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Thursday 18 June 2015

Solent named one of top 20 UK universities for graduate start-ups

Southampton Solent University has been named as one of Britain’s top 20 universities for graduate start-ups in this year’s Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey (HE-BCI).

For the second year running, the University has maintained its top 20 position with 53 graduate start-ups created in 2013-14 – greater than the sector average of 23. The survey includes over 160 higher education institutions.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Graham Baldwin said: “I’m delighted the University has once again achieved its top 20 status.

“We have a strong record in supporting and encouraging students’ entrepreneurial talent. Any student who has a business idea can find a range of services to turn their idea into a reality, including work-based learning, training schemes, funding, one-to-one mentoring, office facilities and business events.”

The Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey (HE-BCI) is the main vehicle for measuring the volume and direction of interactions between higher education providers and the business and the wider community.

“I’ve had some really tough moments but I couldn’t be happier with my decision to set up my own business”, says Rowan Johnson, Southampton Solent University graduate and Director of Southpoint Films, a film production company based in Southampton.

Rowan graduated in 2013 after completing a BA (Hons) course in television and video production. With the help of Southampton Solent University, he set up Southpoint Films while still a student and the business is now going from strength-to-strength.

“I always had an entrepreneurial streak. I’ve been making films and creating my own websites since I was 12-years-old but when I went off to university I assumed I would follow the ‘normal’ route – do my degree and get a job when I leave.

“But things started to change. As I progressed through my degree I got the opportunity to get some hands-on work experience. My course offered a unit with Solent Creatives, the University’s student agency. It runs exactly like any other creative agency, and gives students the chance to get some real-life experience. I started to do more and more commissions and realised I enjoyed the independence and autonomy of managing my own projects.

“I had the idea of starting my own video production business but didn’t really know how to get it off the ground and make it successful. That’s when I found out about the University’s graduate entrepreneur scheme, and it progressed from there … They helped me learn about setting up a business case and putting my idea into reality. They gave me a grant to help buy some production equipment, and put me in touch with a business mentor, Paul French, who has been supporting me over the last 18 months.

“For me, it seemed counterproductive to go into a job and risk being at the bottom of the organisation with limited opportunities to produce films and videos. I didn’t want to lose my skills, and was keen to get started in the industry straight away.

“Since I graduated, Southpoint has gone from strength to strength. Word-of-mouth has helped me get more clients – recently I’ve worked with Visit Hampshire, the Royal College of Music, Southampton City Council, Heart FM – and I’ve recently recruited other graduates to help with larger projects, for example I’ve taken on a broadcast engineer to help with our online live streaming service, Southpoint Live.

“My business mentor Paul was running a video production company in the New Forest, so we made the decision to merge our two businesses so we can offer a wider service to our clients. It’s definitely an exciting time!

“Running your own business isn’t an easy option. You have to be prepared to get involved in every aspect of running it. It’s long hours and requires commitment.

“If you are just starting out, you need to make yourself aware of the different opportunities available. For me, tapping into the University’s resource was a great help – I attended events dedicated to business and entrepreneurship, and spent lots of time listening to expert business leaders and hearing the experience of others.

“I won’t lie … there have been some really tough times but I couldn’t be happier with my decision. You will make mistakes along the way, but if you don’t make mistakes you aren’t taking enough risks!”