EntrepreneurshipUC is the newly formed entrepreneurship society for students of the University of Canberra (UC). Despite being just some three months old, the society has already established itself by gaining funding and support. EntrepreneurshipUC was one of fifteen projects awarded a one thousand dollar micro-grant, over the Stir education platform. The society, as the name implies, primarily caters for the entrepreneurial in the student body of UC, however it does have general membership for any others who may be interested. The initial idea for the society came from Mitchell Harmer, Co-founder of SignOnSite (recently accepted into the Griffin Accelerator), and his talks with other UC students. “He sat down with a group of six other guys and they just started talking about business ideas. They came to the realisation that they needed something for the university, somewhere people could go to bring and discuss ideas. He then came to me and we started running it, we started off by just getting small groups together, it picked up from there.” EntrepreneurshipUC President, James Sellers.
The beginnings of the society having formed, other prominent members joined through deliberate action and chance. “I fell into it by chance, one of my mates was part of it and he went ‘Do you want to rock up?’ I wasn’t going to because I’m usually pressed for time, I’m so happy I did,” said Vice President, Germaine Muller. The beginnings of the society were solidified during an initial meeting on the grounds of UC “I think there were twelve of us, we had a psychology student, a high school student, graphic designers, entrepreneurship and innovation students, construction students,” said Mr Sellers.
The society, like others across Australia, is the realisation of an entrepreneurial movement which has been decades in the making. “It’s something they’re getting into. This kind of stuff has been happening for ten, twenty years, at least in Asia, and finally it’s making its way to Australia. It’s about time I think, it was matter of time, they’re finally realising,” said Mr Muller.
Mr Sellers commented on UC’s want for an entrepreneurship society, given the University’s offering of an entrepreneurship and innovation degree “The University has been wanting this for about six years. When I attended a course advisory meeting yesterday, for the entrepreneurship and innovation degree, the fellow who runs it actually said ‘Mitch approached me six years ago, wanting to do this’. It hasn’t happened because there hasn’t been enough drive, I think it was just the right time for it to happen. Everything is just picking up, they’re trying to improve the degree, there is all this stuff going on at the CBR Innovation Network, it’s just the right time. It’s the perfect example of entrepreneurship, putting something into market at the right time; if you’re going to do it, do it right.”
EntrepreneurshipUC has acted quickly following its formation: engaging UC’s student body, receiving a Stir micro-grant and reaching out to local high-schools. The society aims to encourage levels of endorsement for entrepreneurship similar to those found in other universities worldwide. “We want to get to the point where we can encourage people to come along and do entrepreneurial stuff. Once we get enough support, with enough people coming through, then we can go on to that stage potentially – maybe set up an incubator and keep it growing,” said Mr Sellers. Speaking of the levels of endorsement given for entrepreneurship in other universities worldwide, Mr Muller commented “that sort of mentality breeds more of the same type of mentality.”
“Everything that has happened so far in EntrepreneurshipUC has been as a result of me talking to Mitch, me talking to Germaine, everyone just talking to each other about their ideas. The first time Mitchell brought this up to me was over coffee and we just talked over what it should be like, that’s how we got to where we are now. That’s a perfect example of co-creation in some ways,” said Mr Sellers.
“We’ve had support from the university, in terms of UC Life supporting us. When I was at the course advisory meeting I got a lot of support from community members. People were quite interested in what it is that we’re doing, including the staff” said Mr Sellers. Mr Muller added to Mr Sellers’ comments on the funding and support the society attracts “It is looking very positive. We don’t need support at the moment because we’re trying to set the foundations. Once we do, then we can start workshops and events, that’s where the money needs to come in and go out, that’s where transactions need to happen. I think we hope for a lot of in-kind support, in moving forward,” said Mr Muller.
Speaking on how the society intended to use the Stir micro-grant, Mr Sellers said “A fair bit of it will go into our market stall, helping us to gain more traction in the university. At the moment we have only reached a certain number of students, we haven’t actually exposed it completely to the university yet. It has only been the entrepreneurship students, people who are on the Facebook group and anyone who is friends with any of our members. Hopefully our O-week stall will help us to get at least twenty to thirty members, or even more.” Mr Muller commented “We’re trying to get into marketing really, that’s what we plan to do now; once we sort the website out, there will some money invested into our website.” The society plans to use any remaining funds to finance workshops and upcoming events. “If our first workshop is really successful then people are more likely to come back, to come to our next one and say ‘I want to learn more,” said Mr Sellers.
The society currently has fourteen paid members, drawn primarily from attendees to the society’s IGM; plans exist to create an online application form for those hoping to register their interest in becoming members. The society currently employs social media and word of mouth to help promote its activities, with the society’s organisers believing word of mouth to be particularly effective in a university environment. The society enjoys amicable relations with UC but considers itself a separate entity from the university. UC wants to encourage work integrated learning in the entrepreneurship and innovation degree, something which EntrepreneurshipUC hopes to contribute to.
The society also acts to dispel popular misconceptions about entrepreneurship, the main point of order being the difference between business and entrepreneurship studies. Speaking about the society’s immediate plans, Mr Muller said “In the next month we’re hoping to: have all our marketing in place, the website done and to have signed on five partners, at least officially. When O-week comes around, the first week of August, we will hopefully have grown to fifty plus members. We’re aiming for two professional events a month, one social event and one workshop or a like. We’re really playing it by ear at the moment, if we can get more support, other things can happen. This is the plan, as things are at the moment.”
The society aims to eventually deliver some of the same services offered by local entrepreneurship and innovation groups and organisations. “We want to work with them to make the entrepreneurship community in Canberra grow,” said Mr Sellers. The group also plans to become a knowledge base, directing members of the public to relevant stakeholders and members.
Anyone hoping to learn more can do so by following EntrepreneurshipUC over Facebook, attending the society’s meetings and following updates about the society over the Canberra Entrepreneur website.