Helping students to understand Entrepreneurship

University of Hull – Business Pitching Competition

After the success and enjoyment of the FEONxGen Masterclass event at Hull College at the end of last year, I answered a call from Jan back in January who stated that the University of Hull Business School were looking for a judging panel for a similar style event. I was more than happy to offer my time along with a number of others to help course leader Antonio Malfense Fierro judge a business pitching competition to be sponsored by FEO.

I’m a strong believer that individuals are born as entrepreneurs, I’m not saying that it isn’t a skill that cant be taught but it requires a special aptitude, drive and a lot of tenacity to keep going through adversity to succeed and not everyone does! Encountering countless issues and disappointments en route is often a lesson in itself and it’s the ability to pick yourself up and ‘fail forward’ and learn from these sometimes catastrophic issues that sets a person apart.

It was enlightening to listen to the mentors at the FEO ‘ignition’ program and realise that you’re not alone and these guys have faced and come through the issues that all entrepreneurs face at every juncture, not just in the start up phases.That passion and desire to succeed is not something that can be gleaned from a book! Its where myself and others involved with NxGen see that the youth of today need to be shown that there is another potential career path aside from being a name and a number inside a large blue chip company.This sort of activity is great to get involved with, to give back as well as giving some form of guidance to these budding entrepreneurs to help them on this often daunting and treacherous path.

The original concept at The University of Hull was to be similar to a Dragons Den style scenario whereby the students as part of the Understanding Entrepreneurship module would pitch their concept. To be then grilled by the ‘wily’ old judges on the business idea, a pressure cooker environment that puts the students on the spot and having to answer the panel’s often direct questions on their concepts.

The COVID-19 pandemic however changed the course of what was to be an afternoon spent at the university grilling the participants, to being an online forum of video presentations, not nearly as much fun seeing the presenters tremble. As is often the case in business, the wind can change and therefore so does the strategy and the course taken and there was the first educational element for the undergraduates. As Baden Powell would say “be prepared!” Things can and more often than not do change in business and how you respond can be a good measure of your ability to perform on the ground.

With the advent of social distancing the groups had to work remotely and create a video pitch from their kitchens or bedrooms, as is often the case with many start-ups. It was made all the more difficult due to the fact the teams couldn’t meet and collaborate face to face but they did exceptionally well in getting their content together and coordinating their efforts to present to the panel.The judges were given links to the ‘online’ presentations and the students a three hour window to answer questions posed by the panel, slightly alleviating the nerve wracking element of being put on the spot by direct questions from a possible investor.

The cross section of projects was interesting and well put together, ranging from simple on campus business supplying ‘bubble’ tea, if you haven’t been to Asia then it’s a phenomenon that’s starting to hit the UK to a national roll out for discounted cinema tickets. Demonstrating that there are opportunities everywhere if we look hard enough.

Overall the process ran very well with each judge submitting their scorecards evaluating the teams on their concept, pitch and how they responded to the questions. The culmination was an online presentation ceremony where the winners walked away with a small prize sponsored by FEO.

It showed that an individual’s mind has no bounds when it comes to business ideas and creativity. All that is usually missing is the initial seed capital to make the concept come alive. During the current time it further demonstrated how we don’t need to be in the same room to conduct business over coffee which is most certainly beneficial for the environment but also for productivity. People are starting to realise that individual productivity can increase if we are not constantly travelling to and from meetings and we can actually be more efficient working remotely.

It remains to be seen if any of the projects will come to fruition but I hope that we can see these budding entrepreneurs thrive and take their concepts to market once we are allowed out of the house!

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