Recently the business society organised an annual event where an Exeter team of entrepreneurs came down from main Streatham campus to help university students create their vision and possible fund their start-ups and business projects. I was one of the students who met with David Solomides and Emily Davies to try and turn my idea into a reality. It was a very new experience for me because with all our academic abilities and essay writing, we do not often have the chance to really think about starting our own business and even with an idea backed by credible research there is normally one major problem for all entrepreneurs and that is funding.
Funding is an even more impossible thought for students, most of us struggle to afford going out and sometimes our weekly shop includes purchasing an array of pot noodles in an attempt to save towards the end of term, so let alone finding possible thousands of pounds in capital. There’s only so much we can find down the sofa. This is where the Exeter start-up organisation can help, if an idea has potential, the organisation can help find loans, grants or try and connect them to a wider alumni group, organisations or students who could possibly invest, the possibilities are endless, so don’t be discouraged by funding at the beginning, always try and maximise the potential. In general, the meeting with David went well, I presented my idea with research of current competitors and their price range, the current market, my target market/audience and total capital at disposal, but what was missing? Two essential elements; the relationship between target market and demand, and my business plan.
Businesses can often analyse the level of demand by the level of competition, if for example there were a lot of restaurants and pubs opening in Falmouth (which there are) and if they stay open, then this is a strong indicator that there is consistent demand in that area, and therefore you have established a good premise to also open up a restaurant/pub in the area. This is exactly what I did for my fast food start-up idea, I identified the competition and demand but I didn’t crucially ask students what alternatives they would like, I would be pushing my choice of food instead of asking students what alternatives they would like that isn’t already offered, and therefore creating unique selling points.
The second is probably the most important element of any business idea, the business plan, no one is going to take you seriously without it, banks or investors aren’t going fund any business projects. It’s not only for other people to take you seriously but it’s also for you to take yourself seriously. You’re not really serious about a business project if you can’t be bothered to write one.
Have I after all that talk, no, but if I really believe in the idea then I have no excuse. However, we do need to encourage more students (not just Falmouth and Exeter) to take the first steps in starting their own business because it helps to realise the full potential of students and it does really help Cornwall’s economy. We need them to create new jobs, new infrastructures, better education and new developments and hopefully remove Cornwall’s status of being the poorest County in the UK. This feeds in one of my next articles where I look at the consequence of Brexit on Cornwall’s economy.