Student start-ups turned over almost £1bn last year – but it’s not about the money as 70% claim they wanted to pursue a passion

Eleanor Lawrie                                 1

  • Almost one in 20 students run their own business or joint venture
  • The average turnover is now £13,213 per year 
  • Santander Entrepreneurship Awards student winners pocket £15k prizes 

Entrepreneurial students are adding almost £1billion to the economy – but say they’re not all in it for the cash.

Almost one in 20 students are running their own business or joint venture while still at university – enjoying a collective turnover of £913million.

But burdened as they are with student debt, these young entrepreneurs don’t have pound signs in their eyes.

Seven in 10 said their business had evolved out of a hobby, compared with just over half who agreed they were financially motivated – and one in four said they were using it for work experience.

In 2015, 5 per cent had become entrepreneurs, the equivalent of 69,579 students. So far this year that number has fallen to slightly to 4 per cent, or 69,116 of current students.

 However, their businesses have become far more profitable. The average turnover is now £13,213 per year, almost double the £6,876 average in 2015.

And we could be in line for an influx of entrepreneurs as one in four students said they were planning to turn their venture into a full-time career post-university, while just over half said they would carry it on as a side-project.

Only three per cent said they were planning to close their venture down when they graduated.

Winner: UniGreenScheme's Michael McLeod (pictured with his fiancee) came up with his idea while studying in Birmingham 

Those that do want to persevere with their business have ambitious plans.

A little under half expect turnover to increase by up to 50 per cent over the next five years, while an additional 10 per cent are aiming to increase their cashflow by a whopping 250 per cent.

Thrifty: UniGreenScheme sells surplus lab equipment

The research was commissioned by Santander Universities to support its sixth annual Entrepreneurship Awards, which recognise and support student entrepreneurs from across the UK.

Matt Hutnell, director of Santander Universities UK, said: ‘Student entrepreneurs are an important contributor to the UK economy.

‘It’s also encouraging that many plan to stick with their business as their main career after graduation when their potential to flourish will be vast.’

Contestants from 81 UK universities could enter the competition under two categories: ‘important day-to-day products and services’ and ‘technology and mobile applications’.

Cash prizes of up to £15,000 were up for grabs for eight wining entries – selected by a panel of judges made up of entrepreneurs, previous winners, academics, and Santander UK employees.

Innovative: Jamie Grant's digital ski coach won in the technology and mobile category

The start-up winner in the important day-to-day products and services category was the UniGreenScheme, founded by University of Birmingham students.

They came up with an asset resale service that collects and sells surplus laboratory equipment for UK universities.

The funds the scheme generates are then put back into frontline lab research on topics ranging from cancer research to crop security.

Founder Michael McLeod said: ‘Winning was a massive surprise and a big boost for the whole team.

‘These awards will enable us to enter a new phase of growth, get more universities on board and ultimately prevent more equipment from going to waste.’

The start-up winner in the technology and mobile applications category was Motion Metrics, a digital ski coach created by students from Imperial College London.

The technology analyses skier technique to provide feedback and help users improve at the sport.

Co-founder Jamie Grant said: ‘It’s incredible to win these awards and it will make a huge kick-start to the business.’

Santander Entrepreneurship awards: The winners

Important day-to-day products and services

Start-up winner: UniGreenScheme – University of Birmingham

Start-up runner-up: Power a life – University of Strathclyde

Idea stage winner: AllDay Designs – University of Strathclyde

Idea stage runner-up: Staels Design Ltd – University of Glasgow

 Technology and mobile applications

Start-up winner:  Motion Metrics – Imperial College London

Start-up runner-up:  Hoxton Analytics – University College London

Idea stage winner:  Yonder – London School of Economics

Idea stage runner-up MeeTwo – Birkbeck, University of London


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