Entrepreneurs tend to be innovators and may not want to follow the well trodden paths taken by other graduates, so there are many routes to starting your own venture. There are, however, a few 'entry-level schemes' that new and recent graduates can apply to. The most prominent is Entrepreneur First: a 3 month programme that brings together individuals with the potential to found a new company. EF participants do not need a concrete business idea to join as the programme helps to build ideas, support ideation and to build collaborations and meet your co-founder to build start-ups from scratch.
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’.
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.
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.
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. Read more on visas.