials for you – check out the image below!

Macaw Designs

Macaw Designs – beautifully tailored by Ali Gillum

Ali was followed by Michael of Carverts, a start up company that pays students to all businesses to advertise on their uni cars. Before Carverts handed over to Instabear, who performed an excellent pitch of their Instagram Polaroid picture printing business soon to launch! Our afternoon was rounded off by first class pitches from Tom Charman of George Edwards (a new student clothing business Rampant Sportingesk) and the SoundSYNK team (an Iphone app that synchronises devices to play music in time with one another!).

Carverts – sign up to earn cash while driving in Exeter!

Other notable pitches came from Bath, where one student had created a personalised business to business letter writing company that had an unbelievable rate of clients opening the letters and responding. As ever Elephant Branded made an appearance along with a few other extremely impressive businesses! After a talk from a few of the Deloitte hosts the final awards were announced and we are seriously proud to say that Instabear came second! Losing only slimily to the letter writing business. Great result for the University of Exeter! I think the students got a lot out of the day, experiencing how to prepare a 5 minute investment like pitch, getting a taste for how it feels to work in a huge corporate multi-national like Deloitte as well as networking with some fantastic entrepreneurs from other universities! Great day!

On the home front things are really progressing well with MGR Music, with guitar websites going online in Sunderland, Portsmouth and Reading as well as singing websites being created for Manchester and Derby. As you can see it was a busy week, the flagship Guitar Lessons London website also made great progress this week with the final few things coming together. I will be launching the website on my 22 birthday on the 17 April 2013, very excited! Plenty to do before then, but what a week!

Posted under Carverts, George Edwards, Guitar Lessons London, Instabear, Macaw Designs, MGR Music, SEiR, SetSquared, SoundSYNK, Student Businesses

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 3, 2013

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Week Seven

Wow, what a week! I met eight students with business ideas in a jam packed few days, before heading off to Instabear’s launch party on the Saturday! The Polaroid Instagram printing service will be live very shortly so make sure you sign up here! A highlight of the week was sitting down with the Young Ones co-founder Chris Rea to talk about how he can move the business from the UK’s top selling university inspired Onesie company to the new university outfitters, competing against the likes of Jack Wills, Superdry and Topman. With some great products in the line-up to be released over the summer & the possibility that the Young One team will go full time next year watch this space, you might just be seeing a new high-street clothing brand being born!

Young Ones – one of Exeter University’s top exports!

Another highlight of the week was meeting Tom, a first year student who had started a soap business early last year to win a bet against his friend. Having sold his own brand of soap on London stalls, generating a more than decent income, he is now preparing to launch his second business in Exeter! What this will be we let you know as soon as we can! I also met with a student who has a cracking idea for a new piece of skiing equipment, top secrete at the moment but once they are ready to go public you will hear more about it hear first! Additionally there were a few other pipeline businesses ideas this week that the Innovation Centre will help to incubate and develop over the next few months before their launch – I will keep you updated!

If you have a business idea, no matter how early come an visit us on campus up at the Innovation Centre!

My week away from the SEiR role saw the launch of Guitar Lessons Coventry, Guitar Lessons Plymouth and Singing Lessons Leeds thanks to my fantastic team of copywriters, while I began to start the process of hiring teachers for the Guitar Lessons Norwich and Guitar Lessons Belfast websites respectively. With enquiries coming in from all over the network guitar, singing and piano websites I am trying to hirer teachers as quickly as I can to fulfil them! Hindered slightly however by having an excruciatingly painful back I was reminded not to work too hard, seriously I have met so many people in their mid-40s that have made millions and burned out, damaging their health irretrievably in the process. It is very easy to work too hard on your own business, while juggling a degree, social relationships, other part time jobs, yet you can’t buy your health back once you made your money – live in the present & chill!

