How to build a business

For the entrepreneurial-minded among us, Cardiff University Enterprise is ready to help. They strive to support those who have a business idea but need advice and funding to start it up, or those to want to build their confidence and entrepreneurship in the workplace. Several workshops are provided throughout the year, as well as competitions and expert advice for sector-specific mentors. Their main aim is to build the confidence of entrepreneurial students so that they can enter a competitive workplace or start their own business and assert original ideas to make a difference.

One of the ways students can get help for their ideas is through Ignite, Enterprise’s four-day programme from 19th-22nd February, which provides workshops, guest speakers and a test-trade challenge. It uses the model of a business start-up to help participants develop their enterprise skills, including team working, creative thinking, decision-making and ways of pitching and presenting an idea. Students then participate in a 40-hour business challenge in which they will pitch for seed money in a Welsh Dragons Den, and go into Cardiff city centre putting their new skills to the test with negotiation and selling techniques. Their goal is to develop and implement their business idea from scratch, and any profit they make is available for them to keep. Students can apply for the Ignite programme by filling out the application form on the website

Another event Cardiff University Enterprise are holding is Concept, a four-day programme focused on advertising, from 30th March-2nd April. Every year a large corporation get involved such as Cineworld and Capital FM Wales, and this year it is Santander. Participants are tasked with creating an advertising campaign to suit the brief they are provided with, which will be pitched to a team of marketing professionals. The winning team will have their campaign used around Cardiff. All students and recent graduates (within the last five years) are able to apply, and it is open to those from all subject areas. Apply by completing the application form on their website

Spark is a competition to win funding for a business idea, with three categories for entry staggered according to the individual’s business level. The Idea level is for those with an idea without a structure so the entry form is only one page, which is all the detail needed to enter. The first prize is £1000 for the best business idea and second prize is £750. A two-minute video must also be submitted with the application that details the ideas of the plans, which will be separately judged for the chance to win £250. The Plan category is for those with an idea that includes their own market research, and possibly some testing of the idea or product. The winner will receive £2000 and the runner-up £1000 to spend on their business. The third category is the Ventures category, aimed at those who have already starting running a business or even freelancing. Their prize money is £3000 and the runner-up receives £2000. Winners from all categories receive on-going support, as well as a business mentor for a year, developmental funds, free office space for technology based ideas and the Plan and Ventures category winners get the opportunity to be entered to win the Santander Universities Award, with winners receiving a share of £40,000. The deadline for applications is Friday 13th March, and all three application forms can be found at

They also offer a mentoring programme for new start-ups that offers support and potentially financial assistance. The mentors could be Cardiff University alumni or role models from a relevant sector. Mentors aim at establishing viable ideas and building confidence and skills within students, as well as providing their unique expert knowledge. Businesses could be offered up to £1500 that could be used for marketing, product design and prototyping, and anything else that will develop the business or idea. Likewise mentors are offered up to £1000 for their expertise. Either mentors or mentees can register their interest to get involved by emailing

The 1-2-1 business advice drop-in sessions offer students the opportunity to brain storm their ideas with an experienced business adviser who knows what works and how to achieve success. This could be for students with only a small idea to those that are struggling to run their business. They also have links to a range of specialist external advisers such as accountants, intellectual property experts and marketing and business mentors who will be able to lend their knowledge to benefit your business or idea. These drop-in sessions run every Wednesday from 11am-2pm and to book an appointment, email with details on the issues you are facing and what kind of help you need.

Their next event will be a ‘Pitch and Present’ workshop on 11th February from 6-8pm on the fourth floor of the Students Union. It focuses on developing presentation skills that would be useful not only in pitching a business idea, but also in job interviews, defending dissertations and project reporting. Vital tips on how to deal with presentation anxiety will also be taught, which will come in useful when pitching your ideas to a panel of judges during the workshop. They will be able to offer advice and will give a prize to the team or individual with the best presentation, so you can test your new skills and potentially witness their advantage.

They have continued workshops throughout the coming months that will build skills for anyone who wants to start a business, build confidence in the workplace or just add some new skills training to their CV. All of their workshops have limited places so book yourself onto them from the page

Some examples of success stories that have used Cardiff University Enterprise are Allie Lawson and Jack Williams, who came up with the idea for the clothing brand ‘Elsie and Arthur’ after establishing their first business ‘StudentReads’ for selling used textbooks through a website. They originally tried to fund their new business idea themselves, but quickly found that they needed extra support which they got through the Start-up Loans scheme. They started their business during their degree in May 2013 and are still going strong, with plans to start up high street pop-up shops in cities such as Bristol and Plymouth.

John Penketh has started his own letting agency business ‘My House Mate’ and has been set up in the launch box area of the Students Union during Refreshers week. His idea first started when he felt his Engineering degree was not going to plan, and he attended some workshops provided by the Cardiff University Enterprise which provided invaluable networking contacts that gave him his original idea of a café. However, after trade-testing his idea on a stall at the Christmas market he decided that a letting agency was the way to go – especially since he already owned the student house he was living in and acting as a landlord. He previously participated in one of the ‘Concept’ four-day programmes which used Capital FM Wales to provide a brief that each team had to create an advertising campaign to fulfil, and John’s team were picked as the winners. He now attends as many workshops as he can and pitched his idea to Cardiff University Enterprise successfully to get the launch box space during Refreshers week.

After speaking to the people at Cardiff University Enterprise, it is clear that their main goal is to build confidence in pupils so that they can either start up a business idea with all the skills it takes to accomplish success, or enter a work environment with the ability to think innovatively and confidently assert their ideas to their superiors. All their workshops provide free training in specialised areas and offer opportunities that can enhance any CV. For the business-minded among us, the prospects for funding an idea can be a really big help, especially considering the financial restrictions most students suffer. Their ability to provide free office space is also a great help for new businesses without the funds to rent a space. So if you have an idea, want to strengthen your CV or build your confidence in the workplace seek to get involved with the events Cardiff University Enterprise produce.

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