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July 22, 2016, by Elizabeth Smith

Graduates, is it time to set up your business?

Many students assume that getting onto a graduate scheme or taking a year out to find themselves (ideally on a beach in Koh Phi Phi) are the only options available to them once they’ve graduated. If you’re part of The University of Nottingham’s Class of 2016, you’ve probably spent the past few months considering similar options.

But how many of you have considered starting up your own business?

Last year, the combined annual turnover of SMEs was £1.8trillion, which accounted for 47% of all private sector turnover in the UK. With this figure growing year on year, it is a thriving part of the UK economy, and more and more graduates are opting to set up their own businesses once they leave university.

The majority of Ingenuity Lab members are University of Nottingham Alumni, and we spoke with some them to show you why setting up your own business is such a fantastic idea!


The challenge of learning new skills

graduates, jonny pryn, andrew grewcock, one third stories, ingenuity16 bootcamp, mentoring, ingenuity lab member, university of nottingham graduate, nottingham university graduate

Jonny Pryn with mentor Andrew Grewcock at the Ingenuity16 bootcamp

“I don’t consider myself a specialist in any particular area, but I’ve always felt I was pretty good at learning new skills. Running my own business means I can go from being an author to an accountant before lunch on any given day. I always knew I’d enjoy that challenge more than being a small part of a big organisation and honing any one skill in particular.

The Ingenuity16 competition was my first real introduction to the support the university provides for alumni, and the prize money we won there has completely changed the business. The Ingenuity Lab is a great space for meeting a load of other entrepreneurs from Nottingham at different stages with their business. Being part of that sort of community is invaluable when you’re taking on such a challenge.

You’re always going to understand your business better than anybody else. Good mentors respect that and ask you difficult questions that help you come to new conclusions. Bad mentors just talk instead of listening and have a nasty tendency of leaving you demoralized and confused. Find a couple of the good ones and make the most of them – they can work wonders for your business in five minutes flat.”

Jonny Pryn (English, 2014), Director of One Third Stories


Use your passion

Lili Zhu (right) in a meeting with The Careers and Employability Service about placements, lili zhu, lian mask, graduates, nottingham alumni, nottingham entrepreneurs

Lili Zhu (right) in a meeting with The Careers and Employability Service about placements

“I am passionate about gender culture, international business and entrepreneurship. I worked for many companies while I was a student and gained an understanding of the industry, as well as myself. So after my graduation, it felt like the right time to start out on my own.

I came to the university as an international student and since then I’ve worked closely with The Ingenuity Lab and The University of Nottingham’s International Office, who have endorsed me for my Tier 1 Graduate Visa. The process is made simple by the support from all the staff. They are always on hand to talk about the idea, discuss how we can make things happen and have regular check up meetings to make sure everything is on track.

As a startup company, we have limited resources to achieve our vision and have to find innovative ways to secure success. The University of Nottingham’s Careers and Employability Service provides us with placement students, and that allows us to grow faster and better.

Starting your own business is a difficult task, and I don’t think you can achieve your ambitions without passion. So make sure you have a passion for what you want to do!”

Lili Zhu (Film and Television Studies, 2015), Director of Lian Ltd


Access support

Jordana Chin hard at work in The Ingenuity Lab, jordana chin, nutri2go, roasted chickpeas, ingenuity lab, nottingham entrepreneurs, nottingham alumni, the ingenuity lab, food delivery nottingham

Jordana Chin hard at work in The Ingenuity Lab

“I’ve always wanted to start a business, and after some market research I found out there was a gap in the market. I found out about The Ingenuity Lab and knew I wanted to take this opportunity. As cliche as it sounds, I was in the right place at the right time and given a chance to do something I was passionate about.

The University and The Ingenuity Lab provided me with the guidance, mentoring and support I needed to pursue Nutri2Go.

Being part of the Alumni network helps me greatly, as I can still be part of the university community, access support, meet new people I have a shared interest with and of course, provides me with a whole community to promote and market my products to! As my business focuses mainly on the university and staff currently, it is so important that I am integrated into this community.”

Jordana Chin (Nutrition, 2015), Director of Nutri2Go


We have a range of opportunities available for recent graduates from The University of Nottingham, including the Ingenuity17 competition, which is a fantastic way to kickstart turning your business idea into a reality. You can register your interest in it here.

If you would like to find out more about joining The Ingenuity Lab and accessing the facilities, support and inspiration available to our members, please email us at ingenuitylab@nottingham.ac.uk or register your details with us here.

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Posted in MembersMentorsNew BusinessPromotionShowcaseThe Ingenuity Lab