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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 10 August 2017.
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Recent blogs about Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise

Oxford Hack is back and open for applications

Posted on behalf of Oxford Entrepreneurs. Blogged by Hugh Nicholson-Lailey on October 24, 2017.

Join a weekend of coding and creativity at the Oxford University Mathematics Institute, 25 to 26 November 2017. Apply individually or as a team of up to four before 11 November 2017 through the Register page on the Oxford Hack website.

Run by Oxford Entrepreneurs, this year’s Hack will build on the success of the 2016 Hack which brought together over 300 participants from 53 local and international universities. Together they created everything from a robot that fights unhappy people, to online whiteboards with LaTeX support.

OxfordHack is free for all accepted hackers, and we provide WiFi, meals, swag, and the workspace thanks to the generous sponsorship of Microsoft (as Platinum sponsor), Accenture, AI Gaming, Elsevier, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, and Netcraft.

For more information, visit the Oxford Hack website. If there are any questions, please email darkblue@oxfordhack.com We look forward to seeing you soon!

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa Endorsement – apply now!

Blogged by Timothy Collins on September 28, 2017.

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 Thursday 30 November 2017 at 12 noon. Applications are now open, and you can apply by email to timothy.collins@careers.ox.ac.uk, or via Symplicity (for Said Business School students), or via CareerConnect (for all other students/alum) using the following vacancy IDs:

  • for Students: CareerConnect opportunity ID dnk94
  • for Alumni: CareerConnect opportunity ID 3v86d

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

All applications must be submitted through CareerConnect or emailed to timothy.collins@careers.ox.ac.uk by Thursday 30 November 2017 at 12 noon.

Win a $1000 scholarship for coming up with a morale-boosting idea

Blogged by Abby Evans on September 28, 2017.

VelvetJobs, a US outsourcing and placement service, are offering a $1000 scholarship for students studying anywhere in the world. The “Employee Morale Scholarship” aims to get students thinking about their own potential future management position and how their decisions can affect employee morale. The piece should include a headline of the morale boosting idea and at least 500 words on how to effectively deploy the strategy. Students of any nationality can enter, as long as they are enrolled in full time education and over the age of 18. Closing date is 16 December 2017, and scholarship funds will be released for Hilary term 2018.

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