Derby crowned University of the Year at Midlands Business Awards

6 March 2018

The University of Derby has been crowned ‘University of the Year’ at the Midlands Business Awards in recognition of its enterprise support programme which provides help to students and graduates to set up their own business.

“Be The Boss” is a scheme, run by the University’s Careers and Employment Service, aimed at students and graduates who want to become self-employed.

The programme, which was set up in October 2016, offers a combination of action planning, one-to-one support provided by experienced business advisers and a series of workshops, and has helped more than 60 people develop a business idea into a working business.

In recognition of the work the University delivers to help develop enterprise and entrepreneurship across the region, it was awarded the title of ‘University of the Year’ at the Midlands Business Awards 2018, held in Leicester.

Jo Wheldon, Head of Student Employment and Enterprise, said: “Supporting students and graduates to develop enterprising skills and ultimately start their own business, is a key part of our offer. I am so proud of the team and all the efforts that have gone into the Be The Boss project and to see this recognised through this award is testament to their hard work.”

Bruce McLeod, Enterprise Adviser who is responsible for the design and delivery of the Be The Boss programme across the University of Derby, added: “Although the programme only commenced in October 2016, as of February 2018 we already have 145 students and graduates enrolled onto it.

University of Derby getting crowned University of the Year - 2018

“Of these, 89 have benefited from at least 12 hours’ worth of support and 63 new businesses have been created. The range of businesses started has been diverse and includes clothing, app development, videography, computer games design and publishing as well as a number of social enterprises.

“It has been great to see the level of engagement on the programme and the end result with so many participants creating their own business.

“One of the University of Derby’s key performance indicators, as with all universities, is the level of employability, whether this be on an employed or self-employed basis. Providing a way of equipping students with the necessary skills for self-employment is seen as critical and the Be The Boss programme aims to achieve this.”

Be The Boss is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is being run at the University of Derby until April 2019.

The first stage of the programme consists of an initial action planning meeting during which a University Enterprise Adviser meets with the student or graduate to discuss their business idea, its unique selling points, target audience, marketing and promotional activities and income generating potential.

Five workshops covering key enterprise topics; business planning, market research and pricing, marketing strategy, selling skills and preparing to trade, are delivered as part of the programme.

Workshops include presentations, group discussions, activities relating to the entrepreneurs’ own business ideas and demonstrations of useful online tools, including CRM and website design software. The aim is to develop the student or graduate’s entrepreneurial skills and enable them to apply these immediately in their own business. Students also have an opportunity to present their business idea to a panel of professional business advisers and receive constructive feedback.

The final stage of the programme is a review meeting, where students are able to give feedback on their experience and are signposted to other business support programmes run within the University and externally.

As part of Be The Boss, the Careers and Employment Service run a regular networking event. This includes guest speakers, a “shop window” for students to present their business ideas, and a masterminding session enabling everyone to share their challenges around enterprise. Attendees of the networking events include past and current Be The Boss participants as well those curious about self-employment.