Posted under Innovation Centre, Instabear, Young Ones

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on February 17, 2013

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Week Six

The SetSquared Xing event held at the University of Surrey was unquestionably the highlight of this week. After an inopportune 5am start Exeter university’s crack team of six of our best entrepreneurs and I headed off to Guilford to join forces with entrepreneurs from Bath, Southampton, Bristol and Surrey to take part in a regional business challenge. The day was a resounding success, with each mixed university team being given a business idea to develop over four hours before pitching it back to a pool of Dragon’s Den style judges. While the students were split up to network and build teams with talented students drawn across the globe to our five universities, the Student Entrepreneurs in Residence (the equivalent position to mine) of each of the five universities were placed into a team – this was a hilarious (mis)decision! Instantly getting on famously it created a fantastic day of socialising, networking and business development – with the students coming away having experienced first hand some of the critical aspects of turning an idea into a business model.

SETsquared Xing challenge

With three of the Exeter students winning big money prizes during the event’s finale – a share in the £1,500 awarded on the day to entrepreneurial students – we returned back to Exeter. The message of the day was certainly focused on teams and the importance of building the right team, one where getting the right personalities has more of an impact on team productivity than hiring on qualification. Understanding this is vital for new businesses as hiring the wrong second, third or forth employee in your organisation might be the direct reason for your business failing. Lucky after some horror stories from former Kauffman Scholar Alistair Shepherd we will be thinking twice before we recruit again!

After meeting several student businesses during my drop sessions (email me if you want one) including JD Solis, e-Book gifting and Instabear – who are launching extremely soon – I went to meet local lawyer Dominic Hollingsworth of Kitsons. Part of my role this year is to build up a network of external professional services to help aid student business development, this includes reaching out to legal, accountancy and bank firms to build relationships that students can benefit from. The meeting was a great success and I am proud to say we have Kitsons on board for legal support for university entrepreneurs!

At MGR Music I hired another teacher, a university of Exeter student and piano wizard Callum Henry for the Piano Lessons Exeter website, while the business expanded into Leicester and Cambridge. Being the first week in the month the money for the previous months lesson commissions came in, up 8.25% percent in January from December! The Guitar Lessons London website is also coming together behind the scenes, ready for its big launch on the 17th April 2013! Check out the screenshots below…

Guitar Lessons London – development screenshot!

Posted under Guitar Lessons London, Instabear, JD Solis, Kauffman Scholarship, SEiR, SetSquared, Student Businesses

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on February 9, 2013

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Week Four

Another furious week this week up at the Innovation Centre as we awarded grant funding to our first student business of the year! Dan Wiseman, a recent drama graduate and current owner of Webwise Media, pitched for grant funding to help develop his software solution to digital signage management. Named Screenfish, the idea successfully negotiated its way through two business plan development sessions, multiple meetings with Innovation Centre staff and a Dragon’s Den style pitch before gaining funding. Congratulations to Dan, I will keep you updated as how the project is going!

Screenfish – Webwise Media Ltd new software package!

I also met a student during my weekly drop in sessions who pitched one of the best business ideas I have heard all term! Instabear, which has already gone online this week, is an awesome website where you can finally get your Instagram photos printed! Offering both Polaroid’s and snaps check out their website and like their Facebook page – great job by final year student Solly Akhtar!

Instabear goes live!

This week also saw me travelling up to Leicester and Sheffield to interview guitar teachers for the Guitar Lessons Leicester and Guitar Lessons Sheffield websites. A really exciting trip, I managed to interview a total of five teachers in Leicester and Sheffield hiring a new guitar teacher in Leicester to work with!

Interviewing is a hard process to get right, especially in the context of my sub-contracting business where I have to pitch the business model to them while they try and pitch themselves to me. There is a lot of research to suggest that interviewing is actually one of the worst ways of selecting the right people to work for your organisation as the process is far from objective. Personality, appearance and the fact you both support the same football/rugby/bowls team invariably prompts you to hire the person you get on with rather than the best candidate for the job! Always take applications first and then select the final candidates to be interviewed by a colleague who is not the decision maker before interviewing the last two or three yourself!

Posted under Guitar Lessons London, Instabear, MGR Music, Student Businesses, Webwise Media, Wiseman Media

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on January 27, 2013

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