Have you ever thought about becoming an entrepreneur? Well, from September 2016, Westminster Business School will be running the new Entrepreneurship BA degree. Based partially on the existing Entrepreneurship pathway on the Business Management BA, this new and exciting programme will offer an entirely new mode of teaching for Westminster, affording excellent opportunities for those who are looking to start up their own venture and innovate with new business concepts. To find out a bit more about entrepreneurship at Westminster, we caught up with some of the Entrepreneurship pathway students and asked them to share their experiences. Our thanks to Panthea Kaviani for this first interview – to find out more about Panthea’s experience, read on!
Why I chose entrepreneurship at Westminster
Hi! I’m Pathea Kaviani – in my third year at Westminster Business School. I chose Westminster first of all because it was local. I did my research and saw that it was in the top 10 at the time when I was applying, which was a huge incentive. I started my time at Westminster by studying a general Business Management degree and then after being introduced to the Developing Practical Entrepreneurial Ideas module, I started to get a feel for entrepreneurship and thought that this is something I’d like to do. I began to develop the mindset and the confidence of an entrepreneur and build my leadership and teamwork skills.
Becoming an entrepreneur at Westminster
From my point of view I think an entrepreneur is where you put all of your theory into practice. You need to be very confident, you need to have a bit of everything. It’s also all about taking risks and not being afraid of failure. In my second year I tried to develop my father’s idea, which would have become a family start-up. It didn’t quite go according to plan and when investors came in they rejected one aspect of the venture. I could have gone downhill and lost faith, but I stayed positive and I decided to move on and start a business with my uncle-in-law instead, something which has since proved more successful.
The course, generally-speaking, is like a rollercoaster. You do receive a lot of constructive criticism and you have to be ready for that for you to be able to progress. Timing is really important on this particular course – everything has to be done within the deadlines set. It has been a lot to juggle and on the Business Management with Entrepreneurship BA, I have had to manage everything from finance to marketing. Although I’ve enjoyed it and it’s been good for me, I think the students taking the new Entrepreneurship BA will benefit from focusing their time on the skills they really want to develop.
It’s a learning curve
One of the biggest things that I’ve developed is my independence. Before the course I really relied on people around me. Since then I have gained independence and learnt to depend on myself. I’ve also learnt to take advantage of all the resources available, such as attending events, creating a crowdfunding project, independently learning new photography and video editing skills, creating videos to publish on YouTube, reaching out to people on Facebook and other websites. Lastly and most importantly, finding a mentor who I can shadow and learn from their experience and knowledge. I’ve learnt that even with no money you still have access to a lot of resources at your disposal.
The classes themselves are great. It’s not so much presentations and just learning from a screen or from a book, it’s more Jane Chang (Module Leader of the Entrepreneurship pathway and Course Leader of the new Entrepreneurship BA) bringing her personal experiences into the classroom and using this as a real, practical tool to teach us. The way the course is structured, first of all you have lectures, and although there are presentations, Jane makes it her own. We learn from her because of the way she speaks and the stories she tells, and because she uses not only the positive experiences, but also the ones where things didn’t go so well. We then got to the point where we started working in circles and doing lots of team work. We would speak to each other about our business and ideas and about what kind of financial resources we might use. It’s all a circle of learning, both from other entrepreneurs who have been through the process and from each other. This year we worked individually to create our own business idea plan, something which I believe will be done in groups in the new Entrepreneurship BA.
Mentoring and one-to-ones
The course also involves external mentorship programmes and internal one-to-one mentor meetings with Jane. Yes, it was hard to have a meeting with Jane because she would throw at you everything you did not think about – you’d come into the meeting and think “wow, I know what I’m doing” and then suddenly you realise that although the books say one thing, there are essential areas you have missed. Jane guides you so that you can spot these points and make your project stronger than it was before. To help you achieve success, Jane will give you step by step advice and recommends additional books relevant to your business concept.
The biggest challenge I faced at Westminster
Working as an “intrapreneur” and Director of my uncle-in-law’s business, I found that my biggest challenge was coping with being responsible for the future of our business at the same time as experiencing personal difficulties. It’s very hard if things aren’t going quite right in your own life, to stop that from impacting your success. I didn’t let these problems affect me and learnt to work around conflicts. Every day within university I’ve learnt to push myself further and further and not give up. Without the entrepreneurship pathway I’m not sure if I would have had the same experience.
On the topic of failure
Failure is seen very negatively by a lot of people, but as an entrepreneur you need to be able to deal with failure in a positive way. Sometimes things don’t work out, but you learn from them and move on. In a way, failure is the number 1 thing you have to be ready for. This course has taught me how to manage failure and how to find new motivation. One example of this is a Crowdfunder campaign that we had access to. You’re assessed on the results, sure, because in real life it’s important to meet targets (it’s not just about proving it to the teacher, it’s also about proving it to yourself and to the followers of your business), but you were also assessed on your evaluation of your campaign – so if things went wrong you would evaluate thoroughly determining the reasons (integrating entrepreneurship theory to this experience) behind this. Evaluation is the main aspect of this pathway.
Some key advice to budding entrepreneurs
- I believe someone might have the traits of an entrepreneur but they need to develop and strengthen them to become an entrepreneur. If you don’t see those traits you need to work on those traits.
- Develop your team skills – this is key to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
- Find mentors and learn from them. Find people that have experience and get them on track with you – communicate with them because they will help your ideas to become reality.
- Take part in student life wherever possible. You never know where opportunities lie!
- Don’t give up if the going gets tough because failure is the key to your success!
- You don’t need to scrap things if they aren’t working out and re-start from scratch – use that to your advantage and build on your experience.
- Do your reading!
My plans are to develop our carpentry business and improve my managerial skills. If it doesn’t work out, well at least I’ve given everything to it and learnt a lot along the way. My second goal is to open a salon, but we’ll see how this pans out first!
Thank you again to Panthea for this great interview. If you would like to find out more about the new Entrepreneurship BA degree, please visit the course page!
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