Inside The Mind of An Entrepreneur: Matt Morley

A series of articles that focuses on interviewing current and former University of Exeter students who have launched and ran successful start-ups. These articles will explore more than simply a student’s “success story” and will delve into the psyche of an entrepreneur to find what motivated them.

If entrepreneurialism is a mindset then university might well be an ideal support environment to develop these thought-processes, the right skills sets and network opportunities to launch start-ups that will profoundly change the world we live in.

“Certainty” has a Value, especially in an uncertain world.

My interview with Matt Morley of Tickbox, Explaain & Savvy 

The Entrepreneur & The Opportunity

Matt Morely studied a History BA at the University of Exeter. Inspired by a growing interested politics he canvased independently to find out what voters were really thinking.

Across the political spectrum voters and non-voters experienced similar feelings; either an uncertainty in who to vote for or (when certainty existed towards a candidate/party) apprehension as to whether that candidate/party really represented their views.

This was a problem. Especially as functioning democracy requires engagement from the popular with the political process. If the population felt uncertain and apprehensive about the democratic process this would, theoretically, increase disengagement and apathy towards elections.

Consequently, a logical question and one that Matt posed was “how could this uncertainty be reduced”. Keen to create something that could be used by the entire voting population Matt knew that the answer would combine technology with accurate information.

The Start-Up & Successes 

TickBox was developed as a possible solution, with a mission to “to make interacting with voting and democracy as easy as possible”. This would be achieved by “putting all the information you need online and in one place, allowing you to search for the information you need about the issues you care about”.

First deployment, with fairly limited resources, was for the 2014 University of Exeter Students’ Guild Sabbatical elections. This trial “required a lot of work to get right and taught us a lot about what we did and didn’t know”, more importantly it demonstrated that “a demand for such a service”. Clearly the solution had to be improved, streamlined and suitable for the masses – yet, even in its first stage it worked as a solution.

Refined and ready to go for the 2014 European Election was when TickBox really demonstrated it potential, as “strangers” in their thousands used the platform “to create the change they wanted to see in the world”. Over 40,000 users had visited before the election was over, with some amazing feedback from users: 

By 2017 General Election these ideas had been further refined to see the ge2017.com platform have over 2 million users and national press coverage (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/06/democracy-theres-an-app-for-that-the-tech-upstarts-trying-to-hack-british-politics).

Beyond Elections

The success of these platforms, combined with the realisation that drawing revenue from election platforms was fairly limited Matt pivoted his ideas. In recent months he has been working on a new project called Savvy. Significantly, it uses the same approach of helping people quickly gain information to provide more certainly. He highlights this as a fundamental human need, that we inherently desire a more certain and organised world to live in.

Savvy is a Chrome extension that enables users to rapidly search their Google Drive for information in a search sidebar. For companies this can mean a team of employees can rapidly request information from Google Sheets without having to open up the documents in question. It streamlines the process of information retrieval, essentially enabling you to “Google” your own documents

This project is currently in development and I will update you on its progress. Having used Savvy first hand I know the potential that this extension has for many millions of users around the world.

However, what Matt was keen to highlight was this was a different approach to the same ambition he has of increasing human certainty. With a different approach to the same aim a business model might be developed that is sustainable or more viable than another. Recognising when to pivot can define whether, in Matt’s case, his platform used by millions  of voters with relatively little income or his Chrome Extension which might be used by 500 top companies with significant income helps him achieve his own personal motivational aims.

These personal motivations are always interesting to explore when it comes to entrepreneurs. For Matt he visualises that one day in the future he will be able to spend time with his future children, not having to work as hard as his contemporaries will do. This underlying motivation is what pushes him to commit so much of his life in the present to achieve this aim.

Motivation and the Entrepreneurial Experience

Lets explore more of what drives Matt as an entrepreneur. As Matt saw it during university, the world we live in is dramatically changing. Whole industries that are traditional forms of employment will be gone in 5, 10, 15 years time. After all, training to be a typewritest in the 1960s seemed like a strong career decision, yet by the end of the 1970s the industry was in terminal decline.

