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The Venture Programme, run by the University’s Careers and Employability Department, is open to students from any discipline or level of study with the aim of equipping participants with the skills, confidence, knowledge and connections to enter the world of business. It uses a blend of content from entrepreneurs, industry partners, professional services and mentors to inspire and encourage students to follow their career goals.

Students and graduates are given the opportunity to take part in sessions to prepare them for business learning about building a brand on a budget; business blogging for beginners; how to run crowdfunding campaigns and intellectual property.

More than £55,000 has been awarded to budding businesses during this time courtesy of Santander Universities UK, in addition to awarding in-kind donations and industry prizes.

Adapting to delivering the programme during the pandemic, the Venture Programme successfully moved online to continue with sessions. Events cover all aspects of setting up a business – from sales and marketing; business responsibility; finance and funding; enterprise skills; to business planning and legal matters.

Since the initiative’s inception in 2015, Venture webinars and appointments have attracted 1,023 attendees with 990 taking part in 48 sessions and 33 students taking part in one-to-one sessions to gain tailored advice to achieve their business goals. Students are also able to gain tasters of what Venture can offer through drop-in sessions or bookable Venture Chats on Microsoft Teams. The Venture Network, a monthly meet-up normally hosted in a restaurant, has been relaunched on LinkedIn, to encourage alumni, mentors and professionals to connect with graduates and students and offer them advice and guidance.

Graduates from the University have praised the scheme for helping them to achieve their business goals.

Sarah Richardson, Founder of Sarah The Dog Carer was supported through Venture. Her business offers dog walking, puppy visits and dog boarding for dogs in the Chester area. She said: “The Venture Programme taught me so much I needed to know about running a business. The seminars were so useful and completing the Venture Pitch really boosted my confidence! The grant I won helped me purchase a van, and without this, my business wouldn’t be where it is today. I’ve now been running for over three years and after a tough year with COVID, I’ve managed to build it back up once again!” 

Holly Frances Royle, Founder of Deviate PR, a music PR company specialising in promoting the alternative, rock and metal genres, said: “Venture has been invaluable to me in establishing and running Deviate PR. The seminars provided information about all aspects of running a business, much of which I had previously been unfamiliar with. I am incredibly grateful to the Venture team for their help and continued support throughout my journey with Deviate PR.”

Jordan Tew, Founder and CEO of STUnii, a multi-award-winning student lifestyle platform/network and a consumer-focused Gen-Z Creative Agency, said: “The Venture Programme taught me the practicalities of what’s involved in starting a business, Their guest speakers gave some really valuable tips and advice from their own relatable experiences. Not only does it give you the self-confidence in taking the leap in becoming an entrepreneur, but their competitions also allow you to win funding from pitching your business ideas.”

Gillian Seale, a story tailor, writing and illustrating bespoke children's books for bereaved families to preserve their memories through her business Tailored Yarn CIC, said: “I can honestly say that I wouldn't have come as far as I have in my entrepreneur journey if it wasn’t for the help and support of the Venture Programme, both with funding to get me started and advice. The judges gave me confidence that I could really do this and their words stayed with me through a tough COVID beginning. I can't recommend the programme highly enough. I've learned such a lot that has helped me make a success of my Community Interest Company.”

The Venture Programme is supported by a number of partners and associates including: NatWest; West Cheshire and North Wales Chamber of Commerce; Forresters IP; Santander Universities UK; Hillyer McKeown; DTM Legal, Transition Law; Ellis & Co. Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors; Displace Digital; Development Bank of Wales; RTC North and INDUSTRY Co-working.

Kirsty Badrock, Entrepreneurship Co-ordinator at the University, said: “We all feel so proud of how the Venture programme has helped so many new businesses and freelance careers get off the ground.

“Thank you to all the mentors, business people and companies, including Santander Universities UK, for helping to make so many career dreams come true. The entrepreneurial ideas that come from students at the University of Chester are incredible and it is so pleasing to see these ideas come to fruition.”

 

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