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Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise | The Careers Service Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise – Oxford University Careers Service
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About this sector

Enterprising Oxford

Starting your own business, social enterprise or charity is a career option open to all academic backgrounds, and for in sector of the economy. Don’t be put off if you think you don’t have all the skills (e.g. financial accounting, building a website etc). There’s lots of help available with any and all aspects of starting an organisation, both while you’re here at Oxford, and after you complete your course. Another way to access those skills is to join up with others and “co-found” your new business, social enterprise, or charity.

Big shout-out here for Enterprising Oxford website – THE go-to website to start your investigation of this exciting world.

Entrepreneurship might suit you if you like being in charge, influencing other people, taking risks, making things happen and are adventurous, assertive, ambitious, and motivated.

Pros

  • Independence to follow ideas and ambitions
  • Geographical flexibility to suit your life
  • Control over the environment in which you work
  • The successes and rewards are all yours
  • Choice in the work that you do
  • Satisfaction in making the impact you want
  • Opportunities for significant growth

Cons

  • Often low/no income early-on
  • No guaranteed salary, sick pay, paid leave
  • Set-up costs: rent, equipment, insurance etc.
  • Inherent risks of failure
  • Can be hard to separate work from home life
  • Initially, lack of interaction with a big team
  • Accountability – it’s all on you
Types of job

The different types of self-employment can be broadly summarised as sole-trading, freelancing, and starting your own company, charity or social enterprise. Entrepreneurship comes in different sizes too – from a sideline to another job, to a smaller ‘lifestyle’ business or ‘cottage industry’, to a ‘scalable’ business with big plans for growth.

Sole-trading

  • No organisation to set up, just register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as self-employed
  • No need for formal accounts, just keep your own records for a quarterly and/or annual HMRC self-assessment form.
  • You keep all the profits, but if you lose money, it comes directly out of your pocket.
  • Usually used for informal or sporadic work with low liabilities.

Freelancing

See our guide to Freelancing if you’re planning to win contracts from clients to deliver work as an individual. Many freelancers are sole-traders, or have set up a company, but some choose other ways of working (such as through an Umbrella Company).

Starting a company

  • Need to choose a legal business structure (usually as a limited company)
  • Register with Companies House, file accounts, send an annual return (often involves using an accountant), register for VAT (only over a certain level of takings)
  • The general benefit of starting a company is that it protects your assets as an individual: if the company loses money your assets are safe as a director
  • Company accounts published through Companies House

Starting a charity or social enterprise

  • Different structures to decide upon: a cooperative, a community interest company (a special type of limited company), a charity or charitable incorporated organisation, an unincorporated association or an industrial and provident society.
  • Some require registering at Companies House, some through the Charities Commission.
  • Requires same diligence and detail as starting a company, but in the case of a charity you look to fundraise for your costs, and for a social enterprise you look to use your profits for a social good.
Entry points

Many students who become entrepreneurs follow one of the following routes to get there:

  1. Use the support services here in Oxford to prepare to launch their idea as they finish their course. See the skills and experience section below for more about this.
  2. Use external support services, such as other organisations, incubators, national charities, or regional support groups after they graduate and prepare to launch their idea in their first year or two after they finish their course. See the external resources section below for more about this.
  3. Take a paid role in a related area of work to gain knowledge, money, contacts and experience before launching their own idea in the future.
  4. Take a job in an area which isn’t directly related, but using their free time to develop their idea as a sideline, which may develop into full-time entrepreneurship in the future.

Information for international students

Many international students will find that the terms of their student visa prohibit self-employment or starting a business. If you do work on a self employed basis you will be committing an immigration offence.  This could lead to a refusal of future visa applications or removal from the UK.

This also means that you cannot take freelance work where you would have to invoice the company or client for the work that you do.  If you get offered freelance work you should ask the company if they can offer you a contract as an employee for the time you’re working for them. See further guidance from UKCISA on what kind of work you can do during your studies.

Graduate entrepreneur visa

International (i.e., non-EEA) students who have completed a degree in the last 12 months are currently able to apply for a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneurship Visa.

At Oxford, these are coordinated by The Careers Service, and you can read more about how to apply for the Graduate Entrepreneur Visa at Oxford.

 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa at Oxford.

