Three Ideas: Student start-ups

Jamie Murray Wells

1. Jamie Murray Wells, Glasses Direct

Jamie Murray Wells formulated his idea for website while he was studying for an English degree at the University of the West of England (UWE) after his own experiences trying to buy glasses had proved less than satisfying.

Jamie had experimented with various other business ideas at university but stumbled across his idea when he first joined the spectacle-wearing community. Unhappy with the prices, he did some research and discovered high street chains were making  huge profit margins  - so he decided to supply glasses online at a fraction of the price.

Jamie recommends 'using what's appropriate' to get your business off the ground. He started out using the last instalment of his student loan, as well as taking investment from friends and family; then moved on to professional angel equity and venture capital investment once he could prove the business model worked on a small scale.

Jamie believes his status as a student wasn't a problem when he was securing his funding. "Whether you're a student or a professional, you have the same obligation to prove the idea will work."

In fact, being a student can prove useful: university offers a network of talented people with specialist knowledge, IT equipment, library resources, time and space.

Jamie's advice is to adopt an organic approach:  "Start small, grow big," he says. "Start big - and you'll go bust."

Hermione Way2. Hermione Way,

Hermione Way founded media production company during the second year of her journalism degree, where she discovered there was nowhere for media students get paid work experience.

Hermione's aim was to build a business which could give students and graduates paid work experience and supply the industry with a cheap alternative to corporate production houses.

Hermione seized the opportunity to use her student loan as the initial investment. From there on she wrote a business plan and showed it to investors, where she secured angel finance. Did she think investors and customers took her as seriously as more experienced entrepreneurs? "No. Not at all," laughs Hermione. But she also admits she stuck with it and it wasn't too long before people realised her team's youth was beneficial, bringing a fresh, funky alternative to the industry.

Duncan Turnbull3. Duncan Turnbull,

Pig-rearing enthusiast Duncan Turnbull started aged just 16, after people had begun to show interest in buying his pigs. For him, turning his hobby into a business was a natural step.

It seemed obvious to Duncan that there was a market for selling pig meat with an original twist - to adopt the pig you will eventually eat.

The business has grown organically with no big capital injection. Although the initial funding was provided by Duncan's personal savings, when he decided to go to university, it seemed natural to inject his student loan into the business.

Duncan also found UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) a useful channel to open up foreign markets. They supplied Duncan with important funding to go to Italy to sell at Salon Del Gusto - the largest indoor food festival in the world.

Duncan suggests it was his network of associates that has helped him get to where he is now, "It's the contacts and the wide variety of people that you meet that opens doors," he says.

Duncan believes his degree in politics, philosophy and economics (PPE), naturally complimented his entrepreneurial streak.  While it may have been stressful juggling university deadlines and a business, he says knowing he is providing customers with quality produce helped him struggle through.

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