Observing this macro-trend, against the university backdrop of producing ideal candidates for industries that tech will replace Matt was both “pulled and pushed out of uni”. There was no doubt in his mind that he got the best of both worlds, leaving with “half the student debt, having never done a dissertation” while having met some “amazing people”. University itself, as Matt highlighted was an ideal “safe harbour” to test and launch a business.

Core to Matt’s personal motivation is that he wants to “invent the future”. Approached not from a grandiose or arrogant mindset, but from a humble belief that humans have an infinity ability for improvement as long as they break free from traditional thought paths and accepted “truths”. Radical change takes place at an apex where great new ideas are met by a society that is willing to let go of the “baggage of the past”.

After leaving university Matt became the University of Exeter’s Entrepreneur in Residence. This gave him the “breathing space needed” to develop his start-up, with the help of Joe Pearce. Matt was influential in the development of the “Think, Try, Do” project, helping to triple the amount of money invested in student enterprise. With some of the businesses that received their first £5,000 investments under Matt’s watch now having gone onto receive multi-million dollar investments.

Crucially, as Matt points out the Think, Try, Do program was about developing student enterprise on a very individual basis. Not every business created will be a multi-million pound enterprise (or as Matt put it “not everyone needs a rocket to go to Mars, if all they want to do is go to Bristol) and that is absolutely fine. Instead, helping students gain the skills required to develop a start-up business to its full potential is the objective.

How Matt thinks about the world

By understanding his motivations we can now explore his approach to business. Matt explained that you must always look at what people are using everyday as bench-marker to your ideas. This means if you are a tech company then users expect the speed of Google and the usability of Uber.

Secondly, you should be obsessed with creating the solution to the problem or opportunity that you have identified. Explore what your prejudices are, as well as those of your users (they might think they know what they want, but actually they haven’t imaged a better solution).

Thirdly, selecting the right team will make or break your business. If your idea is good but you simply don’t have the personal or the correct investor to execute it as a project it will fail.

Finally, there is also no rulebook (as long as it is legal!). So create many ideas, focusing on those that are in your sphere of interest. For Matt he explained that he has idea generation times often during/directly after exercise and before sleep. Developing time to generate ideas and starting the thought processes of (a) what problems can I identify (b) how could I solve that problem using my skills (c) is that something that someone will pay me to solve, will go a long way in an entrepreneurs early stage development.

If you want to find out more about developing your thought process to become an entrepreneur then please contact thinktrydo@exeter.ac.uk.

Further Reading – The Resources Matt Recommends:

As part of this series of articles I asked each entrepreneur to submit the books, videos, podcasts and other materials that has influenced their journey. Below are the materials that Matt recommends:

Books

1. Sapiens – Yuval Harari – Everything we do in business has to serve the basic ‘homo sapien’ need. I always like to work back from first principles. In what I do that means looking at emotions like fear and delight – when you design and build something you’re always appealing to an emotion as well as reason

2. Life 3.0 – Max Tegmark – If you only read one book on AI it has to be this. Everything we do as a species going forward will be in partnership with AI

3. Hit Markers – Derek Thompson – A brilliant book on product and the human needs products solve.

Videos:

Sam Altman, 10 Rules for Success (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRLyLQos6FQ)

Start with Why, Simon Sinek (https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action)

Podcasts:

Masters of Scale podcast with Reid Hoffman (https://mastersofscale.com/)

 

Business Update

Since my last business update I am pleased to announce that mgrmusic.com is continuing to grow its teaching locations with the addition of the Guitar Lessons Coventry webpage with professional teacher Arthur Stanley. Arthur has been teaching privately in the Coventry area for just over 3 years and works with students from age 5 and up. He is a fantastic addition to the MGR Music family and is a wonderfully versatile player who teachers all styles from his comfortable home studio and also at students homes via his mobile teaching service.