The Graduate Entrepreneur Visa is different to the standard Tier 1 Enterpreneur visa (you don’t need £50,000 in investment funds to apply!).

Skills and experience

Core skills required

Essentially, any start-up needs three overall skills: you need people to:

  1. Build it
  2. Sell it
  3. Count it

If you are doing this alone, then you will need all the skills in broadly equal measure – to build the product or service, to sell and market the service, and then to ‘do the books’ (to run the accounts). If you’re co-founding an organisation, you might choose to work with people with complementary skills – not just your mates.

The following are the kind of core skills that are seen in many successful people who work for themselves. Everyone is likely to be stronger in some areas than others.

  • Willingness to take risks and revise your vision
  • Ability to work without direction and confidence to make decisions
  • Acceptance of a degree of uncertainty
  • Natural networker
  • Energy and resilience
  • Creativity and adaptability
  • Ability to solve problems and learn from mistakes
  • Self-discipline and self-motivation
  • Passion and belief in your project

Additionally…

In addition to these core skills, most entrepreneurs will also start to acquire the following:

  • Role models or mentors
  • Partners and collaborators to bring skills or resources you don’t have, or training to gain them yourself
  • A personal support network
  • Understanding of your market and any competitors
  • A ‘business plan’ for the project
  • Some money to fund the initial stages of the project
  • Financial estimates for the money you will need and potential funding sources
  • Credibility and knowledge in your field (to encourage investors and supporters)
  • Physical resources needed – desk space/workshop space/equipment

Building your skills at Oxford

Entrepreneurship Portal

Getting a job

If you’ve gained the skills, researched the concept, gathered any needed collaborators, and honed your business plan, you might be ready to take that last step from ‘someone with an idea’ to ‘self-employed entrepreneur’.

Incubators

An incubator usually is a free or low-rent office space which gives you (and your team if you have one) a place to work alongside other entrepreneurs. They might offer training, mentoring or networking alongside just the office space. There are business incubators in lots of cities and towns, but sometimes you have to fit certain criteria to be accepted by one. There are also ‘pre-incubators’, which aim to support budding entrepreneurs before they’ve really decided on their business. You don’t need to start your business in an incubator (plenty of people don’t), but it might be worth looking into if some of the benefits seem useful to you.

Accelerator programmes

An accelerator programme’s main aim is to help start-ups get bigger quicker. Usually they involve ‘seed funding’ – the accelerator programme makes a small investment for a small stake in the company. This money helps to fund you while you get set up. The accelerator is invested (literally!) in helping you get big and to grow their investment. They’re much more common with tech companies, and with ideas which have the idea of getting big in their DNA. You don’t need to use an accelerator (plenty of people don’t) but it might be worth looking into if it seems to fit what you want to do. There are fewer accelerators than incubators, but they’re still found worldwide.

Check out our summary of accelerators and incubators, funding and more in our ‘External Resources’ section. Funding, incubation and other opportunities changes all the time. To keep up to date, remember to sign up for email newsletters or similar from any useful external websites.

Starting your business

Fundamentally, you just follow the steps for the country you’re starting up in. In the UK, there’s a walkthrough on the government website, or use the following links:

Finding jobs & internships

Getting a job or internship in a startup is a good way to learn about how businesses work, and whether a startup environment might be right for you. They can vary widely, from paid roles, to volunteering, from high glamour to hard graft. Check out our external links below to find some useful job hunting websites to get you started.

There are also schemes which aim to teach and train potential entrepreneurs while they work for a new enterprise, such as the New Entrepreneurs Foundation programme, but you could also take a job in any relevant sector and develop your business plan as you build confidence, contacts, credibility and capital.

Information for international students

Remember, if you’re on a student visa, you may find you are prohibited from self-employment or starting a business.

