Entrepreneurship champions

We need new businesses to drive our economy forward, but it takes a unique set of skills to develop an idea into a thriving business.

To tackle this challenge head-on, Essex Startups places enterprise and entrepreneurship at the heart of the student experience.

We guarantee that every student across the University has the chance to develop and fulfil their own entrepreneurial potential or propel innovation in the organisations they join after graduation.

Rise of the student entrepreneur

“We know that 25% of our students are interested in exploring the possibility of running their own business,” says our Head of Start-up Support Andy Mew.

“As a result, we're committed to supporting those individuals within our community who are driven to break the mould and maximise their ambition and creativity to do something different.”

While the University's entrepreneurial support encourages the development of knowledge, skills and confidence for individual students, it offers so much more from a social and economic perspective. The creation of new businesses promotes regional development, economic growth, creates jobs, and enhances local entrepreneurial networks. At the same time, businesses increasingly value being able to bring graduates in who can innovate and offer agile thinking to companies.

In addition, entrepreneurship can help those who experience structural inequality, such as those with a disability, a neurodiverse condition, or caring responsibilities. Our support gives opportunities to those who feel the traditional employment framework doesn’t fit them.

Cultivating an entrepreneurial community

Andy says: “The Essex Startups team has grown rapidly to meet the increased demand for an entrepreneurial education from our students. Our approach bridges the gap between entrepreneurial theory learnt in the classroom and real-world experience.

“In response to our students needs we provide a comprehensive programme to engage students with an entrepreneurial-mindset and support the expansion of their enterprise knowledge and skills, from idea creation to minimum viable product launch and beyond.”

Essex Startups has developed a series of initiatives that reflect the needs of under-represented groups within our start-up community. Empower, for female founders, BE:ME, for black and ethnic minority entrepreneurs, and Thrive, for those with freelancing ambitions, incorporate interactive workshops with expert external speakers to inspire students and assist in broadening their professional networks. 

iTeams, which runs annually, provides students with the experience of working for an external organisation on a tangible, real-world business challenge. Over eight weeks, teams participate in workshops, mentoring, and self-directed work to develop a deeper understanding of the problem and present solutions to overcome it.

Essex Startups' home in the Innovation Centre on the Colchester Campus offers state-of-the-art equipment and space for our community of entrepreneurs to work independently and collaboratively, as well as providing a registered business address and the exposure to established local businesses operating within the building.

“Being bold, ambitious, creative, and committed are central to the Essex Spirit, and are characteristics mirrored within our thriving entrepreneurial community,” Andy says.

“Essex Startups has been vital to the development of my business from the start. From finding funding, to offering marketing expertise, and providing a support network, I wouldn’t have got to this point without them.”

Ben Mendrys
Class 2023, Founder of Wattbox

Our stats speak for themselves. Since 2019 we've...

Awarded £341,000 in funding to student and graduate businesses

Supported the creation of 100+ start-up businesses

Delivered events to 2,800 students and graduates.

Provided 1,829 mentoring 1:1 sessions

Meet some of our entrepreneurs

Charlotte Moore
Founder of Spike Savers

Class of 2023 graduate Charlotte began her start-up journey following completion of an entrepreneurship module, delivered by Essex Startups, during the second year of her BSc Sport and Exercise Science degree.

The ‘hypothetical business’ that Charlotte came up with gained her a First and £3,000 from her academic department to pursue the idea. Through mentoring with the Essex Startups team, she honed her idea, identified her target market, and learnt about the processes and costs associated with manufacturing.

“The Essex Startups team have helped me with all aspects of establishing my business. I came into this not knowing anything but participating in a few programmes and having regular 1:1s with my mentor has contributed massively to my understanding of the business world.”

Charlotte participated in the Empower: Female Founders programme, receiving £3,000 at the final pitching event, before being accepted into the evolve Accelerator Programme and being awarded £19,000 in funding upon completion.

Charlotte has designed a slide-style overshoe for athletic spikes, to prevent blunting when moving away from the track to varied floor surfaces. She used the funding she received to produce prototypes of her product for testing and to create a portfolio to explore partnership opportunities with sportswear brands.

Abisola Bright
Founder of Polishpad

Class of 2019 Economics graduate Abi began training as a nail technician during her final year of study. This led to her starting her first small-scale side-hustle, offering nail services to friends and family, to earn a bit of money and hone her skills.

Realising her potential, she began participating in Essex Startups workshops to develop her business skills and build her business plan. With the support of the team, she identified a gap in the market for a dedicated business management platform for nail technicians and the journey to build Polishpad began.

“It was during my last year of study that I came across the Essex Startups team. I participated in the Summer Bootcamp and spent the months that followed creating a business plan. Everything I have learnt about business is thanks to the support of the team, and here I am three years down the line still receiving their support.”

Abi participated in the evolve Accelerator Programme, as well as taking every opportunity to pitch her idea to secure the investment needed to progress her business to the next stage.   

Abi has contributed to the BE:ME and iTeams programmes, offering honest insights into her experiences and inspiring the next generation of student entrepreneurs.  

Earlier this year, Abi was shortlisted for the prestigious Startups.co.uk Young Entrepreneur 2024 award for her success in setting up Polishpad.

Find out more

PhD student studying at Essex

Discover your entrepreneurial spirit

While studying at Essex you can develop your business skills and ideas with Essex Startups.

Student talking into a microphone

Inspiring tales from our Start-ups community

We've supported an amazing group of student and graduate entrepreneurs.

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Sixty Stories

We’re celebrating 60 years of making change happen.  60 years of boldness and bravery from our students past and present. 60 years of creating change.