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James in the Driving Seat of our StartUp Britain Bus at Youth Enterprise Live. Image Courtesy of James Eder

Week One: Reaching out to Entrepreneurs of the Future

The first week of the StartUp Britain Bus Tour has been astounding; we’ve met multitudes of incredible youngsters (3,800 to be precise), witnessed some life-changing moments, and exchanged business cards with multi-millionaires.

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    emily smith’s handmade jewellery. Image courtesy of Alice Hogg

    The first week of the StartUp Britain Bus Tour has been astounding; we’ve met multitudes of incredible youngsters (3,800 to be precise), witnessed some life-changing moments, and exchanged business cards with multi-millionaires. We have travelled miles around the UK, reaching students from thirteen to thirty, and colleges and universities from Rugby to Plymouth, and Bristol to London. We’ve also consumed an awful lot of McDonalds.

    We’ve met a huge range of scholars; from those who didn’t have a clue about starting up, to those who were teetering on the brink of taking the plunge, to those with fully-fledged businesses.

    I met one boy in Portsmouth who embodied this whole range. A bright – and edging on the mischievous – chap announced that he was ‘far too young’ to be thinking about starting up, or having a business. However, when asked about how he makes money, it became clear that he makes a living from his hobby of fixing bicycles, and selling them on. When I explained to him that even Richard Branson and Sir Alan Sugar had to start somewhere – it was as if something inside him clicked – he had recognized his entrepreneurial spark, and existing business credentials – offering a service for a fee. Remy Jansons recognized a similar entrepreneurial spark, though slightly less naive fashion at Lewisham College, when a student asked him for a few more goodie bags, so he could ‘sell the books’ – ingenious!

    Students from Highbury College were particularly hot on their media skills, interviewing the team, college staff, and business advisors. They have produced a video which they feel sums up our visit to their college:

    Some students had already recognized their entrepreneurial spirit, like Emily Smith, who we met at Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, producing beautiful handmade jewelry from her pockets. As a mother, a student and an entrepreneur, she came to our bus for advice for the future, happy with the way her business was going in her current situation. Entrepreneur, Neil Barnfather suggested that she identified her market, assess her competition, and consider her strategy. He also suggested some small things she could do to make her business more professional, such as paying a few pounds a month to connect her home phone to her mobile, so she could direct any business calls to a landline number.

    I was taken aback at Highbury College, when a student handed me a business card, for her candle making business, ‘Zoe’s Homemade Scented Candles’. Her website offers 7 different ranges of candle, including Christmas and Halloween collections, and gift wrapped gift sets, using PayPal. With a clearly established lilac branding and a clear determination, Zoe’s scented candles will soon be producing aromas to be enjoyed by multitudes.

    The entrepreneurs and business advisors on board our bus have been just as inspiring – and some of them very fresh out of the boat that is further education.

    Friska Food who joined us at the University of the West of England were drawn together by a passion for fresh and fast food whilst still at university in Bristol in 2009. Will Bentnick of Enternships has been with us at a few stops, and since graduating in 2010, Will has co-founded two social ventures, the Ragged University and Levantine Links. James Eder from StudentBeans joined us in Oxford and at Youth Enterprise Live. After graduating from university, James and his brother Michael set up StudentBeans. Within six months, half of the Birmingham student population had signed up to StudentBeans, it is now the UK’s leading student website. These wonderful people have provided expertise, empathy and relatability to the young people we have made friends with along the way.

    James in the Driving Seat of our StartUp Britain Bus at Youth Enterprise Live. Image Courtesy of James Eder

    Some of our visiting entrepreneurs have commented on how they wished there was a StartUp Bus available to them whilst they were students – in her latest blog, Charlotte Hogg, states that starting her own business ‘has been painful, expensive and often challenging’ and that she would not be such a success ‘if it weren’t for the valuable lessons more established entreprepreneurs in the industry’, and champions our support of the future’s entrepreneurs.

    The bus has brought awareness and guidance to young people around the UK, with style (you should see our bus driver’s reversing skills), and will continue to do so throughout the following week.

    For those who are starting to worry about us, StartUp Britain continues to run 100% capacity, all the way around the country, fired up on adrenaline, coffee and a will to change the world.

    Look out for our next blog post, which poses the question ‘What is an Entrepreneur?’.

    To get a sense of what drives us, check out this Interview with StartUp Brtiain Co-founder Emma Jones and if you have any questions about the Tour please leave them in the comments section below, or e-mail us at emily@startupbritain.co.