Uni entrepreneurs at Westminster

Wed, 10 Apr 2013 12:48:00 BST

Student entrepreneurs showcased at national event

That Creative

Pictured above at members of THAT Creative along with other attendees at the Westminster launch of Start-up organised by University Alliance

UNIVERSITY of Huddersfield students who teamed up to form a successful design consultancy contributed to a special Westminster event which celebrated graduate entrepreneurs and urged new policies to help them to boost the economy.  These included easier access to finance and a scheme to promote the use of empty high street stores for new businesses launched by enterprising graduates. 

The event was named Start-up and featured a keynote address by Business Secretary Vince Cable.  It was organised by the University Alliance, which links the UK’s most business-minded universities – including Huddersfield, which has been named Entrepreneurial University of the Year

Start-up was based around the stories of graduate entrepreneurs who have launched businesses.  They talked about the hurdles they faced and the back-up they received from their universities. 

One of the stories told belongs to the Huddersfield business THAT Creative, launched by a team of five University of Huddersfield graduates who had been studying product design. 

One of the team is Hinesh Mistry, and with his colleague James Whitfield attended the Westminster launch of Start-up. 

THAT Creative team Hinesh [seated bottom left next to James Whitfield] explained how THAT Creative was launched: “We had begun to look for jobs when our business lecturer talked about business start-ups.  We realised that we had complementary design skills that we had used in projects together on our course and so we thought, ‘Instead of each of us working for different product design consultancies, why not come together and start our own?’” 

But they needed help so that they could add business nous to their design skills.  So they successfully applied for inclusion in the scheme named Activ8, run by the University of Huddersfield’s Enterprise Team.  It provides months of intensive support from the University’s business advisers plus other benefits that include cash grants, access to office facilities and special mentoring. 

Said Hinesh: “Activ8 has been brilliant.  They showed us how to write a business plan; how to form a partnership – with all the legal advice to make sure it was set up properly; they gave us office space, networking opportunities with other start-ups and some initial funding.” 

James Whitfield is THAT Creative’s other managing partner.  He explained that the business was unique as a design consultancy.  Its members, all recent Huddersfield graduates, covered a wide range of disciplines.  The rest of the team is Sean Sykes, who covers engineering aspects; graphic designer Laura Dunn; and Alistair Crompton, who specialises in the visual dimension of products. 

Made in the UK

Product design range The consultancy has successfully hit its first-year targets, said James.  THAT Creative has adopted a unique way of looking at problems and finding original solutions in a short space of time, giving it an edge in a highly-competitive field.  The company’s web site has an online portfolio showing a wide range of the design solutions developed by the team. 

THAT Creative have recently established itself at the University of Huddersfield’s newly-opened, £12.5 million 3M Buckley Innovation Centre, where they have access to state-of-the-art office facilities.  And from here the team hope to aid the regeneration of British industry, from design to manufacture. 

“We always try to encourage people who work with us to get things made in the UK as well as designed here,” says James. 

Entrepreneurship – a legitimate graduate career

The University Alliance (UA) Start-up project – in which THAT Creative is participating – is calling for the Government to dismantle some of the hurdles faced by new graduate businesses. 

Solutions include stronger links between Government financing for enterprise and universities, which would aid the design of schemes, such as Start-up Loans.  Also, says the UA, there should be wider access to critical enterprise support available for graduate start-ups, in order to enable growth across all key sectors. 

Meanwhile, empty high street properties should be used and promoted for the use of graduate start-ups, helping to nurture local start-ups; and entrepreneurship should be recognised as a legitimate graduate career. 

The UA has a clutch of statistics to bolster its credentials the field of entrepreneurship:

  • 2,771 graduate start-ups in 2010/11 of which 983 (35%) were Alliance graduates;
  • 11,816 jobs created by graduate start-ups in 2010/11 of which 5,070 (43%) were Alliance;
  • £272m turnover by grad start-ups of which £147m (54%) comes from Alliance graduate start-ups.




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