My time at Cardiff Met and the Centre for Entrepreneurship by Scott Flear.
Before I go into detail about the events I attended through the Centre for Entrepreneurship I want to give you a quick overview of when I attended the University, how I got in contact with the department and what I actually do.
I first attended Cardiff Met (UWIC to me!) in 2011 studying Business Management with Marketing. At this time I was still running my first fitness site and working for Cardiff Sports Nutrition doing SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and content marketing. I kept it all quiet along with my second venture RugbyWarfare.com until I booked a meeting with Lee Sharma [former Business Start-Up Manager at the Centre]. I regret not going to Lee earlier and becoming a part of this department. What led me to book this meeting was going to an event at the management building sitting on tables speaking with 4-5 different people from different business backgrounds. One guy was a motivational speaker, he was great. Another was an importer of goods and worked with Kooga (huge rugby brand) and I thought I was in luck! Unfortunately he wasn't working in the rugby industry any longer but he gave me some great advice on where to look for manufacturers. Information like this is hard to obtain, I've tried for years emailing large companies for advice, it hardly works so to get them face to face for 20-30 minutes is great.
The first meeting I had was great. Lee wasn't too keen on my idea of bringing out a rugby magazine app but I managed to persuade him of the viability of the idea and then he was on board. The department helped me book meetings with Antur Teifi, this is one of the companies that work with people on helping them get a grant or start up loan. They then went through the whole process of getting me a £6000 grant. Unfortunately they didn't give me any as they said I had been trading since mid 2012 as I had social profiles for RugbyWarfare, shame but I went back to the department for further guidance.
Spiderhack was awesome. There was 5 of us with ideas and we got a dedicated team of designers, software students and experienced mentors to help get our ideas from paper to real life. I placed 2nd at the event but the process meant I got amazing feedback from the judges and this event actually pushed me to go ahead with rugby clothing as opposed to the digital magazine. I was adamant on making an app but after the event it all changed. I had a new vision with great advice, I was ready to get funding together for my first batch of clothing.
Countdown to launch
This was my favourite event by far. There was over 20 of us who wanted to learn about business and start our own. I saw some familiar faces but met a lot of awesome people too. The 5 day event was jam packed with awesome speakers, workshops and then at the end a chance to win funding. I built my business plan, added new ideas, got invaluable information and was extremely motivated. Not only that but I stay in contact with many people from the event as we help each other out with ideas which is good to see. Josh of Treatment Clothing was a great resource for me to learn more about clothing and how the whole process works.The pitching on the final day was quite nerve-wracking but it was fun as there was loads of free food! I was pleased with the outcome, I was one of the winners and won £1000 for my business, amazing!
From then to now
So what has happened since? I graduated, met up with a UK designer and manufacturer and got my first batch of shirts in. I worked on the e-commerce site all summer and once the first batch came in I sold out within days. I also had the money to re-brand and now my logos are better than ever. This cash then meant I could invest in more designs which I did. The spartan shirt is a huge hit, selling out every single time a batch comes in within a day or two. I've now just launched "The Classic Range" which is two styles of t-shirts and hoodies. The rugby world cup is approaching and I am working flat out on a new range for it along with shorts, joggers and vests which have just come in.
It's a year on and things have gone pretty fast! I would never be in this position without the help from the team or the funding. Having a £1000 grant meant I could use all the revenue and put it back into the company without paying off a loan or something similar. Furthermore, without the events I wouldn't have transitioned from my ideas to different ideas with the expert advice I got. I probably would have ended up de-motivated or still trying to develop a digital magazine for a reasonable cost, I got quoted £5000-£12000 for the design I wanted!
My only regret is not going earlier. An extra year could have made such a big difference. Maybe if I went with my fitness site I could have used it in different ways but I ended up selling it as I lost direction. If you have any ideas, designs or anything please attend these events! The team is super friendly and are there to help. Don't worry if you have no business experience or just an idea, as everything starts from an idea. No big successful company did it themselves, they got help on their journey and it makes all the difference.
Just to add, doing my businesses on the side has lead to my new role as SEO manager at the largest games room specialists in the UK. My experience with RugbyWarfare certainly helped me get the role so even if your idea doesn't work out, it could get you a job! My plan is to keep running RugbyWarfare as a hobby and in time outsource many elements of the business so I'm not spending all my time working!
If you're still not sure whether you want to pursue the events these guys put on, please read "The Four Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferriss, incredible book. Make the most of your time (and money) at Cardiff Metropolitan. I can't praise the guys enough and this is evident as they have won awards for their efforts with us through out the years.
If you have any questions on how to get started online, search engine optimisation or anything related please send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com I will be more than happy to help.