Academia and entrepreneurial values are not mutually exclusive

Academia and entrepreneurial values are not mutually exclusive

Many successful entrepreneurs left school at 15 or 16 without any qualifications, but it is widely accepted that abandoning academia in most cases will diminish future prospects. Big Ideas Wales discusses the value of academia alongside entrepreneurship…

Some of the UK’s most recognised entrepreneurs left school at 16 without a qualification to their name, most notably Simon Cowell, Phillip Green and Richard Branson. They bill themselves as attending the ‘school of life’, romanticising their success in interviews and autobiographies.

And while the ‘school of life’ approach to entrepreneurship can’t be entirely discredited (learning on the job is vital after all), should it really be encouraged as a recommended pathway, especially when there is so much help available for budding entrepreneurs while they are still studying?

If you ask young Swansea entrepreneur and student, Daniel Huxtable, 20, a budding businessman who is growing his bespoke martial arts apparel company, Fightwear Store UK, while studying at University of Wales Trinity Saint David, the answer is that entrepreneurial values and academia go very much hand in hand.

Dan said: “There’s no doubt that juggling education and my business can be difficult at times. But by combining both I am continually expanding my knowledge base in ways that support both my studies and my business.

“I’m studying graphic design which gives me all the tools I need to become a great designer, and I’m also taking business and marketing modules, which has afforded me a real insight into business practices that have had endless benefits for the development of Fightwear Store.”

While at university, Daniel has been assisted in developing his entrepreneurial ambitions by Kathryn Penaluna, the Enterprise Champion at UWTSD. Kath is one of 22 Enterprise Champions at universities and colleges across Wales, who act as a focus for enterprise and entrepreneurship. She has been a huge support to Daniel, bridging that vital gap between academia and enterprise, and broadening their arsenal of skills and attributes, something that is regarded as fundamental to their future success.

Kath was also instrumental in introducing Daniel to Big Ideas Wales, the Welsh Government programme that encourages young people aged between 5 and 25 to develop entrepreneurial skills and start a business. Daniel recently attended the Big Ideas Celebrated event at Cardiff City Stadium where he won the first place Best Enterprise Activity, runner-up in Outstanding Individual Award, and runner-up in Overall Best Business for Higher Education.  And this autumn he will be participating in the Big Ideas Wales ‘Bootcamp to Business Challenge’.

So prolific has UWTSD been in their entrepreneurial advocacy, that a recent Times Higher Education review revealed that the institution is the third highest university for overall number of active graduate start-ups in 2015-16 with 567 enterprises established by students past and present, following Central Lancashire with 932 and Kingston with 878.

With the hard work, drive and passion, young entrepreneurs across Wales will achieve their business dreams. But those who choose to stay in education before they leap into the world of business will be getting the best of both worlds, gaining vital qualifications and drawing on support from the University and Government financed schemes while they study.

Welsh Government’s Big Ideas Wales programme encourages young people aged between 5 and 25 to develop entrepreneurial skills and start a business. Part of the Business Wales Service, it is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Be The Spark is a collective of Wales’ leading entrepreneurs, business people, academics and Government representatives, all working together to drive forward a more vibrant and connected entrepreneurial ecosystem in Wales.