Yes, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and becoming more and more sophisticated and achieved by people than probably ever before. It’s a refreshing thought especially for us smaller businesses beavering away to get to our ultimate utopia, whatever that may be. Be reassured there are lights at the end of those sometimes long, dark tunnels!
My love of entrepreneurship was reignited last week when I was very kindly invited to attend the Blueprint Enterprise Challenge Awards Ceremony at Durham University.
This was the climax of many of weeks of hard work by students in satisfying the various parts of the challenge; idea generation, business planning and finally a presentation to a number of leading business individuals from development networks, the university and Santander, the Blueprint Challenge’s generous supporter. The finalists were whittled down to just 9 (3 from each challenge), plus a few ‘wildcards’ specifically selected by the panel of judges to compete in the Competition Final, with the winners and runners up for 2016 being announced last week.
The challenge is organised by colleagues within the University Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre. Now in its 14th year, it continues to provide a launch-pad for some very exciting new business start-ups – and my goodness were they exciting! The Blueprint Challenge nurtures, develops and recognises entrepreneurial talents and achievements of the University’s students from any year – so some students start their business in their first year and leave university having set up a viable working business by the time they finish their degree.
Blueprint not only promotes entrepreneurial activity at Durham University, but has also started to be embraced by associated local economies, the intention of which is to try to ensure that the innovative work that is born out of the university environment continues within the North East benefiting the local or regional economies.
In my opinion, the UK (although not exclusively) economy need to change. No longer can we call ourselves children of the industrial revolution. Things have changed, the way businesses perform have changed and the economic landscape is not recognisable versus events 30 years ago (although certain trends do still seem to be reminiscent!).
I have to admit that I was totally blown away by the calibre of the ideas, plans and determination of this group of people. The atmosphere in the room was one of total support for each other (although you knew inside they were desperately hoping their business name would be called as a winner), the language used by the guest speakers (a selection of previous winners and/or competitors) was truly inspirational and exactly what the rest of the room needed to hear. “Persevere & don’t give up” from Gillian McLeod of Kytol still studying at Durham Uni. “Corporate will be there in 2 or 3 years anyway, even if you decide that your business isn’t for you” – “it’s not all about the corporate salary, it’s about having your passion” – “start now, just get started” from Andrew Stephenson, the creator of the very successful Weekend Box for kids.
The finalists demonstrated their passion, innovation and dedication in making their business happen and will undoubtedly go on to provide a positive contribution to the performance of the UK economy, along with many others I am sure.
The overall winner on the day was a company called ‘Knowt’, made up of 3 highly inspirational individuals. Their business was designed to address document creation for multimedia rich content for enterprise and personal use. Highly commended for their detailed and confidently presented business plan, these gents are definitely ones to watch for the future.
I guess what I loved about the few hours I spent with these entrepreneurial drivers was that they hadn’t been tainted by the world as perhaps some of us older adults have been. Their world was one of dreams, ambition and knowledge that one day it would happen for them. I won’t deny, I left the room that day on a complete high, with excitement and enthusiasm for my own journey and my own dreams; thinking what might just be if you just keep on moving forward…..