New Entrepreneurship society at Birmingham City University paves the way for budding entrepreneurs
Birmingham City University (BCU) is paving the way to success for creative young people with brilliant business ideas through its newly-formed Entrepreneurship Society. With the aim of ‘encouraging, promoting and supporting enterprise and entrepreneurship at BCU and beyond’, the society is steadily growing and attracting members from all backgrounds and expertise. The BIP talked to founder and president of the Society, Roland Ruhumuriza to find out how budding entrepreneurs are benefiting from the group.
Tell us about the BCU Entrepreneurship Society and its aims
The Entrepreneurship Society is a newly-formed group at Birmingham City University, which started at the beginning of the current academic year (October 2010). It is open to all BCU students who are interested in starting their own businesses or developing their entrepreneurial skills. We also welcome BCU alumni, staff and associate members.
The aim of the Society is to help members network, engage and collaborate with successful entrepreneurs, get professional direction, guidance and practical advice on starting and running successful businesses.
How did you become involved in the Society?
As long as I have studied at BCU, I’ve always had various business ideas and a real hunger to start my own business. I realised that there were many more people at the university who were also enthusiastic to learn more about what it takes to start their own business. So I started the society in October 2010 to gather like-minded people together to share ideas and collaborate.
As president of the Society, I have also become involved in the Student Academic Partnership Scheme – a university initiative program to develop a learning community through student and academic partnerships. Working alongside the Business School Associate Dean Paul Bowker, I am evaluating the current enterprise and entrepreneurship opportunities within the curriculum, as well as promoting the Society to wider academic partners.
What kinds of people are involved in the society?
We are a strong, growing community made up of students, staff and alumni from various university departments, as well as associates from different backgrounds – all with a keen interest to learn and develop the necessary skills to start and grow our own businesses. Some members have already started their own businesses, many are looking into doing so and others want to uncover the entrepreneurial skills in themselves. Many members are hoping to use their skills in areas like IT, design, accounting, marketing, photography and their professional experience to assist others and collaborate on projects.
How does the Society help people who want to become entrepreneurs?
We are still in the early stages of the Society; however we have already established a spirit of collaboration between members. Our objectives include running various practical workshops for generating business ideas, inviting successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople to speak to the group and develop a network between the society and businesses in the Midlands. We are also working on developing a scheme that will help secure more funding as well as provide more practical and legal support to members.
What kind of support is out there for members and other budding entrepreneurs?
As well as the networking opportunities, idea generation events and practical workshops run by the society, there are a number of programs at Birmingham City University such as SPEED (a placement program funded by the European Regional Development Fund via Advantage West Midlands) and BSEEN (Birmingham Skills for Enterprise and Employability Network), which offer advice, guidance, practical opportunities and experience and financial support to students and graduates keen to establish their own enterprises.
Are you finding more people taking an interest in the Society and in starting their own enterprises?
With the increased competition in the jobs market, many people are looking into the possibility of becoming self-employed or improving the way they work; starting their own business or becoming freelance. Established businesses, on the other hand, are keen to cut their overheads so rather than employing and bring work in-house, many are outsourcing their work to freelancers. This is creating a need within the market for self-employed individuals, which is especially evident in the IT and advertising industries.
Does the Society have any support from other organisations in terms of offering business advice and experience to members?
We are in touch with various organisations and are seeking to establish a closer relationship with them. Some of these organisations will be providing our members with one-to-one mentoring, legal guidance, financial assistance and business idea evaluation. We obviously welcome other organisations that would be willing to offer their business experience as well as sponsorship for some of our current and future projects.
How feasible is it for young people to set up their own businesses, considering the current economic climate?
I believe that entrepreneurship is not just about starting businesses, it is a way of thinking and a way of working. In the current climate, employers worldwide are interested in graduates with entrepreneurial mindsets, who will use their skills to benefit their employer’s business. Entrepreneurs should be innovative, creative, strategic and pragmatic, but these qualities should not be restricted to just those who aim to start their own enterprises.
Some of the greatest business ideas and enterprises that have changed people’s lives and have thrived through recent economic times like Google, Facebook and Glasses Direct are the products of young entrepreneurs. Those young people with viable business ideas should be encouraged and supported in pursuing them.
Is the West Midlands a good place for entrepreneurs to consider starting out?
I think the West Midlands is a thriving and exciting business location. Being centrally located with highly-developed transport links, supply chains and a professional service network, it’s the prime location for entrepreneurs. The West Midlands continues to experience a lot of business development and attracts interest from all over the world. Business opportunities here are plentiful and the possibility of success for entrepreneurs is high in my opinion.
What ambitions do you have for the future?
My ambition is to set up my own businesses and to help many others become entrepreneurial along the way. I have increasingly become interested in Social Enterprises and I love the idea of businesses putting social purposes at the heart of what they do. I would like to set up and encourage many entrepreneurs to undertake a social enterprise approach to doing business, both here in the West Midlands and definitely in my home country Rwanda.
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