Our resources

Books

The following books are available to read in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • Start your own coaching business, Entrepreneur Press and Monroe Mann
  • Start it up, Luke Johnson
  • How to write a Business Plan, Brian Finch
  • The one page business plan, Jim Horan
  • Brilliant Business Plan, Kevan Williams
  • Brilliant Employability Skills, Frances Trought
  • Velocity, Ajaz Ahmed & Stefan Olander

Programmes & services

External resources

Guides to setting up

Incubators, accelerators & support

More Oxford support

Funding

Unemployed / underemployed

  • New Enterprise Allowance is a new government scheme to support those starting up if you or your partner are currently receiving of Jobseekers’ Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or you are receiving Income Support. Gives a weekly allowance worth up to £1,274 over 26 weeks
  • The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme explained – The Princes Trust Enterprise Programme: start up support, mentoring and finance for those aged 18-30 and unemployed or not working more than 16 hours a week.
  • Bright Ideas Trust  – charity support for start ups, working with StartUp Loans

Jobs & internships

Magazines

  • The Startup Magazine – The StartUp Magazine has articles and content for entrepreneurs and start-up fans

Social enterprise

  • Social Enterprise UK – Social Enterprise UK has lots of advice on starting up, articles and a great job vacancy site too for jobs in social enterprise
  • Skoll World Forum – Skoll World Forum on social enterprise is coming in April 2015…
  • Marmalade…and the fringe events to Skoll World Forum, Marmalade (formerly OxfordJam), are also free to attend (13-17th April)

Sector specific

  • JLAB – Incubator from John Lewis to encourage retail startups
  • Distill Ventures – An accelerator programme for startups in the alcoholic drinks industry
This information was last updated on 26 October 2018.
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Recent blogs about Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise

Workshops at the Oxford Foundry in 7th week

Posted on behalf of The Oxford Foundry. Blogged by Corina Lacurezeanu on 15/11/2018.

Idea Exploration: What is the value proposition?

19th November 18.00-20.00, The Oxford Foundry. Sign up here.

This workshop a part of the wider ‘Idea Exploration’ series. Suitable for ALL University of Oxford students, postgraduate students and ECRs, in any discipline. No prior business experience or knowledge required.

You have an idea, and you have a strong understanding of who your customer is – great! But having an in-depth understanding of the value that you’re adding to your customers is vital if you are to communicate effectively about your product or service. You want to make sure that your customers show up – and that they keep coming back.

This workshop will help you:

  • Define your value proposition
  • Effectively communicate your value proposition to your customers
  • Understand how this differentiates you from your competition

EQuip Yourself – The science of motivation and engagement

21st November 18.00-20:00, The Oxford Foundry. Sign up here.

Motivation comes from vision, goal setting, and celebrating small successes, but there’s more to it – there’s actually a science behind motivation. This Workshop explores how the neuroscience and psychology of motivation works within the brain and how to motivation yourself and others.

What will you learn?

  • What motivates you?
  • Finding your why – Identifying your personal values
  • Understanding the effect of dopamine on the brain
  • Authenticity and behaviour drivers

This workshop is a part of the Foundry’s 12 part EQuip Yourself Series, and is suitable for ALL University of Oxford students, postgraduate students and ECRs, in any discipline. No prior business experience or knowledge required.

The Student Consultancy Hilary Term 2019 – apply now!

Blogged by Elleanor Thornton on 09/11/2018.

Consultancy Training in Hilary Term…

The Student Consultancy provides you with an exceptional insight into consultancy practice. Across a term, you will work in a team on a real-life business challenge for a client organisation.

Past students have worked with clients including: The Oxford Boat Race, Yellow Submarine, Belu Water, Eco Concierge, Eve, Happen, IBM, Minervation, Modern Art Oxford, Oxfam, Oxford Limited, OxHub, OxFizz, Oxford City Council, Oxford University Library Services, Pegasus Theatre and the Playhouse Theatre plus a range of start-ups.

… but it isn’t just about consulting!

The Student Consultancy can help you prove or improve a wide range of employability skills, some consultancy but also transferable skills including teamwork, communication, problem solving and business and customer awareness skills. These will be helpful in a huge range of future careers. Many of the students who take part actually do want to be a Management Consultant – which is great, but not a prerequisite! In other words, we don’t mind what you are studying as long as you have the right attitude and interest. Past TSC participants have ranged from 1st years to DPhils and from English to Economics students – with everything in between.

The Careers Service tries to match you to a client in a sector of interest – to provide experience for future applications. Whether you want a career in museums or marketing or an insight into IT or charities, The Student Consultancy can help.

Apply now

We run The Student Consultancy each term – and applications for the Hilary Term 2019 Student Consultancy are now open. We strongly advise applying as soon as you can, as the application window will close once we have a certain number of participants.

