How university societies can unleash entrepreneurial potential

Sophie Herrman (2)

By Sophie Herrmann

Whilst studying Psychology at Cardiff University I received funding from Sports Council Wales to establish a pole dancing society which would offer weekly classes to students. Keen to promote this exercise as a sport we also set up the Inter- University Pole Dance Competition and invited 6 other universities to compete. The society continues to go from strength to strength and I am delighted to return to judge the Inter- University competition which has just seen its 4th year!

This experience taught me many skills which I would use later in running a business such as team work in negotiating challenges, advertising and customer service, and I would encourage all students interested in business management to run for a position in a society. It is a fantastic opportunity to develop transferable skills and help your CV stand out from the 100 or so other people graduating from your course at the same time and potentially applying for the same jobs or placements.

The things I miss most about University are the opportunities for experiences and engagement and I encourage all students to make the most of these. University for me was not about the subject I was studying but the transferable skills I would learn extra-curricular to classes.

My ultimate ambition was to establish this musical theatre school so whilst studying I completed a week-long professional development course through the Student Development Unit. The best advice I received this week was to set up a business and take the financial risk before you have the responsibilities of a mortgage or children which makes the process even more stressful.

Taking this advice to heart, within two months of graduating I had started running Saturday classes at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. During these two months I sought business start-up advice and undertook any and all free training on offer. I will admit to not knowing anything about running a business when I started and the first year was a massive learning curve but the information is out there to access and there are many great sources of support available to young entrepreneurs in Wales.

Ascendance Theatre Arts Ltd is now in its third year of business which makes me feel old!

The thing that amazes me the most and that I am most grateful for is the number of people who have helped me along the way by volunteering their time to help with the pole dancing society, competition and now our productions. From technical crew managing sound and lighting to stage managers, musical directors and our orchestra members to people making costumes, props and our chaperones… the support I have received has been incredible. The society, the competition and my business would not what they are without these people.

My advice is to take every opportunity offered to you because you never know where it will take you and to look after the people who will support you whether friends, volunteers, staff members or customers.

Has being part of a university society encouraged you to start your own business? Add your comments below!