Arthur is currently in his third year of a BA Music Performance degree and juggling this with his busy teaching schedule shows how hard working he is. I have been looking for an experience, versatile teacher in the Coventry area for some time now and Arthur is the perfect addition. I am looking forward to hearing how many great things his new students will have to say about him.

As a teacher that thrives off seeing student growth I will be very interested to watch how Arthur grows as a teacher as we connect him with some great students. Coventry has a fantastic music community with a lot of educational options available via the local College and University as well as a community project called the Coventry Music Hub. In 10 years time, I hope Arthur’s students will be the leading musicians in this area. I am looking forward to seeing this growth. Over the course of 2019 I will be looking to grow MGR Music Tuition in many new key locations around the UK, working alongside the small team we have a mgrmusic.com to achieve that.

Posted under SEiR

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on February 27, 2019

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Silk Pillowcases: Creating An eCommerce Website on a Shoe String

Here it is, a progress update on my “eCommerce Website on a Shoe String” project. Just to recap, the motivation for this project came from observing many students at the university who were trying to set up retail businesses, with a substantial amount of their initial capitol been put into the creation on a eCommerce website – we are talking hundreds of pounds here, often thousands. We would be approached often at the Innovation Centre by clothing businesses, who claimed “we have a great product and a fantastic business model but we just need £1,000+ to build our website to market our product from – will you fund it?”. The answer was inevitably no.

Why? At the genesis of every business capital is tight; therefore an entrepreneurs ability to utilise this capital to its maximum effect on the business’s development is a sign of whether that business is going to be successful. The balance sheet of these students would often see hundreds of pounds spent on product development, tens of pounds on market research yet they wanted to spend thousands of pounds on a website! In some cases that is over 50% of a students entire investment into their business would be on their website, for the majority of retail businesses created at university this is an unnecessary and costly mistake. No imagine if 45% of that budget could be reallocated to (i) further product development (ii) additional market research – with the website/online sales platform accounting only for 5-10% of the businesses start up costs. Therefore, my challenge here is to create a eCommerce website on a shoe string budget – that is to make a fully functioning eCommerce website for just £75!

My last post on the project (20th April – Progress Update: CampusBoard) had seen me select name and product for my fictional eCommerce business – Mulberry Silk Pillowcase – then purchase the domain name (www.mulberrysilkpillocase.com) from a domain registers for £11.99. Then I moved to buy hosting for £2.49 per month – giving the start up costs so far as £14.48. The final step in my last update was to install WordPress, which is free, using their “Famous 5 Minute Install” – setting up a basic home page, with a little bit of content on it about my business.

Today we are going to look at how I developed this basic and standard WordPress theme into a fully functioning eCommerce website. The next step was to spend a little bit more of my £75.00 budget on purchasing a predesigned, WooCommerce compatible, WordPress theme. As mentioned before in this blog there are many free themes on WordPress that can be utilised to create your store, however, I think the price is reflected in the quality of the website designs and often customers can identify these websites as a WordPress template rather than your own store. This is a shame as for £30 – £50 you can get some outstanding templates that will look completely professional and standalone from the WordPress backend. After spending a good deal of time searching through different WordPress themes, all of which can be done by searching on Google, I decided that the Munditia Premium Coding Theme would most aptly reflect the general feel of the business. The cost price of this WooCommerce integrated theme was $60.00 or £36.89 – giving the total price spent on creating my eCommerce website as £51.37.

The process itself of purchasing a new theme and then uploading it to WordPress is quite simple. Firstly, pay for and download the theme of your choice onto your laptop then upload that to the WordPress Themes in your admin panel. You will then be able to select that theme as your theme of choice for your website. However, that really is the start of the process. Next, you will need to integrate all the compatible Plugins that the purchased theme specifies as necessary – primarily these Plugins will include WooCommerce, YITH WooCommerce Wishlist, WordPress SEO, Google XML Sitemaps, Contact Form 7, Broken Link Checker as well as others – that will facilitate the functionality of your website.

