Now that the party poppers have been cleared away and the champagne has been drained from glasses, those looking ahead at the coming year might not be particularly cheered by the prospects for 2011. With high unemployment rates and an increasingly competitive job market, many students set to graduate this year will be concerned about what happens next. Other than polishing your CV and rehearsing for interviews, what can you do to enhance your employability? James Pursey, president of university society Fish on Toast, talks to the Wessex Scene about why entrepreneurship may be the way forward.
What exactly does Fish on Toast do?
Fish on Toast is the entrepreneurs’ society at Southampton. Our mission is to engage students in enterprise through the mediums of guest speakers and competitions. So far this year we have presented guest speakers such as Ali Mitchell, the CEO of successful internet business huddle.com, Nathan Ghann and Muzzafa Khan.
We have also recently worked in collaboration with other societies and media departments in creating our very own version of The Apprentice, in which candidates from all over the university battled it out to win £333 and advance onto a regional competition where they can win a paid summer internship with BBC Dragon Doug Richard.
How can getting involved with Fish on Toast help students who are worried about entering a competitive job market?
Many people think that Fish on Toast is about starting up your own business and making billions of pounds … well, that is part of it, but a rapidly growing market is emerging for people to be ‘intrapreneurial’, which means to be entrepreneurial while working for someone else.
In the current economic climate the country is changing, with students struggling to gain employment after graduating, and companies are looking for people who are enterprising and can think outside of the box. In my opinion getting involved with Fish on Toast will increase your employment chances tenfold. Most importantly of all, many of our speakers run companies that employ graduates, so why not cut out the middle man and pitch yourself straight to the CEO of where you want to work?
With the current economic climate, do you think that now is a good time to be starting up a business?
Absolutely, especially as a student. Think of it this way, you are already in a stupid amount of debt, so if you start your own company and it falls flat on its face what have you lost? The country needs people to be enterprising and to create their own wealth – it’s the fastest way to climb out of the recession and all it requires is confidence and a drive to succeed.
One of the key things to know about business is that failure is considered a good thing. If you start up your own business and fail dismally you will learn a million things to do differently the next time. Many investors won’t even consider you unless you have had at least two previous failed businesses!
What have been your experiences and challenges in setting up your own business, Student Hero?
This is my third attempt at creating a successful company. Having had two failures before I was able to learn from my mistakes, which has allowed us to go from an initial idea to a product that is ready to launch in less than eight weeks. Other than feedback from our supporting companies in terms of getting offers confirmed, we haven’t really had many issues.
Student Hero took two pre-existing models and amalgamated them together to create a new innovative business. Promotions companies are huge in Southampton, but discount cards have failed in the past because of a lack of communication between the business, supporting companies and students. Students love to go out and have fun so what better way to keep up communications than organising our own nights out?
A £10 Student Hero card gives students access to the best discounts in the city, as well as exclusive promotions and competitions every year. Our first night out is our launch party in Bedford Place on 10th February, which you can attend if you buy a card before that date.
Lastly, do you have any tips for young entrepreneurs?
There are three things you have to do if you want to be an enterprising student:
1) Join Fish on Toast!
2) Join SIFE Southampton, Merges and Aquisitions, and the Ad Here society. These will give you a great opportunity to put what you have learnt at Fish on Toast into practice in a risk free environment.
3) Start up and never be afraid to ask for support. All you have to do is take your idea, work out the best way to do it and make it happen. Most importantly of all, do not be afraid to fail.
To join Fish on Toast, just go to the website (www.fishontoast.com) and add your email address. You can also join the Fish on Toast Facebook page to get updates about all upcoming events and speakers.
To see the first two episodes of The Southampton Apprentice go to www.susu.tv.
Student Hero was launched on 2nd January and to find out more you can visit their website (www.studenthero.co.uk) or search for Student Hero Southampton on Facebook and add them as a friend.