Have you started your own company or are you thinking of starting one in the future? If so, then taking advantage of NACUE (which stands for National Consortium of University Entrepreneurs) should be high up on your list for this academic year.
NACUE is a new student-led organisation that helps young entrepreneurs to access resources, support and funding.
It's the idea of Victoria Lennox, a former President of Oxford Entrepreneurs society. I caught up with her at the end of last week.
How can student entrepreneurs benefit from NACUE over the coming year?
NACUE offers three services aimed at three specific audiences. NACUE Groups for enterprise societies; NACUE Entrepreneurs for young entrepreneurs; and NACUE Ventures for early stage start-ups. We support students step-by-step through the entrepreneurial processes.
Student enterprise societies in the UK have long suffered from the challenges of sustainability, programming and finance. They have operated until now as isolated bodies. NACUE Groups provides the leaders of enterprise societies with training and resources, online and offline communities, mentorship, and access to a national network of sponsors, mentors and speakers.
NACUE Entrepreneurs provides an online hub for young entrepreneurs in the UK to learn about enterprise events, resources and opportunities. There's an online directory to help young entrepreneurs develop skills, gain experience and start a venture. It has a national calendar so that students can find out about upcoming events at their university and in their area. We are also hosting the NACUE Student Enterprise Conference in February 2010 and the National Varsity Pitch Competition in May 2010 to showcase the hottest young entrepreneurs in the country.
One of the biggest barriers that young people who want to start a business face is access to funding. Investors often find it difficult to navigate the bureaucratic institutional structures within most universities. NACUE Ventures is the UK's intermediary between young entrepreneurs and investors. It provides resources to explore funding options and online and offline platforms to pitch to investors. There's also opportunities to learn from successful entrepreneurs.
How many universities are on board so far?
We work with over 80 universities across the UK and support 52 enterprise societies that engage more than 25,000 enterprising students. We are currently mentoring the development of a further 25 societies.
How are you helping these societies to pass on NACUE's messages to their members?
Enterprise societies drive our work through our Regional Networks and our National Student Enterprise Advisory Board. Through inviting their members to join the NACUE Community and attend NACUE events across the country, enterprise societies are able to offer more to their members by not only providing them with membership to their society, but also access to a rich national network and resources.
We rely heavily on online communications like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and GroupSpaces. We also work with enterprise educators to reach students who may not be part of an enterprise society. Member societies showcase their membership to NACUE through logos and links on their websites.
Who else is NACUE working with?
NACUE works closely with Microsoft and Tata as our leading corporate partners. We work with enterprise educators across UK universities and have developed strategic partnerships with leading organisations such as Make Your Mark, the Prince's Trust, Enternships, Shell Live-Wire, Entrepreneur Country and School for Start-Ups. We also sit on the advisory boards of the UK India Business Council Next Generation Network, and SFEDI and have international affiliate societies across Europe, North America, South Africa and South East Asia.
We are also privileged to have the support of some high-profile senior advisors, each of whom has been absolutely instrumental to our development since our launch. People like Julie Meyer, the founder of Entrepreneur Country & First Tuesday and the CEO of Ariadne Capital. She is the new online Dragon on the Dragon's Den. Doug Richard, the founder and Chairman of Library House, Cambridge Angels, and a former BBC Dragon. More recently he has founded the School for Start-Ups.
What's next for NACUE?
Over the next few years NACUE have will have made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of young enterprising Brits. We hope to export our innovative to model to several countries in the EU and North America whilst retaining a grassroots, student-led culture.
Last question: do you personally have any tips for budding student entrepreneurs?
Just do it.