More Magazine Issue 4th March 2013 Student Businesses

Who said that to get to start your career you have to be in debt by £1000’s from studies before you have even set the foot in the door. This article shows how 3 girls have become filthy rich and gives us some sort of inspiration that anything is possible… 

From filthy digs to filthy rich. Meet the entrepreneurial girls who’ve swapped student living for running their own businesses…

At a time where another high-street chain seems to shut every day and it was reported that 1700 people applied for just eight positions at a new branch of Costa. It’s no wonder more of us would rather take our working future into our own hands. In fact, the latest research reveals that half of 18 – 24 year old women want to swerve the nine to five altogether and set up on their own, doing something they really love. But, unsurprisingly, nearly the same amount say they’ve got no idea how to turn their business dreams into reality. So, if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, be inspired by these girls who took the leap – and are now making it pay off, big time.

‘I WAS MAKING TEA NOW I’M SELLING IT’ Jules. 24. from Newcastle set up her own Tea company.
‘I was so excited when I bagged a job at the fashion company during my placement year at Northumbria University, studying fashion marketing. Unfortunately, it turned out to involve nothing more than loads of filing and making endless rounds of tea. I never even used to drink the stuff, but by the time I finished I was an addict. When I was buying tea, I noticed there was a really crap selection of teabags in supermarkets. So, when we had to come up with a business concept in our final year, I had a brainwave. I came up with the idea of silky teabags filled with loose-leaf tea, presented in a paper cup that you could go on to use. No one else on my course wanted to make a real business, but I won a £1,500 prize from uni for my idea and decided to register it as a business. I Googled for a tea supplier in Sri Lanka, designed some quirky packaging and went to local markets where I could sell the finished product with few overheads. After a few months of it selling well, I plucked up the courage to walk into Fenwick in Newcastle. I asked to speak to a buyer and even with my very basic product (and terrible pitch!) I persuaded him to stock it. Seeing Teashed on the shelves a few months later was the best feeling of my life. My friends couldn’t wait to earn enough to move out after uni, but I had to reinvest all the money I made from the business back into it. I was exhausted and didn’t have the time-or cash-to go out, but 18 months later I’ve just bought my first Marc Jacobs bag, so I’m starting to see the hard work pay off. I’ve recently secured a huge contract with John Lewis, have been approached by nine new outlets across the world, and hope to open some TeaShed cafes across the UK. We want to be the next Starbucks for tea-drinkers within the next five years.’


‘I PAY MY FAMILY TO HELP ME MAKE MY JEWELLERY’ Maria, 23, from Brighton, runs Maria Allen Jewellery.
‘I’ve always been quite creative and used to make jewellery for myself that I couldn’t find on the high street. I’d etch illustrations on to little pieces of wood, which I turned into necklaces, brooches and earrings. I never dreamt I could turn my hobby into a business. But when I was studying graphic design at Brighton University my mates would see pieces and say, “Ooh, where did you get that from?” I started making bits and bobs for friends when they asked, but once I realised there was a real demand I began taking my jewellery to local trade shows too. It was a tricky balancing my degree with a part-time business, so I decided to set up a shop online marketplace Demand grew from a couple of sales a week to dozens, and with my pieces priced at £20 to £50 a pop, I realised I could do it full time when I finished uni. I learnt everything as I went along, practising my photography so that I could market my jewellery better and trawling forum for tips. The next step was to approach shops. I used my graphic design skills to put together a catalogue of all my products and contacted every boutique in Brighton that I thought might be interested in stocking them. Around the same time I won a £1,000 innovation award from the Beepurple enterprise network, which meant I could re-invest in more stock. My jewellery is now sold by 40 retailers across the world. And last year I created an Alice in Wonderland-themed range for Tate art galleries, which was an amazing learning experience. I moved all my stock out of my parents’ house and started renting a work studio. Now I even employ my mum full-time to help me! Last Christmas, I had to take on six temporary staff and since my jewellery has been for sale on I’ve been busier than ever. Now I can afford an accountant and a photographer, and I’m looking to hire a couple of assistants to help out in the studio, so I can focus on new designs and growing the business even further. During my three years at uni, my business turned over £100,000. Now I make than in a year. You can’t beat paying (as well as earning) your own wages.’


‘MY DANCE STUDENTS PERFORMED AT THE BRITs’ Zoe Jackson, 26, from St Albans, set up a dance company.
‘I was lucky enough to win a place at the National Youth Theatre when I was 16, but couldn’t afford the £2,000 fees. Trying to figure out how to pay my way, I had a brainwave – if I was struggling to afford performing arts courses, so were others. After applying for funding from the local council and getting a £2,000 start – up loan from the bank, I set up living the dream offering affordable dance classes for just £5. By the time I finished my A-levels, I had over 100 members. I went on to study at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, but carried on organising classes and performances in the uni holidays. After I graduated, the plan was to become a dancer in the West End, but I had to have an operation on my jaw, which left me out of action for six months. With all my auditions on hold, I decided this was my chance to focus on the dance school full time. When I saw a T-Mobile flash mob ad on the telly, I thought, ‘I could do better than that.’ So I persuaded St Pancras station to let me put on a flash mob with my students to raise our profile. We filmed it and it went viral, getting 300,000 hits on YouTube. After that, companies like Virgin & Vodaphone came to me for backing dancers to promote their brands. We’ve performed for the Queen, at the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, and at the BRITs. Next I want to launch a talent agency and a dance school in London, and raise funds to give bursaries to struggling students – just like once I was. Money isn’t my main motivation, but I think it’s the entrepreneurs driven by passion, rather than profit, who end up making millions.’


5 STEPS TO STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS – Carrie Green of the Female Entrepreneur Association says: 

SET GOALS: Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve is vital. Get a pen and paper and write down your goals and when you want to achieve them by.

GET SUPPORT: It can feel lonely setting up on your own, so check out online forums such as for inspiration and support.

FIND FUNDING: If you need money to get you started, check out start up Loans, who can provide loans of up to £2,500 if you are under 30, or The Prince’s Trust, who offer research loans of up to £5,000. Lots of schemes come with mentors, too, making them extra useful. 

LEARN FOR FREE: When you’re starting a business there will be things you have no clue how to do, but answers are out there. YouTube has video tutorials on every topic under the sun and The Centre of Excellence for women’s Entrepreneurship hold events and talks.

NUTURE YOUR BUSINESS: Business incubators – companies, like Google’s Campus, that help start-ups succeed by offering workspaces, IT infrastructure and expertise – are popping up all over the place. Visit to find your nearest one.

(Please Note: The information is from the More Magazine article ‘From filthy digs to filthy rich’ in Issue 4th March 2013, I did not write this!)

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