University of Sheffield Enterprise – Making Things and Ideas Happen

07 Aug University of Sheffield Enterprise – Making Things and Ideas Happen

“Starting my own business was something I never imagined I would be able to do. Thanks to the University of Sheffield Enterprise, I’ve recently moved to bigger premises and have recruited my second member of staff!”

Faye Savory, founder of BearHugs

University of Sheffield graduate Faye Savory, founder of BearHugs, a growing online company offering personalised ‘hug in a box’ gift hampers, is just one of dozens of students each year to get their business ventures off the ground following help from University of Sheffield Enterprise (USE). 

Sat in the heart of the University’s sprawling campus, the quirky, bright orange building, which houses USE, is a hub for students and graduates alike.

Innovative ideas, creative solutions to real world problems and entrepreneurialism are all born here. Students and graduates of the University of Sheffield can harness professional advice, skills and facilities to further their entrepreneurial dream or enhance their career.

And in a competitive job market, the University of Sheffield is proud to be one of the first UK universities to open its doors to business support to any of its graduates – no matter how long after they’ve left university.

Andrew Morgan, from Exyo, a company which creates innovative walking frames to help people with conditions like cerebral palsy walk on rough terrain, said USE was pivotal in helping him get his business up and running.

“If USE was not here, I don’t think we would still be around,” he said. “The support has been invaluable to us.”

Exyo, which stands for express yourself, was launched by engineering students Andrew, Christopher Hughes and Jonathan Charlesworth after they were asked to design a medical device for a young boy with disabilities as part of their university course.

The project inspired them to develop their idea with a view to helping people across the world address the problems caused by disability.

They found most walking frames are only suitable for indoor therapeutic use, which results in many users having trouble accessing areas of rough terrain.

Exyo received significant help from USE, particularly in successfully securing business grants to progress their company, and use the co-working space as their office.

Sara Pates, Head of USE said enterprise is about taking advantage of opportunities to bring about changes.

Enterprise is having ideas and doing something about them; enterprise is making ideas happen – that’s our motto,” she said.

“Getting involved in enterprising activities is a great way to gain new skills and meet new people and provides employers with evidence of the sort of skills that will make you stand out from the crowd. And you may strike lucky with a great business idea!

“And if you fancy being your own boss, we help you get creative and find your perfect business idea.”

Inside the enterprise building is a spider’s web of rooms with different offerings. Meeting rooms, brainstorming rooms, incubator space and co-working areas – where enthusiastic young entrepreneurs can bounce ideas off one another and trade their skills and expertise with each other – are all available.

One to one business coaching from dedicated mentors, professional advice, seed funding support and talks from special guests like accountants and IP lawyers are also on offer.

Through providing free office space, funding, and advice, USE can help students and graduates get their ideas in flight, supporting individuals to take their business from concept to a sustainable company.

Scott Woodley, is the co-founder of Tutora, another USE success story. The company connects families across the UK with the best private tutors for their children.

“USE is an incredible initiative which was fundamental in allowing us to create a scalable business,” said Scott. “The support provided is outstanding.”

As well as helping students get their business ventures off the ground, the University of Sheffield is thinking ahead to exciting future opportunities for students – preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist and using technologies that have not yet been invented, in order to solve problems that we don’t know are problems yet.

“The importance of supporting student enterprise has become a fundamental part of the student experience,” said Sara.

“We need our students and graduates to be enterprising: able to spot and respond to opportunities by having ideas, and have the skills and confidence to do something about them. Enterprise education develops students’ capability to succeed in being enquiring, deep learners, and contributes to making them successful Sheffield graduates, equipped to face the challenges of their future careers.”

USE also offers support to academics at the University of Sheffield to develop the enterprising curriculum in whatever subject they teach. And any second or third year student can sign up to Making Ideas Happen, a 20-credit enterprise module to give an introduction to the world of enterprise, entrepreneurship and innovation. The module challenges students to use their newly acquired knowledge to come up with sustainable social enterprise solutions to ‘real-world’ problems.

Enterprising students at the University of Sheffield working on solving real world issues have come up with scores of creative designs through their university studies.

One idea is a groundbreaking, light-weight and low cost speech aid in the form of a glove, which is already helping to transform the lives of people with communication difficulties.

Created by a trio of international graduates, the glove works by converting simple finger movements into gestures which control speech through a synthesised voice. The user simply wears the glove and moves their fingers in order to articulate more than 1,000 words or commands.

Grandfather William Broad, who was left unable to talk after suffering a stroke was once again able to communicate with his loved ones after trialling the glove.

One of the designers, Mohanna Hossein said: “It is so rewarding and such a great feeling to see someone communicate with their family after such a long time.”

This year engineering students created an audio amplifier to help a Parkinson’s sufferer communicate.

Ged Taylor said the device had helped him to be heard by his family and friends. And the design received support from Parkinson’s UK.

USE also runs a whole programme of support aimed at international students whilst they are still studying.

Sara explained: “Graduate Entrepreneur VISAs are very competitive. We support our international students to find, develop and validate an idea giving them the best possible chance of being successful.”

