Introducing UAL’s Enterprise Programme

Emma Thatcher joined the Careers & Employability team last summer as Enterprise Practitioner, a new role dedicated to helping UAL students and alumni to turn their business and freelance ambitions into a reality.

Prior to joining UAL Emma worked at London Metropolitan University and creative business incubator Cockpit Arts.

So Emma, tell us more about UAL’s enterprise programme and how it links to not just a shop?

The enterprise programme is specially designed to give UAL students and alumni who are looking to start their own creative business, set up as a freelancer, or sell their work – the enterprising skills they need to do so. As the name suggests, not just a shop is much more than a retail space, it’s also a learning space – hosting talks and workshops on topics from pricing your work to protecting your intellectual property – and a space to support with starting and developing their businesses.

What topics does enterprise programme cover and why they are important for entrepreneurs? 

The enterprise programme is designed to include all you need to know when starting a creative business or starting a freelance practice. Topics include, for example, building a brand, pricing your work, getting into manufacture and working with retailers.

We bring in expert industry speakers such as The Design Trust, Let’s be Brief, The Freelancer Club, Crafty Fox and Cockpit Arts. We also feature talks from UAL alumni to provide insight into what’s it’s like to run a creative business – which is great as they also pass on all of their top tips!

Students and recent graduates can also book a one-to-one session with myself for tailored advice on starting up a business or how to get access to our funding.

Who can participate?

Students from across UAL and recent alumni (within 2 years of graduating) can participate in the workshops and one-to-one sessions for free. Alumni can also book the space for enterprising activates such as product launches or peer to peer groups.

In addition, UAL alumni that meet our buying policy can submit their work to be considered for sale in not just a shop through our open calls.

Why UAL is doing this?

We want to empower UAL students and graduates to make a living doing what they love. Being a specialist arts and design university, there is much interest in setting up creative businesses and entering the creative industries in a strong position. In a recent survey 30% of UAL students told us they were freelancing at the same time as studying.

We prepare students and support them through new and sometimes unfamiliar territory; giving them the skills and confidence to plan how they will develop a business and find work. We also help them to make informed decisions about how they’ll promote what they do, protect their designs and create a sustainable business.

What do you believe are some common mistakes entrepreneurs/start-ups make?

Not realising how much free help and support is out there! Certainly for those studying or having graduated from UAL.

I would say a common mistake is starting up without making a plan. This doesn’t mean each start up needs an arduously long business plan; but it really helps to create an outline of what you want to achieve with goals. I help students to break it into action points (as well as pass on tools and templates, plus top tips) so starting out doesn’t seem like an insurmountable task.

Another mistake people can make when starting out is underselling themselves. It’s my job to make sure our students and graduates feel confident and know their value when they enter the market. Sometimes they need guidance when it comes to believing how important their work is so that they go into negotiations and/or decide on their prices in a way that ensures they get paid fairly and competitively.

What start-up funding opportunities does UAL provide?

UAL’s SEED Fund helps to grow new business ideas and support enterprising initiatives developed by our students and graduates. We run 3 different levels of funding to support you from the first stages of developing your idea, through to testing it out and on to starting to trade. SEED Fund ‘Do it’ award winners each receive £5,000 plus mentoring and one-to-one support to help them to launch and develop their business.

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