Back in 1999 Semisonic were in the charts with Closing Time and I was entering the final year of my degree, my last year of being a student. There is one lyric from the song which seems quite pertinent to how that year affected the rest of my life so far.
"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end"
Upbeat and cheery eh? OK maybe not, but quite true.
I'd not really enjoyed the previous year at uni, mainly as I'd spent too much time working to try to keep my burgeoning credit card bill under some sort of control. I'd worked during the summer though, so I was determined to make sure I got the work/life balance right in my final year. I ended up joining a group called CSV (Community Service Volunteers) and went along to their icebreaker weekend at a centre in Swansea. Late in the evening a few of us were left chatting and playing around on an indoor climbing wall, I got chatting to girl called Emma, who said I should join the climbing club, which I did, and ended up meeting Ben, who invited me to a poker night at John's, which was a great night. Luckily for me I found a great group of friends from making the effort to try something new. – Take home message, try something new when you can, you never know where it will lead.
A few months later I was sat in a pub in the Peak District with these friends and conversation drifted to the inevitability of what to do after graduation which was fast approaching. John was determined that he was going to start a business, his plan was slightly flawed though as he didn't really know what that business might be. At that point I thought I would be joining a large Civil Engineering company on their graduate scheme, however I did have a couple of ideas for businesses, which after a few beers were shared with John and the rest of the group. One of these ideas seemed to gain a bit of traction and we ended up coming back to it.
A few weeks later we'd registered some domain names, set up a limited company, rented some office space and threw ourselves into starting up. Looking back, we didn't really have a clue what we were doing, but we had enthusiasm, charm and the ability to carry on living cheaply for a little bit longer. I really loved the buzz we got from going from nothing, to actually creating something real, a proper business with real customers. The mammoth sessions combining holding down a job, whilst building a website, sourcing products and still partying quite hard are etched into my memory, beer is so much more alcoholic after 72 hours with only 4 hours sleep!
In the following 12 years the business grew, we were invested in, we won some awards, John left, it grew some more, we took on staff, a recession hit, we tried to grow some more, it didn't work, we shrank, it got hard and eventually last year it became obvious that the niche that we'd been exploiting was getting smaller and smaller and we were not big enough to compete anymore. The beginning that had started back in 1999 had now come to an end.
What I had gained from those 12 years was a wealth of knowledge and experience of business, and this gave me the skills I needed to start here at Cardiff Met. A new beginning being born out of some other beginning's end. Back in June we ran Countdown to Launch, and from that 3 or 4 new businesses have started, and I've helped a few entrepreneurs start along the exciting route that I took 12 years ago. New beginnings!
You may have just begun at Cardiff Met, or you may be entering your final year and thinking about what new beginning is going to await you after this beginning has ended. I can highly recommend being an entrepreneur, it may make you rich, it may not, but it's certainly fun, interesting and will take you to places you never thought you would get to. To find out more why not come along to one of our events or networking evenings, you never know where that first step will take you!
Blog post by Steve Aicheler, Enterprise Officer