Progress Update: The Student Bubble

For the seventh in our progress updates I thought I would catch up with Nick O’Ferrall and Elina Lulle, co-founders of the Student Bubble – a website that draws together and reviews some of the best pubs, clubs and restaurants a university city has to offer to its students! The idea came to Nick in January 2014 when he saw an opportunity to share all those local gems that Exeter has to offer that new students, as well as current student, unaware of the likes of The Hour Glass, Double Locks and The Real Food Store (rather than The Ram, Imperial and Costa Coffee!). Combining open reviews with carefully selected “local gems”, days out and the ultimate University of Exeter Bucket List the Student Bubble has quickly grown in popularity amongst the student population.

Student Bubble

Want things to do in Exeter? Student Bubble has it covered!

After Nick’s initial idea he managed to get Elina onboard to help with the website design, an example of a great bit of entrepreneurial pragmatism: if you are starting an online business rather than paying thousands of pounds for website design inspire a computer science to get involved in the project and form a business, utilising both of your unique skill sets, with them. With Elina onboard the website went live in March 2014, using the forum to talk to students directly and gain feedback for the businesses on the website. Moving forward the pair are looking to expand their website to cover other universities across the nation as well as starting to monetise it. In terms of the former they are starting to look for student brand managers at each university as well beginning research local businesses within the cities that they are looking to expand into. It will be a make or break 12 months for the Student Bubble to see if they can take a good idea and turn it into a something that (i) can be duplicated for other cities around the UK and (ii) monetise it – if anyone can do it then it will be these two!

In terms of my week here at MGR Music I was really excited to take on two new teachers for the Singing Lessons Swansea and Singing Lessons Hull websites, as well as creating Piano Lessons Newcastle as new build website. I am still certainly in the process of expanding as rapidly as I can across the UK, however, this inevitably causes certain growing pains – including (i) not being able to take on teachers fast enough to fulfil all enquiries and (ii) as things ramp up increasingly my time & energy is put into managing the admin for the current business rather than driving it forward. Getting the right balance is crucial to avoid taking two steps forward and one step back each month, but driving a business forward is certainly the most fun thing I have ever done!

Posted under Progress Update, Student Businesses, The Student Bubble

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on April 18, 2014

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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

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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 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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Week Five

This week started with a conference held up at the Innovation Centre to promote one of the best scholarship courses I have ever heard of! The Kauffman Scholarship is a fully funded 15-month programme to develop a scalable technology business, with 6 months in the US studying at Harvard, Stanford and MIT – some of top business institutions in the world. Alistair Shepherd, a former Kaufmann Scholar and current business owner of Saberr, was our keynotes speaker inspiring 12 final year students to go on and apply! You can still apply for this fantastic opportunity, as well as find our more about the scholarship, here (closing date 22 February 2013).

Kauffman Scholarship – the best scholarship I have ever heard of!

After talking with BBC Radio Devon on Tuesday I caught up with Jon Mills to talk about his t-shirt business Mammal Swag. The fantastic animal designs, including “the gangsta hippo”, “the chap chimp” and “the shellsuit stag”, all drawn and designed by Jon himself have seen the business take off on campus over the last few months. Regularly on sale in the forum as well as online Mammal Swag will be looking to overcome the challenges of scaling up their operation from a local to national business over the next few months. This is no easy task!

Mammal Swag – clothing that will bite!

I also caught up with Exeter Entrepreneurs Society president Edward Noel who had the great news that the yearly Exeter Apprentice Competition will go head this year as planned! With ten teams of four students being given £100 start up investment each, as well as a month to make as much money as they can, the event is often one of the highlights of Exeter’s entrepreneurial calendar. The competition has seen some great business ideas, from university branded pint glasses that won in the first year to selling risky underwear with Exeter slogans on! To apply to be part of the competition simply get in contact with EES on their Facebook page.

Here at MGR Music I am pleased to let you know we hired another two teachers this week! Oscar Charles, a first year University of Exeter student has accepted the role as the Drum Lessons Exeter teacher. While up in Bristol I have started working with Steph Hodges as the Singing Lessons Bristol singing teacher! This week also saw me try and get in contact with teachers in for the Singing Lessons Cardiff and Guitar Lessons Peterborough websites – having set up a few meetings, we will see how well I have done over the next few weeks! Fingers crossed! I have also hired another student to help write copy for the singing websites – if you are interested in getting involved email me at .

Drum Lessons Exeter

Oscar Charles – our new drum teacher!

Posted under Guitar Lessons London, Kauffman Scholarship, Mammal Swag

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on February 1, 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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