Francesco D'Alessio on 05 Oct 2014 Francesco D'Alessio's profile picture

Conservative Party Conference


The first question "What business & enterprise skills are needed to succeed in the real world?" opened a discussion that covered numerous subtopics.

Sherry Coutu & Nick Boles began the proceedings by pointing out that many young entrepreneurs who may be skilled in various disciplines within a business, must be careful not to fall victim of an ideology that one can create & sustain a business without help & expertise.

Nick Boles - "If you can recognise the areas in which you are not the best, then you can identify & recruit the best"

Sherry Coutu stressed the importance of self-awareness & a comfort in ones abilities, reiterating Nick's point & highlighting the fact that as a student-entrepreneur there is still lot to learn about the business environment, however this should not discourage or be considered a disadvantage.

The conversation then shifted smoothly onto the topic of failure, to which Sherry expressed her concern about the public definition of, & prudence surrounding, failure. She went on to describe "failure" as a important, all be it painful, learning experience in any entrepreneurs career, explaining the lessons that one learns from failure will last much longer than any gained from success.

Sherry Coutu - "I've learnt a lot more from my so called failures than I have from my successes"

Following on from this point Stephen Dury commented on the need to re-define success in the public opinion, stating that Santander look primarily at the core competencies of the individuals behind a business proposal before any previous failures are considered.He again touched upon the concept that any experience, weather it is positive or negative, is worth more to an individual & to the business environment, than no experience at all.

Representing our society & university Francesco then followed with the question "How would you like to see young people rewarded for engaging on Entrepreneurial activity whilst taking risks at university & college?"

Johnny Luk responded by explaining the conflict between academic achievement & the involvement in extra-curricula activity which many students are faced with. A point swiftly followed by Nick Boles who spoke of the need to formally acknowledge extra-curricular activity, mentioning the importance of academic achievement as a basis for progression within a recruitment process, but placing extra-curricular involvement in a definitive position during the penultimate & final stages of selection.

Nick & Sherry discussed the various social network platforms that provide an area to display ones extracurricular activities, & also began to converse with Andrew Clarke about the distraction that these various profiles, or rather the maintenance of such profiles can create for students.

For the full response to our question please visit our Youtube Channel

The next question, "Thinking about the coming decade, what one piece of advice would you give to 21 year olds today?", promoted answers from Nadhim Zahawi MP & Nick Boles MP. Responding first Nadhim drew attention to a need for creative & imaginative students to begin voicing & actualising their ideas, not just through start-up projects at university, he emphasised the importance of retaining that creative spark if & when occupying a graduate position.

Nadhim Zahawi - "Graduates are one of the most valuable assets a firm can have, they are a key source of unbiased & radical ideology that can help change & shape our business environment for the better"

On Monday 29th September Francesco & I attended the "Student Entrepreneurs Question Time" event held by NACUE & Santander in The Library of Birmingham. This exhilarating experience helped answer the various questions that a majority of student entrepreneurs will be asking & will continue to ask themselves throughout their academic studies. 

The expert panel of Sherry Coutu (Director - Zoopla Property Group, The London Stock Exchange Group, Raspberry Pi & Artfinder Advisory Board Member - Linkedin & Care.com), Nick Boles (Minister of State for Education & Skills), Stephen Dury (Managing Director, SME Markets & Business Development, Santander), & Nadhim Zahawi (Foreign Affairs Select Committee member, Co-Founder YouGov & Co-Author "Masters of Nothing: The crash & how it will happen again unless we understand human nature"), chaired by Andrew Clarke (Deputy Business Editor, The Times), shared personal advice & experiences along with professional expectations & viewpoints on the topic of student entrepreneurship. The event consisted four questions from a diverse audience of students, young entrepreneurs & educators.

Nick Boles touched back on the previous topic of academic/extra-curricula balance, adding that students & young entrepreneurs should be careful not to sacrifice an opportunity to develop competencies in pursuit of their ideas. He philosophised that many students may feel an intense pressure to build a business during their chosen programme, in order to protect themselves against the possibility of graduate unemployment. Instead of frantically rushing to launch a project, he posed the idea of using a start-up project as a means to gain key skills that will enhance appeal to employers & will also allow the idea enough time & space to grow into its full potential.

The events closing question "The government has had significant impact on the enterprise sector in recent years, for example through the development of 'university enterprise zones'. how can our government continue to address the needs of student entrepreneurs?"

Allowed Johnny Luk to respond by reiterating the vital role that our government has played in the recent surge of entrepreneurial activity. He then put it to the audience, who had shown commitment & desire simply by their attendance, that maybe the question to be asking is not what our government can do to address student-entrepreneur needs, but how can we as student-entrepreneurs utilise the numerous avenues that are already in place. Many students, he added, are unaware just how much support & guidance is available to them. This may be a result of government under publication, however given the wide array of tasks entrusted to our government, it seems more understandable that we should be looking to raise awareness of the entrepreneurial activity within a students local & national reach.

Stephen Dury pointed out just one of the many opportunities currently on offer to young entrepreneurs. He explained the workings of NEF "The New Entrepreneurs Foundation" an organisation set-up to "transform UK business by developing entrepreneurial leaders of the future."

Nick Boles then gave indication that while Johnny & Stephen's points were valid, we can rest assured the government will continue to address our needs, & are taking events such as this as a chance to better understand what needs may not have been addressed, with the intention to begin formulating new methods & programmes that will do so.

When the event had drawn to a close the opportunity to speak on a one-to-one basis with panel members presented itself, Francesco began engaging with Stephen Dury about our society & entrepreneurship in the southwest, to which he was encouraged that although our location may be remote, the passion our region has for entrepreneurship is beginning to define the southwest as a major Entrepreneurial zone in the UK.

Stephen then added that he himself was a Plymouth University Business School graduate. This point may not necessarily be linked to entrepreneurship, but seeing a former Plymouth University student in such a prestigious position is something that should be shared & will undoubtedly serve as motivation for those aiming at a professional careers upon graduating.


This event gave a real insight into the mind set & requirements of not only career entrepreneurs but also career professionals. The city was overwhelmed with energy due to the Conservative Party conference, hosted directly next to the library, & all the fringe events that were held coherently. It's impossible to capture every piece of advice that was shared during the event, however I would like to emphasise a key point made by the panel regarding the topic of start-up funding.

When asked advice on the best source of funding for start-ups, the response was very clear & precise namely; "Display & monetise consumer demand"

Crowd funding was a simple method highlighted by which both objectives could be achieved. This point I believe to be particularly relevant for our current generation in which anyone & everyone have the tools available to set an idea in motion & present to investors. Sourcing funding from consumers shows the validity of an idea, demonstrates the ability to operate & communicate according to consumer demand & most importantly clearly displays a revenue stream, all of which place a start-up in an advantageous position when pitching to investors.

In closing I'd just like to thank the Society & University for facilitating this experience.

Post by Brolin Stevenson-Twotoo 

Links

New Entrepreneurs Foundation

NACUE Event Report

CrowdFunder NACUE Member SWFish Plymouth University: Enterprise
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