USE case studies

Faye Savory –BearHugs

“BearHugs is going from strength to strength and I’m really grateful to USE for the support it has given me to help my business get to this stage.”

University of Sheffield graduate Faye Savory is the founder of BearHugs, a growing online company which offers personalised ‘hug in a box’ gift hampers and is grateful for the support she received from USE to get her business idea up and running.

The idea for BearHugs came after Faye, who studied Speech and Language Therapy at the University, was diagnosed with Lyme Disease at the age of 23 leaving her housebound and having to quit her job as a Paediatric Speech and Language Therapist.

Receiving a thoughtful gift in the post from a friend inspired her business idea of sending ‘hugs in boxes,’ and in 2015 BearHugs was launched.

Faye initially used USE’s co-working space before moving to the Workstation in Sheffield and still receives support from the University’s start-up coaches.

Since launching BearHugs, as well as moving into bigger premises to accommodate her growing business, Faye has been awarded a Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Award and aims to support and create opportunities for people living with chronic illness.

Scott Woodley – Tutora 

“My time at the University of Sheffield has been a huge help in allowing us to grow the business. Not only were we welcomed at the University’s Enterprise Zone, which supported us when we were a fledgling businesses, I’ve also been able to use my Masters in Law to great effect as I’ve trodden the tricky path of setting up a company.”

Sheffield-based Tutora was co-founded by University of Sheffield graduate Scott Woodley, a former teacher who wanted to find a solution to the difficulties parents face in trying to find a tutor for their children.

The company, which was initially based in the USE co-working space, raised £850,000 in two crowdfunding initiatives allowing the business to begin creating jobs and scaling rapidly.

This year it was named the third largest tuition company in the UK with more than 7,000 tutors, providing thousands of lessons to students every week.

The company has outgrown the co-working space at USE but is still based in Sheffield in the Workstation.

Mihaela Gruia – Research Retold 

“USE has been a huge source of support, providing me with workspace, funding and, most importantly, by matching me with a helpful and motivational mentor, Samantha Deakin. I am grateful for the support and look forward to the next phase of my business journey.” said Mihaela.

Mihaela Gruia discovered a passion for enterprise during her Politics and International Relations degree and took an internship in social enterprise at USE.

In February 2016, after graduation, she launched her own business, Research Retold.

Research Retold is a crowd-powered creative agency that deals with the translation and visual representation of academic research for the purpose of communicating key findings to wider audiences, and accelerating impact opportunities for academics.

Mihaela continues to receive support from USE and has made use of the workspace, funding and support from a dedicated motivational mentor.

Andrew Morgan – Exyo 

“If USE was not here, I don’t think we would still be around. The support has been invaluable to us.”

Exyo, which stands for express yourself, is an up and coming innovative walking frame design company, launched by three graduates from the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The walking frames help people with neurological disorders that cause disability, like cerebral palsy, to be able to walk on rough terrain.

The Exyo team, made up of Christopher Hughes, Andrew Morgan and Jonathan Charlesworth, began their business by designing a medical device for a young boy with disabilities as part of their university course. The project inspired them to develop their idea with a view to helping people across the world address the problems caused by disability.

They found most walking frames are only suitable for indoor therapeutic use, which results in many users having trouble accessing areas of rough terrain.

Exyo received significant help from USE, most significantly successfully securing business grants to progress their company, and use the co-working space as their office.

The start-up coaches

USE has a number of people working in the background who are supporting students to make their dreams become a reality.

Coaches work one-to-one with student entrepreneurs, providing them with tailored support and mentoring.

Whether it’s an exciting tech-start-up or an innovative social enterprise initiative, USE matches every student with the ideal mentor.

Darren Chouings leads startup support for social entrepreneurs at the University of Sheffield. Alongside supporting the development of these businesses, Darren also designs acceleration programmes that support local enterprise and international partner institutions.

 

 

 

Samantha Deakin heads up start-up support for creative and digital entrepreneurs at the University of Sheffield. She coaches high-growth potential tech startups from concept to investment as well as running lean startup and customer development programmes for student and graduate entrepreneurs.

 

 

 

Janet Grant provides one-to-one business support, specialist advice, information and guidance to students and graduates to help them develop start and maintain their own sustainable businesses. Janet also guides and liaises with International graduates who have been accepted and granted a UKBA Graduate Entrepreneurship Visa.

 

 

Why choose USE?

In the 11 years since USE launched it has welcomed hundreds of entrepreneurially-minded individuals hungry for success to achieve their goals.

A whole plethora of business have been supported, from social enterprises to companies which have gone on to build multi-million pound turnovers and exciting, innovative tech start-ups to smaller companies making a big difference to people’s lives like Faye Savory’s BearHugs.

Faye added: “It’s funny to think that something so negative, like being diagnosed with Lyme Disease, was the beginning of something so positive for me.”

 

Further reading: Why Sheffield is such a great place to launch a start-up by Samantha Deakin

No Comments

Post A Comment