Apply now: “Student Consultancy Hilary Term 2019”.

For further information, and for mandatory assessment and training dates, please visit The Student Consultancy webpage.

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa Endorsement – apply now!

Blogged by Elleanor Thornton on 07/11/2018.

All applications must be emailed to elleanor.thornton@careers.ox.ac.uk by Monday 3 December at 12 noon.

If you have an idea for a business, have a venture currently in development, or are piloting a new concept, you may be eligible to apply for our endorsement under the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa scheme, which allows non-EEA nationals who are graduates or post-doctoral researchers to reside in the UK in order to develop their business.

Previously endorsed businesses have included:

  • Social enterprises and not-for-profits
  • Technology start-ups
  • Funding generation and investment organisations
  • Digital education tools
  • Energy research

The University of Oxford can endorse up to thirty applicants per year. Calls for applications are held four times a year: once in each term, and once during the Long Vacation. The next deadline for applications is Monday 3 December at 12 noon. Applications are now open, and you can apply by email to elleanor.thornton@careers.ox.ac.uk

You can find more information and details of how to apply on our visa page or on CareerConnect. Alternatively, you can email elleanor.thornton@careers.ox.ac.uk.

Interviews for shortlisted applicants will take place on Thursday 13 December at Careers Service (date and location are subject to change).

Skills and learning programmes at The Oxford Foundry

Posted on behalf of The Oxford Foundry. Blogged by Corina Lacurezeanu on 30/10/2018.

Mindfulness and Creativity

5 November, 17.30-19.00, The Oxford Foundry. Sign up here.

Interested to find out about mindfulness and how to incorporate it into your life? Wondering how you could use mindfulness to enhance your creativity?
Mindfulness is a well-researched, non-religious and effective means of alleviating stress, anxiety and depression and further to this, enhancing personal and professional growth.
This introductory workshop will introduce mindfulness – in theory, practice and research – and offer a few tips to keep you grounded and steady in the midst of a busy schedule. It will also focus specifically on how you can use the practise to help enhance your creativity.
The session will be led by Oli Bazin, Associate at the University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre.

EQuip Yourself – The science of happiness and how to achieve it

7 November 18.00-20.00, The Oxford Foundry. Sign up here.

The happier we are, the more productive and effective we become. But what is happiness and how do we achieve it? This workshop explores how the neuroscience and psychology of happiness works within the brain. It will help you to understand what contributes to individual happiness and how happiness starts with self-awareness. It will introduce the Laughology Happiness Model and the five pillars* that feed into wider happiness and self-efficacy, to help improve outcomes and success in a variety of situations. The five pillars of happiness: Coping skills, Positive relationships, Support, Confidence, Personal development.

Idea Exploration: Who is your customer?

12 November 18.00-20.00, The Oxford Foundry. Sign up here.

Have an idea and wondering what the first steps are in turning that idea into a venture? Interested to learn about the early stages of the entrepreneurial journey?

This workshop a part of the wider ‘Idea Exploration’ series focuses on step one of that journey, and will help you work with your idea to gain an in depth understanding of who your customer is. You will build an end-user profile so that you can start to define your target audience and understand specifically how your idea addresses their needs. You will then look at how to size and segment that market and which segment you should focus on first.


All workshops and events are free to attend, and are accessible to all current students, regardless of discipline or level of study. You can also take a look at The Oxford Foundry’s full term card here.

The Foundry website also contains information about the new pan-University/inter-college ideas contest, All-Innovate, which will launch fully in Hilary term.

Interested in journalism, arts, heritage and other creative careers?

Blogged by Lara Hayward on 17/10/2018.

Are you interested in a career in journalism but don’t know where to start? Do you want to hear about writing opportunities across all forms of media and get sector specific tips on your CV?

If so, a good place to start is by signing up to the brilliant Journo Resources website and newsletter.

Students have found it extremely useful and it’s a good first step to finding out more about the industry. We will also be running an Insight into Journalism workshop in Hilary Term so keep your eyes peeled for that.

For advice on careers in journalism and any other roles in arts, heritage and creative industries do come to the Arts, Advertising and Media Fair on Thursday 25 October at the Careers Service. For more information, see CareerConnect events section: search ‘Arts, Advertising & Media Fair.

 

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Older posts can be found in our archive of past blogs.