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Image copyright Young Ones

Image caption Despite appearances, Chris Rea( right) is not a typical student

At 6am every weekday, Charleh Dickinson meditates and does a place of yoga before checking her run emails. So far perhaps a typical start of the working day for many mindful entrepreneurs.

But unlike most business owners, Ms Dickinson is also a third year student at Sheffield Hallam University, where she juggles her studies with clocking up 50 hours a week managing her healthy food brand Designed2Eat, which she set up with her father two years ago.

While her papa, Peter Dickinson, is in charge of the accounts and legal side of the firm, Ms Dickinson is the face of the business.

So in between lecturings and analyzing, the food marketing management student can be managing marketings, testing new products and managing the brand’s social media.

If her week wasn’t stretched enough, Ms Dickinson works part-time at a public relations company, is a member of the university’s ski club, does daily fitness workouts, and has a boyfriend.

Image copyright Designed2Eat

Image caption Ms Dickinson gets up at 6am every day

“I’m a sucker for routine and I always get up at 6am – to me it’s only normal, ” says the 20 -year-old. “I have crazy days running around like a headless chicken getting everything done in time, but you just deal with it.”

Ms Dickinson’s determination seems to be paying off. Designed2Eat, into which she has invested 4,000 so far, principally from her student loan, while her dad has ploughed 10,000 in , currently has 30 UK and European stockists.

These include gyms, farm shops and Sheffield Hallam University, and the business turns over about 4,000 every month.

Despite devoting so many hours to Designed2Eat, Ms Dickinson doesn’t believe she’s sidelined her university studies in the process.

Image copyright Designed2Eat

Image caption Charleh Dickinson’s father has invested 10,000 into the business, while she has put in 4,000

“It’s had a positive impact – I came out with a first in my second year, ” she says. “A lot of people on my course go on placements, but I feel like I’ve come out with better knowledge having had my business at the same time.”

Growing trend

This entrepreneurial spirit is present at campuses across the UK. Almost a quarter of students already run their own business or entrepreneurial venture, or plan to while at university, according to research by Santander bank.

Jonny Luk, chief executive of the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs( NACUE ), tells the pace in the number of students setting up businesses at university has accelerated for two reasons.

“Firstly, technology means people can create digital business more easily, and we live in an interconnected world where get advice is easier, ” he says.

“Secondly, since the financial crisis the attractiveness of joining a big corporation has been dulled by the exhilaration of is available on a start-up. People want to be an entrepreneur.”

Image copyright DAN ROSS

Image caption Chris Rea( left) admits operating a business initially meant he lost focus on his degree

US business graduate Chris Rea’s entrepreneurial mindset was stoked immediately following he arrived at Exeter University five years ago. His first term saw him launch a beanie hat brand, but it was when onesies became a astound reach in 2012 that Mr Rea spotted a real business opportunity.

Together with his fellow student Tom Carson, they jumped on the trend, each investing 1,500 from their student loan and savings to pay for samples, and put up a website. A year later Young Ones Apparel had developed into a full dres range, including sweaters and T-shirts, and was also being sold at universities across the UK.

“I’ve always been entrepreneurial, it kind of becomes naturally to me, ” says Mr Rea, 23, who now runs full-time on the brand. “With the onesies, I only supposed if I can build some fund as a student then I’m less dependent on my parents.”

However, Mr Rea acknowledges he struggled to nail the right work-study balance. “In my second year, I got the balance incorrect. It was all new to me, and when we received a big deal I would just see dollar signs flashing in my head. I wasn’t thinking about the end goal of my degree.”

Failing to gain a 2:1 in his second year spurred Mr Rea into refocusing his time management, and he eventually graduated with a 2:1, although as an international hockey player for the US, he had “the biggest strain” of all when he was called up to travel to matches in Brazil and the State in his third year.

If that wasn’t enough pressure, Mr Rea appeared on Dragon’s Den during his third year exams, with Duncan Bannatyne offering 75,000 for a 40% share of the business. The duo accepted on the present but subsequently turned it down.

By then Young Ones had turned into a serious business, with annual sales of 200,000 and gross profits of about 40,000, which was reinvested in the business.


It’s a pressure all too familiar for Imperial College PhD student Serge Emerge, 26, as he gears up for the launch of his smart watch brand Blocks along with co-founders Omer El Fakir, 27, a fellow PhD student at Imperial, and alumnu Alireza Tahmasebzadeh, 21.

Image copyright Blocks

Image caption Serge Emerge( left) regularly works 12 -hour days on his start-up

The watch brand has received about $ 500,000( 331,000) in seed fund since it was founded in 2013, and it has raised $1.4 m via a crowdsourcing campaign to help deliver the product next April.

To achieve this goal, Mr Emerge has developed a strict regime – he dedicates four days a week to his PhD, and three days to Blocks, where he’s responsible for new partner relationships and software growth.

“On those days it’s non-stop – I’ll be working from 10 am to 10 pm. Running a start-up with a lot of fund raised is a big responsibility – it doesn’t leave day for a social life, but quite often we’ll take employees out for dinner to help build the team.”

Despite the health risks value of Blocks, Mr Emerge has never considered quitting his studies to focus solely on his business.

“My PhD is on something I’m passionate about – use technology to augment heath – it’s an interesting subject, ” he says.

“There’s pressure from both sides, but I’m very excited about the two things. One valuable thing I’ve learns is that you can do well in your studies and run a start-up as long as you’re efficient.”

Mr Luk also rejects any suggestion that running a business could jeopardise a degree.

“It’s hard and difficult, and maybe some degrees get sidelined a bit, but for many such an increase their CV, ” he says.

“It’s important to have a mindset where you’re solving problems – there’s a demand for that, and it’s more than you can get from a textbook.”

Read more: www.bbc.com

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