It is crucial to approach the downloaded theme as a paint-by-numbers canvas for you to build your website upon, so while the major structures of the website (number of partitions, element and widget location, website dynamics etc.) have been fixed for you there is still a great deal that you can edit to your own specifications. You don’t need to have a strong grasp of HTML to be able to achieve this, nor do you need to pay someone else to do it for you – read up, watch Youtube videos and ask for peoples advice in the multiple WordPress forums on the internet. To achieve the feel of the website that I wanted for my fictional product I started altering a number of the aspects of the original website – including changing theme colours from red to pink, altering the widget location and specification, removing aspects of the website I didn’t like (for example a pop up help box).

Of course all the changes thematically that you make on the website are intrinsically tied in to the customer journey that you wish to build for customers. Therefore, ascetic improvements must be in keeping with structural requirements that you have set out. For me, keeping a website simple is the key to success. The header menu denotes this sentiment, simply stating: Home, Shop, Benefits and About Us/Contact – with my customer journey always focused on ensuring that customers engage with shop, while being reassured by (i) the businesses credentials (About Us/Contact) and (ii) the benefit of the product (Home/Benefits).

The content, or copy as it is know, of your website is also an important factor in ensuring that your website and brand aline. You should both mirror your product and play to your target customer. I thought very carefully about the copy I wished to use on the website, knowing from my research that Silk Pillowcases tend to be bought by women as a luxury beauty product rather than an aid to more restful sleep. I hope that by reflecting and understanding the buyers motivation, communicated back to the customer through the content used on the website, will help improve potential sales. Moreover, to help gain these sales in the first place I would strongly suggest that every eCommerce website should run a blog as (i) it keeps your website looking fresh, updating regular clients to new developments (ii) helps increase traffic through the effect of the long search tail (Google it!) and (iii) makes you look like an authority in the field that you are selling within. Fulfilling this on the Silk Pillowcase website is the Silk Pillowcase Blog, in which I have already written three 300 – 800 word, original, quality posts (Types of Silk, Yuki Tsumugi Silk & Mulberry Silk) – that are the optimum types of post that you should be looking to upload.

Now that I have a fully functioning theme, with some good relevant content the next step will be to get the website there on a visual level – ensuring the all the images, page layouts and the dynamics of the website point towards my transaction goal. I would also need to begin to track the engagement new clients have on the website to understand how to continue to develop the website to best suit my target audience. I will explain how to do all of this in my next “eCommerce website on shoestring” post. Here at MGR Music Tuition this week has gone really well, launching Drum Lessons Bristol, Piano Lessons St Albans and Singing Lessons Aberdeen websites. It has been great to continue to expand the business both into new areas, such as St Albans, as well as tripling up in Bristol and Aberdeen with a third instrument on offer.

Posted under Clothing Companies, eCommerce Website On A Shoe String, New Project, SEiR

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on June 13, 2014

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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

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Week Ten

Enter the Dragon! This week was all about Doug Richard’s From The Dragon’s Mouth all day workshop held in the Great Hall on the Friday. Packed with out will around 100 students that signed up for the Guild’s lead event for their new entrepreneurial program Ignite Doug’s talk was first class. Taking students through the 10 questions that you need to ask yourself when setting up a business Doug analysed the students business ideas as we went making for an entertaining, if not a little daunting afternoon!

Here are the 10 questions Doug set – can you answer them for your business idea?

1. What do we do that people need or want? Are you solving a problem or addressing a need?
2. Who is our customer? Try to be as specific as you can…
3. How do customers find out about our products?
4. What distribution channels should we consider?
5. How much is it worth to the customer?
6. What pricing model should we choose?
7. What kind of relationship do we want with our customers? This is a key question – multiple shallow relationships or fewer deeper ones?
8. Who are we up against?
9. What do we have in common with our industry?
10. What must we be good at? Is there an absolute key skill or service we must be able to do well in order to succeed?

Ignite’s Launch Event!

