Background to engagement activity
Many students and graduates devise compelling business ideas but lack the knowledge and support to truly make them happen. “I’m a creative, so I really needed help and strategic support in moving my idea forward,” explains Anne Edwards, a Master’s graduate with her own jewellery business.
Tanmay Kumar Das, a PhD student, felt the same. “I’m not a businessman, I’m a biologist, but I was looking to turn my PhD into a product.” As the University for Birmingham, we are committed to transforming lives and ensuring our students and graduates have the support to achieve their dreams – from this, the STEAM Hatchery was born.
STEAM Hatchery provides students and recent graduates with a vital opportunity to learn important skills and turn their business idea into a functioning enterprise, all with the support of STEAMhouse Incubator.
The Hatchery also looks to meet Birmingham City Council’s ambitious new levelling up strategy by providing students and graduates with the chance to create their own employment opportunity and build the skills modern employers seek.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Julian Beer says that the new programme matches the University’s demand to power regional transformation and ensure its students have the skills needed to succeed in modern business.
“As the University for Birmingham, we are committed to providing a transformative experience for our students and graduates, one that brings together multiple disciplines and ensures that they have the attributes needed for their future careers,” he says.
Richard Scutt, Head of Growth and Incubation at STEAMhouse, feels this new initiative is another example of BCU providing hands-on employability support.
“Recent startups like Gymshark and Lounge Underwear have shown to people that, with the right support and access to facilities, they can create a viable business that can grow. STEAM Hatchery provides them with the tools to achieve this,” he says.
“If you know of a student or graduate that has the attributes and determination needed, let them know that this is a vital new programme for them.”
Engagement activity undertaken
Over 10 weeks, participants attend taught sessions, learning vital skills in financial planning, prototyping, pitching and creating sales strategies. They also spend a day each week accessing key advice from business experts from the world of finance, marketing, intellectual property and more.
“When I first started the Hatchery, I had no idea about the important aspects of business,” explains Sophina Miah, the Founder of a textile company. “This programme gave me the ins and outs.”
Rishika Bhalla, an MA graduate, agrees. “The STEAM Hatchery has useful sessions where I could look at my business from a clear lens and decide what I want it to be. It pushed me to think about areas of business I normally wouldn’t think about.”
The mentors were on hand to guide participants throughout the ten weeks, with one of the former - Ones Trainers founder Simon Caulton - relishing the opportunity.
"Because I’ve got a live business that sells products, I’m able to talk them through a business plan and help them with it, costings, margins, the things that are really relatable to a business and how it runs and make it a viable business. Sometimes you can have a business idea but you need help to make it financially viable. For me, it’s getting that knowledge across to them. It’s been incredibly humbling."
Evidence of impact
In the Hatchery’s first year, 60 participants developed business plans, built their knowledge, and increased their networks and confidence. “I feel I have gained so many skills and have become a more well-rounded person,” says Rishika. “I’d 100 per cent recommend the Hatchery to others – it gives you the confidence to believe in yourself and bring your passion to life.”
It proved to be a mutually beneficial journey, with the STEAM Hatchery mentors finding their role both reflective and rewarding.
“Having a programme like the Hatchery would have made a massive difference to my career at the beginning,” says David Mellor, an experienced business consultant and Hatchery mentor.
“I went into traditional graduate training and it took around six years before I was ready to take the business plunge. Here we have something that’s fun, upbeat, vibrant and really important.
"This is a brilliant opportunity for young people to trial ideas and to innovate. I’m hoping to give a bit of real-world experience, support and some perspective, having seen and worked with many businesses.”
Simon would also highly recommend the Hatchery mentoring experience to any business professionals in the area.
"From a personal aspect, if someone wants to become a mentor, it’s really satisfying and it’s enabling the next generation of entrepreneurs and startups to avoid making the same mistakes we’ve made and help them understand what it takes to run a business," he explains.
"If they had some of these models when I was starting out my business, I’d have jumped at the chance. These kinds of programmes just aren’t around, at least not to this extent."
Find out more information by reading the news story.