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As soon as the word entrepreneur is mentioned we automatically think of the greats…Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerburg and of course Bill Gates…and this intimidates us – how on earth could we, normal beings, ever be as successful as them? But that’s not the point… Self-employment itself has so many benefits (we’re not just talking about the financial ones!) and carries endless opportunity…especially if you start young, when the world is your oyster and you have yet to develop the cynicism that comes with decades in a 9-5 job…

With the job market proving unstable, students and graduates need to think creatively… perhaps consider the possibly of self-employment and running their own business. And that means looking for opportunities whilst at university.

Being at university can be, for many, the most ideal time to start a business. But why? Although you’d hate to admit it; you’ve never had so much free time, nor as much flexibility. Plus, at this time you’ve got nothing to lose – when you’re older and taking care of a family there are significant risks…not to mention other things you probably should be doing! At university there’s a market right on your doorstep. You’re surrounded by friends and thousands of people at the same age and stage as you… all more willing to give new things a go than they will be in another ten or fifteen years.

So how should universities go about introducing, encouraging and later supporting entrepreneurship and self-employment within a student’s time at university? These days there are many courses and modules offered by universities in entrepreneurship. Having once written an essay for a business module regarding the subject of whether “entrepreneurs are born or made” it seems these universities in particular would be keen to argue that they can indeed be made. Whether they are or not is less important than whether universities provide opportunities for students to ‘try it and fail’. More important than classes in the subject is a supporting structure for both business and non-business students, outside of the classroom.

Newcastle University has a great extension to their careers service named ‘Rise Up’ which invites students to ‘join the entrepreneurial revolution’. Its website boasts information, tips, support and the possibility to meet with a dedicated team to turn any business idea into a reality, including the provision of a start-up grant.

The University also recently launched a competition aptly titled the ‘Lion’s Den’ which takes a very similar form to the BBC’s Dragon’s Den. Business people, investors, entrepreneurs and members of the public are expected to attend with cash prizes and glamorous awards up for grabs. Although it’s unlikely students will walk out with a million pound deal it’s an opportunity to network with people who’ve ‘been there and done that’.

Newcastle University is doing a fantastic job in both encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship. There are people there, on hand, ready to aid from concept to launch. With over 10 years experience, the ‘Rise Up’ team seem to be perfectly equipped to teach students real-life marketing techniques and practices that will no doubt be invaluable to them once they step out into the real world. Newcastle’s support has a lot to do with the success rate of student start-ups. Without it, so many fail and are often scared to give it a second go. Here are a couple of examples of businesses started from within Newcastle University’s campus:

And so, our clarion call to universities is to stop worrying about ‘teaching’ people entrepreneurship and start thinking about ways you can help them to ‘learn’ about the subject.