Guest Blog Post from Sonny Charles, a participant on the IAD’s Business and Enterprise Training
If you want to become lawyer, you get some work experience in solicitor’s office, if you want to be a doctor, you volunteer in a hospital, but where are the best places to gain practical experience for the next generation of entrepreneurs in Edinburgh?
My first taste of practical entrepreneurship came in the form of Young Enterprise, an absolute must for any aspiring British school students. This taught me the basics of business. With a few national awards under our belt, my team was certain that our idea was going to make us all overnight millionaires. Upon starting at Edinburgh University I started to investigate what they offered. With Edinburgh being one of the most entrepreneurial universities in the UK, I was not disappointed. I soon discovered Launch.ed, a business support service for students. I’ve continued to work with them for the past 4 years, receiving feedback for any ideas I’m working on, being nudged in the direction of advantageous competitions and events. If you are a university student with a great idea, finding your business support service is an absolute must.
Launch.ed was also kind enough to point me in the direction of the Edinburgh University’s Institute for Academic Development. The IAD run numerous intensive, educational, business workshops, from business plans to intellectual property. These workshops condense information that would take days of struggling through and allow you to absorb in just a few hours.
The various Edinburgh University business services interlink nicely, the likes of the E-Club and Informatics Ventures, allow you access to networking events and competitions. But where do you turn to and what do you do once you’re out and about in the big bad world?
If you’re under 25 then Youth Business Scotland is a must, they can offer access to grants, low interest loans and networking. For anyone over 25, Scottish Enterprise can offer a similar service. The likes of Espark and Starter for 6 offer intensive business accelerator programmes that have produced successful start-ups by the dozen, with entrepreneurs at their helm’s that may just play a key role in the future of the Scottish economy.
For hands on practical experience internships, start-ups are king. They may not pay the bills but you can learn timeless lessons and immerse yourself in the start-up culture. Interning with Desk Union has allowed me not surround myself with not just one start-up but several. Desk Union is located in Silicon Walk, at the top of Leith Walk, an office space that also hosts Espark alumni Mallzee and Appointedd. Advice and guidance from Victoria, Desk Union’s CEO and founder, who was voted as one of the 2013 young entrepreneurs to watch, has allowed me to hone my ideas and guide me in the right direction.
As part of global entrepreneurship week, Edinburgh has hosted 3 Day Start-up and the Start Up Summit, these types of events are perfect for networking and testing the water with ideas, seek them out.
So what have I learned on my journey so far? Networking is key, if you don’t know the right people get out there and meet them. You will come up against barriers, you just have to find a way around, over or through them. And finally, the only person who can do something about your idea is you, so close Facebook, shut down Youtube, put down your phone and get started.
The IAD are running a ‘Networking for Success’ workshop.
The IAD and Launch.ed are running the Acceleration Pipeline Workshop Series from Jan and Feb 2014: a five-part workshop series, to help you learn how to bring your business idea to market.
Visit http://www.ed.ac.uk/iad/enterprise to find out about these courses.