The Graduate Entrepreneur

Last Updated: July 8, 2019 in Business Advice Members
When I graduated from University back in July 2017, I had no idea what I was going to do next but I did know what I didn’t want to do…

I wasn’t prepared to move to London and leave my beautiful home town behind. I also knew that I didn’t want to just jump into the first job that was offered to me. Perhaps this was too picky for an inexperienced graduate. At this time, it was a struggle to find something that excited me. By chance, I spotted a tweet from a local Graphic Designer offering office space in a lovely studio overlooking the millpond in Emsworth. Feeling disheartened by my current situation, I took the courage and messaged him to arrange a meeting that same day. I knew as soon as I stepped into that office that it was perfect for the start of my journey. I started freelancing and I began working with small, local businesses to help them with their branding. It was great to push myself and I was excited about what was to come. I learnt a lot from these businesses and from the other Graphic Designers that I was lucky enough to surround myself with.

A few months after I started freelancing, my cousin asked me to help with her wedding stationery and I was so excited to work on something completely different from my current projects. While I was studying at the University of Portsmouth, I was keen to experiment with wedding stationery but unfortunately it wasn’t appropriate for the design briefs. I love working with pastel colours and anything floral. Whilst creating different designs for my cousin, the idea popped in my head and I discovered what I really wanted to be doing. I wanted to start my own wedding stationery business. I gave myself 4 months to prepare everything. I didn’t want to rush into anything and I wanted to be taken seriously when I entered this fast-paced, growing industry. Within this time, I created 9 different designs, set up my own website and I created sample packs to give to potential customers as well as venues and wedding planners.

Within my first year, I threw myself into as many wedding fairs as possible. This was a great way to meet other wedding suppliers and to get my name out there. I was nervous about what the other wedding suppliers would think of me but I was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming everyone was. I have formed some great friendships and it is always a good feeling when I arrive at a wedding fair to see a familiar, friendly face. This industry really surprised me and I was relieved that there was enough space for my business.

As a 23 year old, I am always conscious about how people perceive me and my business. I feel like I constantly have to prove myself. I started to think about why I felt like this and I came to the conclusion that starting a business at this age is not common. Most graduates jump into the first job that they are offered because they feel they don’t have any other options. I think that entrepreneurship needs to be encouraged more within universities. I was fortunate that my university course featured a unit on freelancing and we were taught important details such as how to work out an hourly rate and what to include on an invoice. This was part of the reason why I chose to start freelancing.

This journey has already taught me so much. I am constantly learning and growing. I also feel incredibly grateful to The Collective who have helped to boost my confidence. I have met so many great people within this community.

Here are a few things that I have learnt along the way and if you’re debating whether to leap into the unknown, I hope this helps to encourage you. No matter how old you are, it is possible.

Be patient: A lot of people assume that they will be successful within the first few months. Good things take time but it will be worth the wait.
Plan ahead: Don’t rush into anything. I have met a lot of people that just want to start their venture straight away. This could work for some people but I would suggest waiting and thinking everything through before making any big decisions.

Budget: Running a business is costly and you won’t make money quickly. Always think carefully about what you are spending your money on.
Support: Surround yourself with a good support network; these people will carry you through even when you don’t want to.

Be confident: Put yourself out there, what have you got to lose? Throw yourself in and see what happens. Starting a business is risky but it will be worth it.

Listen: It is very easy to dismiss opinions from those that don’t have a clue about your business but just listen. Sometimes it is good to take the criticism and think about how you can learn from it. So listen to everyone, you can choose whether to take the advice.

Step back: You need time to reflect on the future and to generate new ideas. This will also help you to appreciate your business and how you can improve.