We were thrilled to have hosted our annual Student Enterprise Conference on the 22nd of February. The conference was held at The Engine Shed on the University of Lincoln’s Brayford Campus from 10am till 3pm, with the event being aimed at students who have an interest in running a business or have considered any form of self-employment. We were pleased to welcome over 70 students from across the four Colleges here at the university, with a diverse range of both under- and post-graduate students.
The day began with attendees being given a complimentary goodie-bag upon arrival, which included a 500ml bottle of Waken Mouthcare Peach & Mint mouthwash kindly donated by our keynote speaker, Simon Duffy MBE. Attendees then took part in a short networking session over breakfast, giving many of them their first opportunity to engage with like-minded enterprising minds at an event of this kind.
Just before our first session of the day, there was a short introduction by the conference’s host Reece Leggett, Student Enterprise Coordinator, who welcomed all our attendees and outlined the days agenda.
Our first speaker of the day was by Simon Akers FCIM, founder of Archmon Marketing Consultancy, who delivered a fascinating session on “the Business of Marketing”. Simon is one of Lincoln’s most passionate speakers, and his enthusiasm oozed into the crowd as attendees were quick to get involved with the interactive elements of the session. Touching upon topics such as branding, marketing, self-employment, pricing & advertising, the session provided invaluable insight into what it means to be a marketeer and business owner. Simon was also generously honest about his own personal journey, which has included mental health and neurodiversity-related challenges, adding an extra layer of insight into an already inspiring talk.
After a refreshments break, our second session was a “Meet the Graduates” fireside chat featuring University of Lincoln graduate business owners, facilitated by Reece Leggett and Charlotte Kirton-Cook, Research & Enterprise Marketing Manager. We were honoured to have been joined by Tina El Bikam, Owner of Equity Health & Wellbeing Ltd; Dumi Siwo, Founder and Creative Director of Firmative Media; and Alistair Moss & Tom Doherty, Co-Founders of Legless Games and Vitmi. Before the panel discussion, each graduate was given the chance to present a five-minute whistle-stop tour of their business to offer a snapshot of their journey so far. The panellists then answered audience questions, and again it was fantastic to see such an engaged crowd with the Q&A session running slightly over the allotted time. Questions ranged from how to deal with early-stage financing, the role of mentorship, deciding on the correct product path and how to correctly manoeuvre as a person of colour in a non-diverse field of work.
Lunch followed the fireside chat, and we are thankful to all our panellists who continued to take questions throughout the break, as well as those who offered out their contact details to any attendees who wished to follow up with more questions. Part of the appeal of the conference was the opportunity to hear from people who have gone through a similar journey and come out the other end with a successful business.
Our final session of the day was our keynote speaker, Simon Duffy MBE. Simon was the founder of Bulldog Skincare before selling the company in 2016, and he later went on to launch his current endeavour Waken Mouthcare in 2019. The session was split into two areas; a presentation delivered by Simon and an audience Q&A. The presentation offered unique insight into what it takes to develop an idea into a business, then take that business into international markets, and in the case of Bulldog, taking the decision to sell. Simon also touched upon his approach to branding, noticing gaps in the market and the concept of “marketing the gap”, identifying your audience and the importance of finding the right partners for your products.
One of the most interesting aspects of Simon’s presentation was the admittance that they had not always got things “right”. By his own admission it took five attempts to get the Bulldog packaging correct, and he said that he was still looking for ways to improve Waken Mouthcare products and would welcome any feedback on the day. From initial feedback we found that Simon’s humble approach to be was quite striking, as many of our students expected such a successful entrepreneur to come across all knowing, but his openness and modesty helped to establish common ground with our attendees.
The Q&A session with Simon was fascinating, with countless hands raised in anticipation of being able to ask a question. The questions ranged from areas such as trademarking your product, the process of getting into huge retailers, advice on focussing on one product over many ideas, identifying your target audience, studying sales analytics and the importance of reflection and customer feedback.
During the Student Enterprise Conference, Simon encouraged students to make the most of the business services on offer at the University and said: “I’d encourage all Lincoln students to think about entrepreneurship, either straight after university or at some point in their careers. It’s really important when you’re at a university that offers such a diverse range of entrepreneurial services to take full advantage of it.” We would like to thank Simon for his willingness to answer every question that came his way with such enthusiasm that our attendees will take away from the day and never forget.
Closing remarks from our host, Reece Leggett, ended the day with a thank you to all who attended and a call for feedback (with the chance to win one of five Amazon vouchers), which has so far been overwhelmingly positive. We welcome all feedback from students to help us adapt and improve future events. From the entire Student Enterprise team; we would like to thank all of the staff who helped ensure the day went smoothly, The Engine Shed for their support on the day, as well as our fantastic speakers and panellists. A final thank you goes to all who attended, engaged and asked questions – we hope you left feeling inspired and ready to take the next step in your self-employment journey.