An excellent and opener to the amazing work The Guild will start with student entrepreneurs at the university. I also had the pleasure of meeting Anne Mari Morris, MP for Newton Abbot, to discuss along with 15 other entrepreneurs how the government can aid small businesses and entrepreneurial young people. Indeed, Morris is actively interested in small businesses, co-chairing the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Micro Businesses. An excellent chance for Exeter students to engage directly with elected members of the government on a whole range of issues. Arising from the meeting was a unanimous determination to get entrepreneurship to the minds of young people at college, encouraging them to enter university with business ideas rather than waiting to finish their degree to come up with ideas!

Anne Marie Morris – Newton Abbot MP

It was also great to see Ed Vickers of Jollie Goods at the meeting, one of the University of Exeter’s top social entrepreneurs. During his first year biology student Ed set up a “wear a pair, share a pair” social enterprise helping provide socks for homeless people. Having worked in homeless shelters in London Ed realised that foot hygiene was something that was essential for living rough on England’s streets, yet many homeless people used their money to buy food rather than look after their feet. With this as his mission Ed received an Innovation Centre grant to help develop his product, business model and marketing strategy. I am proud to say they are now selling strongly throughout the UK, helping Ed to deliver fresh pairs of socks to homeless people across the nation!

Jollie Socks!

Here at MGR Music Tuition LTD things moved along nicely this week, with application for teachers on the Guitar Lessons Bath and Singing Lessons Newcastle websites. While the Guitar Lessons Northampton website was finished and I have been busy adding the final touches to the national website! It will be an exciting few months. I also have the exciting news that I will be going full time in early June to work on MGR Music Tuition! If you have a business idea before then make sure you drop me a line at !

Posted under Anne Marie Morris MP, Ignite, Jollie Goods, SEiR, SoundSYNK

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 10, 2013

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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 Eight

Student business of the week was certainly Jamie Wild Sculptures established by third year business management student Jamie Wild! A passionate artist Jamie started designing sculptures during his A Levels before being asked to produce commission pieces for friends and family. As the business grew the projects got lager, now Jamie is aiming to go part-time post graduation to pursue his hobby!

Crashing Boar – Jamie Wild Sculpture

I also met with Rishabh who had an innovative idea within the city distribution networks, combining green power with time-sharing driving – I will keep you updated when we can release more info, but very exciting! Here up at the Innovation Centre I occasionally meet Exeter alumni, this time former music student Chris dropped in to gather advice on his now wedding composition business idea – a cracking concept we discussed profiling his client and where to find there. Quickly we found that for a personalised organ composition for a wedding we are talking about clients in the top 5% of most lavish wedding ceremonies in the UK, therefore rather than accessing these clients through wedding trade fairs where the chances of meeting a client are too small we used a pivot technique to focus Chris’s business on building relationships with high-end wedding planners who might be interested in providing this additional service.

Here at MGR Music things have been bubbling along nicely, hiring a new teacher in Sheffield while expanding into Oxford and Hull with new guitar websites! I now have over 45 websites covering almost every city in the UK and things are really starting to hot up as more teachers are signed up! Exciting times!

Posted under Guitar Lessons London, Jamie Wild Sculptures, MGR Music, SEiR

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on February 24, 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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Introduction!

Hello, my name is Matthew Rusk and I am this academic year’s Student Entrepreneur in Residence working with Exeter university students who have business ideas! I started a business while studying history at Exeter (2009 – 2012) and am here to help develop, support and offer advice on your business ideas. I also work with current students who run businesses turning over thousands of pounds a year while at university – you will find out more about them in my blog – helping to develop these businesses into the next big thing. I have been asked to write a blog this term so you can find out more about what entrepreneurial Exeter students are getting up to, explain how you can develop your business ideas and let you experience the day to day highs and lows that running my business, MGR Music Tuition LTD, brings! Enjoy!

If you have any questions or would like to meet up to talk about your business ideas email me at . You can also read more about the back story to my business on the Career Zone and Alumni websites. In addition you can also check out more information about other students business right here at the uni at University of Exeter Student Businesses or here at the Career Zone Success Stories.

Matthew Rusk – Student Entrepreneur in Residence

Posted under SEiR

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on January 1, 2013

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