This weekend students, graduates and entrepreneurs from across the UK congregated for NACUE’s Student Enterprise Conference 2020. Now in its 11th year, this year’s conference was hosted by Loughborough University London in Hackney Wick.
This year, #SEC2020 was divided into five streams which ran over the course of two days, joined by 344 eager delegates throughout the course of the weekend.
More than just a series of talks…
#SEC2020 offered delegates a wide variety of activities to attend. From workshops to debates, networking to seminars, students were given the opportunity to learn through a variety of different methods to reflect their own personal learning style.
Welcoming delegates this year was Yani Vladimirova, NACUE’s Enterprise Engagement Manager, who thanked Loughborough University London for their “outstanding collaboration of the next level, to bring the Student Enterprise Conference 2020 to you all today, to the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and future thinkers”.
Followed by Professor Aaron Smith, Associate Dean for Enterprise and Professor of Sport Business at Loughborough University London encouraged students to “participate in creating something powerful” during their time at #SEC2020. To “use their energy to many a difference”, perfectly setting the tone for the conference’s theme of ‘Accelerating Innovation for a Better World’.
With inspiration flowing from our opening speakers’ talks, students then followed to sessions of their choosing.
#SEC2020’s Futuristic Business Stream was officially sponsored by IPSE, with their very own Rebecca Wiley, Head of Education and Training, delivering a session dedicated to Freelancing. Rebecca shared with students the struggles to overcome when freelancing and provided expert advice on overcoming this, particularly emphasising the freedom and opportunities freelancing offers.
Additionally, in our Futuristic Business stream was Tim Barnes’ GovTech session. Tim shared his beliefs that GovTech is the biggest start-up opportunity in the world right now and after watching his session I am sure there are a fair few students now looking at getting involved with it. Benjamina Bollang, Co-Founder and CEO, shared how HigherSteaks have changed the food industry forever with their creation of cruelty-free meat. Creating a cell-based meat start-up to deliver the authentic flavour of meat, without the cruelty associated with farming.
#SEC2020’s Social Inclusion stream, sponsored by The Rain Gods, proved to be one of the most popular beginning with the Loughborough Panel. Alumni from Loughborough University including… gathered together to share their stories and answer questions. An interactive session was delivered by Pablo Lloyd, Founder and CEO of visionnaires. Exploring the subject on “What will be illegal in 2040?”, questioning the role businesses would have to play in impacting laws and society. Nesta’s Charlotte Reypens explored what an entrepreneurial mindset looks like, and how it can be taught. Meanwhile, Marion Brossard from TSIP led an activity-based session on how design thinking can empower diverse communities.
Diversity was a large focus at #SEC2020, with a whole stream centred around it. Rachael Corson from Afrocenchix shared her success story of raising £650k in VC investments to become the only organic afro hair product in Whole Foods. “Find a problem and solve it! I’ve seen many businesses run by very passionate people but if their business didn’t solve something, they didn’t make it through that first year”. Maggie Chen was on a mission to increase our delegate’s confidence, citing women don’t consider starting their own business out of self-doubt.
Meanwhile, Kay Kukoyi, of Purposeful Products, shared practical tips to turn a tech driven business idea into a reality. Perhaps the most popular session in the Diversity Stream though was the ‘Diversity Panel on Women in Tech and Business’. Addressing the challenges and opportunities women face in the industry, our panel of experts shared their own experiences and advice. Spring Li stressed “Don’t make your gender your label; you’re good enough based on your qualities”.
Also sharing their experiences and advice was our Funding Panel in the Disruptive Innovation Stream. Uncovering the best practices behind fundraising FinnotechUK, Galayev&Co, and SeedLegals helped our delegates to be investment ready. Also helping delegates get their idea investor ready, was Damon Bonser of the British Design Fund. With so much investment advice our Conference goers are sure to have plenty of feedback to work on! Make Happy’s Jonathan Bannister shared how to become an innovation master with the Basadur Profile, teaching how to optimise performances to build co-working teams which drive innovation forward.
Our final stream at #SEC2020 focused on Survival Skills. Jonathan Bannister had more to share here too, offering help to delegates on their Business Models. Jonathan led a practical and fast-paced workshop which guaranteed all who attended left with a better business model than when they entered. “I used to think it was about creating the thickest business model I could, so if I dropped it, it would make a loud thud. I’ve now come to learn that a good business model could be put on one side of A4”. Stuart Maddock of Clemorton, led a Leadership and Management workshop ensuring our entrepreneurs knew how to get the best from themselves and others, to be the most effective. “The intensity of caring when leading resonates with others and then they will follow you”. Creativity flowed through Stephanié Bazin’s Brand Identity session. Interactive doesn’t do Stephanié’s session justice; there was origami, glue and scissors! Delegates raved about their experience about the session on Instagram. You can catch up on Stephanié’s session online here.
Sessions weren’t the only main activity at #SEC2020 though. After a busy morning at Loughborouh University London, #SEC2020 moved over to the Plexal Centre. With over 90 companies and 800 members, Plexal is one of London’s largest co-working spaces, as they also hold Europe’s largest Innovation Hub. There, our Opening Keynote Speaker Dr. Catherine Holloway, spoke about her Disability Global Innovation Hub.
“I’d been told my whole life I wasn’t good enough. So when it came to begining to do things, like starting my own company, there was this voice in my head saying I couldn’t do it, that I wasn’t good enough”.
Her talk touched many hearts as she shared her journey, the struggles she’d faced and the joy she’d experienced.
Equally as impressive was our Closing Keynote Speaker Meg Zeenat Wamithi, Founder of My Mind Matters Too. My Mind Matters Too is a youth-led mental health research and development company with a mission to support 16- to 24- year olds. Meg shared her journey as an entrepreneur and business owner whilst she was a student.
“Today really did change your life because you are now able to realise that you’re not the only person going through what you’re going through.”
Not only did #SEC2020 provide opportunities to learn but to network too. With a social on Saturday night (and a late start Sunday morning) #SEC2020 provided a great opportunity for students to mingle with likeminded individuals, share and expand their business ideas but more importantly, make connections that will last.
#SEC2020 showcased a range of student businesses, who exhibited throughout the weekend. From art to homeware, AI to mental wellbeing, the exhibition certainly showed the diversity of our delegate’s businesses.
If you missed out on #SEC2020 then be sure to sign up for NACUE’s newsletter to be one of the firsts to find out more about #SEC2021! Next year’s conference will be held on February 27–28th in Leicester, hosted by De Montfort University.
If you think your business or idea is ready to pitch, start thinking of applying to the Tata Varsity Pitch competition powered by NACUE, #VP2020. To stay up to date on when applications open, as well as on NACUE’s other great opportunities, sign up to our newsletter by clicking here.
Thank you so very much to everyone who made this possible, but most importantly, thank you to you.
~ The NACUE Team