Students to suits: the female undergraduates setting up their own businesses

52,000 undergraduates in the UK start running their own businesses before they leave university

Fast and furious, that’s the pace of enterprise for millennials today. We are now seeing more and more young female entrepreneurs appear in global Rich Lists and it’s worth noting the pace and direction of this movement and what sectors they are in.

Businesses owned by young entrepreneurs are diverse and include traditional businesses such as property and fashion as well as high tech businesses like apps and specialist websites. If you have a Facebook account or have used Snapchat and Uber then you have helped make billionaires of some very young entrepreneurs. The technology era has opened doors for budding entrepreneurs and enabled them to start-up businesses cheaply and quickly.

Millennials – the generation of individuals born between 1982 and 2002 – are increasingly driving entrepreneurship, with 52,000 undergraduates in the UK already running their own businesses before they have left university, according to latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

The University of Westminster’s Spinder Dhaliwal is the author of a new book celebrating young entrepreneurs

So what’s it like being young, female and in business? Among these successful entrepreneurs are Westminster Business School alumni Sarah Watkinson-Yull, owner of Yull shoes, one of the only independent shoe brands manufacturing high heels in Britain. Sarah started a business first and later chose to pursue a degree which would complement and fulfil her business needs. She demanded her tutors helped her realise the potential of her business.

Plucked from obscurity to become a sporting heroine, Paralympian Georgie Bullen, is the director of Team Insight. Visually impaired from an early age, Georgie had the grit and determination to become the youngest player in the GB goalball team going on to compete in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Paralympics. Using Georgie’s victory as its launchpad, Team Insight offers the Paralympic sport of goalball as a team building exercise and boasts UK wide corporate clients. Shrewd businesswoman, team player and someone who won’t take no for an answer, Georgie is well set to be a major player in the future.

Georgie’s indefatigable spirit encapsulates the entrepreneurial spirit. Her inner self-belief pushed her forward against the odds. Georgie shows a determination and resilience and a ‘get up and go’ spirit.  There is no one single definition of an entrepreneur – each person will have a combination of traits and characteristics. Georgie is aware that she is the unique selling point in her business and has turned her sports acumen into a business opportunity. Georgie understood that she needed to learn about business before jumping in, and so approached the Prince’s Trust, reflected on her business idea and built up a great relationship with her mentor who opened doors for her.

As entrepreneurship becomes increasingly vital for the growth of the economy, more and more young graduates are taking up the chance to run their own business

Whatever your starting point, look at your strengths and build on them, don’t let your fear hold you back. Only then will you be alert to opportunities.

Quirky, confident and intelligent Solveiga Pakstaite, founder of Design by Sol, is easily recognisable with her inimitable trademark glasses and bags of confidence. This, together with her intelligence and tenacity in finding solutions won her the coveted James Dyson award for her Bump Mark innovation while still an undergraduate, catapulting her to a new league. The 26-year-old Lithuanian developed a cost-effective technology that reduces the alarming problem of food waste for blind people. Bump Mark tells you the exact condition of food inside the package just by running your finger over the label.

The business climate is constantly evolving. As entrepreneurship becomes increasingly vital for the growth of the economy, more and more young graduates are taking up the chance to run their own business. It is this young entrepreneurial talent that is needed to identify gaps in the market and use these as opportunities for business success.


Dr Spinder Dhaliwal is the author of The Millennial Millionaire, how young entrepreneurs turn their dreams into business (Palgrave). She is a reader in entrepreneurship at Westminster Business School, University of Westminster and has taken students through entrepreneurship programmes both in the UK and overseas

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