Trio of students prove their entrepreneurial skills in the real world

7 January 2016

Three business students from the University of Derby have shown their entrepreneurial skills by setting up their own businesses before they have even graduated.

Jack Burnell, Olympic athlete and Director of sports clothing firm NOVUS, has recently completed his Higher National Diploma (HND) in Business and Management at the University of Derby.

Not only is he the Director of his own company, Jack was also the first British athlete to qualify for the open water swimming team in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games after finishing fifth in the World Championship 10km marathon swimming event in Kazan in July.

Jack has worked tirelessly to reach this milestone, which for him was a lifelong dream.

He said: “I am very happy to be graduating. The University of Derby has helped to get me to this stage in my education, without them I would not have been able to achieve what I have alongside my sport. Going to university has strengthened who I am, it was always something I wanted to do.

“NOVUS gives me good respite from sport. Sport has allowed me to open lots of other doors – this being one of them. My next goal is to get an Olympic medal and then I can continue to pursue my business and being an athlete.”

Business Studies student Edward Hollands will also be graduating having set up his business, The Advert Man Limited, after working as a customer assistant at Tesco during his summer holidays for the last three years, saving £10,000.

Edward came up with the idea to display adverts using unused space on trucks in a bid to help struggling logistics companies create additional revenue streams. He started offering national coverage on HGV trailers but soon found many smaller companies wanted to advertise across small areas, such as a specific region or town/city, which he has since been able to deliver.

And now, Edward has built an advertising fleet of more than 150 trucks of all sizes across the UK to become the most flexible truck advertising company. He has already caught the attention of some major advertisers.

Kedleston campus looking towards the library

Edward said: “It feels amazing to be graduating, having started my own business and working hard to get it going. It will be great to catch up with everyone from across the country who became my friends at the University of Derby.”

Edward said that Derby Business School at the University had helped shape his business idea by encouraging him to network from the outset of his course.

He added: “One of the most memorable quotes I have taken from University is that ‘you don’t start a business, you solve a problem’ and that is what I have to done to create my own. The course gave me the confidence to get my business out there.”

Emma Ward will graduate with a HND in Business Management, next week having decided to return to study to help develop her dog grooming business Pedi-pawz.

Emma said: “Returning to university allowed me to obtain knowledge in business management and understand what I need to consider for the future development of my business. 

“As I had been away from studying for some time, returning to a classroom environment was frightening and with my disability, I was unsure if I would be able to cope mentally and physically to a degree straight away, the HND allowed me to gradually improve my study skills and confidence.”

The business students will graduate during the University’s Awards Ceremonies next week (January 13 to 15), at Derby Arena in Pride Park. More than 3,000 graduates who studied at the University's seven Colleges – covering education, health and social care, business, life and natural sciences, engineering and technology, the arts; and law, humanities and social sciences – and guests will attend over the three days.