SIE: Supporting Scotland’s Student Entrepreneurs

SIE, Scottish Institute for Enterprise, helps students in Scotland discover their entrepreneurial talent and start up their own ventures. Their mission is to help create new student businesses and social enterprises.

The national New Ideas Competition is for those who might have an idea but haven’t taken steps toward making it a reality. The summer programme Bootcamp is another entry-point for students who know they want to start their own venture but haven’t taken the first steps, or don’t even yet have a new idea.

We asked CEO Fiona Godsman to tell us all about it.
Imagine being in a room with 35 young people, all still at university, but all ready to take the leap into self-employment, with great business ideas ranging from products such as designer cakes and innovative bike racks to mobile apps and new on-line services. The first day of the recent Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) Bootcamp was full of nervous faces, wondering what they had let themselves in for. Three days later, however, these inspiring young people were standing in front of a panel of business people, pitching their ideas with confidence and clarity.

The ultimate aim of SIE is to help create new student ventures, social enterprises and self-employment opportunities. SIE does that by helping the students to develop their business know-how and by showing them how to turn a good idea into a brilliant business. All the students who participate in our events benefit, even if they don’t immediately go on to launch their own business, for example by becoming experienced in problem solving and by developing a real understanding of business life.

The residential Bootcamps are the culmination of a busy year of activities and events organised by SIE, all planned to encourage every student in Scotland to consider entrepreneurship as a real option during and after their studies. The students who participate in these activities come from all of Scotland’s Higher Education Institutions, and are studying a wide range of subjects from engineering to history. Although their ideas can be related to their subject, that’s not always the case. New, successful businesses have been created from ‘hobbies’ the student feels passionate about, or from recognising an opportunity based on their own unmet need.

So that SIE can engage with each University individually, we have 2 or 3 Student Interns on each campus, who promote SIE and their own University’s enterprise services, and also run their own local events, competitions, and enterprise society. They are managed locally by a member of University staff, the Enterprise Managers, who have experience in business advice and incubation, business and enterprise studies, and careers advice.

SIE’s annual ‘New Ideas‘ and ‘New Ventures‘ Competitions attract around 500 entrants each year. All that is needed for the New Ideas Competition is an idea for a real business opportunity, which doesn’t need to be well developed. Entrants are judged on both the quality of the idea and the student’s commitment to take it to the next stage in starting-up and turning it into a real venture. The New Ventures Competition is for well-developed business ideas or already established businesses or social enterprises. This competition is designed to accelerate the business and help unleash the full potential of the idea. Previous winners and entrants of our competition have secured significant funding (including the offer of investment on BBC’s Dragon’s Den) and are continuing to grow their companies successfully.

Realistic business support for students is provided by our full-time Regional Business Advisors, people with extensive, practical business experience. These advisors talk students through the process of starting a company and help them to find the right support and funding from a wide network of business organisations. They also run the Company Acceleration Programme (CAP) for businesses with high growth potential. CAP not only provides vital support to nascent companies, but has created a like minded and supportive community of student entrepreneurs.

As a small organisation, SIE relies on the support of a wide range of companies and individuals. If you have time to spare, either to present at any our interactive events, or simply to provide practical advice over a coffee with a student, please do get in touch. You are sure to come away from the meeting inspired and energised by your encounter with our next generation of entrepreneurs.


Valerie Kemp, Tutors’ Alliance
When Valerie Kemp was studying for her law degree at the University of Aberdeen, she used her language skills to fund her studies by providing private tuition in English, French and Latin. However, she discovered that there was no professional membership organisation for private tutors which was able to address a number of the issues surrounding the vetting of tutors and which offered tutors business advice. So with the help of SIE, she established Tutors’ Alliance Ltd. with fellow student, Emma Porteous, to set up an organisation doing exactly that.

Tutors’ Alliance provides free advice for parents and pupils about tuition, as well as giving them the contact details of tutors who have been thoroughly vetted. For tutors, Valerie offers a Tutor Check report – a report detailing a tutor’s qualifications, experience and credentials; and training for tutors across the UK. She is also working with a number of tuition agencies and lobbies the government for increased regulation of the private tuition sector. Having graduated in July 2010, Valerie intends to dedicate her time to developing Tutors’ Alliance into a nationwide business.

Alice Ratcliffe, Shop Pulse
Alice left school at 17; she didn’t find it engaging or challenging enough. She Started a PR and Journalism course but suffered from the same problem. So she began buying up wholesale cosmetics from salon closures on Ebay and reselling them at a profit in her spare time. The profits were double the amount she received from Student Loans – her first taste of being an entrepreneur! Looking for a new challenge, she began a law degree at Aberdeen and started a fashion blog to generate some income. The fashion blog became popular and although it only made a small profit from ad revenue, it had a strong readership. This was where her idea for Shop Pulse began.

Shop Pulse is a fashion aggregation website which delivers live product updates. It provides users with alerts of what’s just in, back in stock and last chance to buy items. Updates cover 24 stores in both the designer and high street sector. It has recently been featured in Company Magazine’s little black book of online shopping, the prestigious Online Fashion 100.

The Shop Pulse iPad application will be launched at London Fashion Week in September. They are working with six of the world’s best fashion bloggers from luxury stores, including Browns and Netaporter, to produce an extravagant fashion show for the launch event. Forthcoming angel investment is allowing Alice to take on a new staff as well as building a licensable B2B platform. These new developments will add new advertising and license fees revenue streams to Shop Pulse. Alice isn’t bored any more!

Amanda Dobbratz, IRONBBRATZ
After meeting on a Masters degree at the Glasgow School of Art, Amanda and fellow North American import, Jessie Ironside, established IRONBBRATZ as an arts project to facilitate opportunities for under-represented creative practitioners.

They hosted their first exhibition in the front room of Jessie’s flat in February 2009 and continued working in a transient and temporary manner, exhibiting to growing audiences and enjoying an ever increasing profile.

In Spring 2010, Jessie returned to her native Canada and Amanda began the process of finding IRONBBRATZ a permanent home.

Artist studios and workspace was an area lacking in Glasgow and provided an opportunity for IRONBBRATZ to further support creative practitioners. IRONBBRATZ registered as a Community Interest Company Limited by Shares and took on space in Glasgow’s City Centre in July 2010.

IRONBBRATZ Studios will help emergent creative practitioners grow and flourish, keep them engaged in their practice post-study and give them a support network. The ethos of IRONBBRATZ Studios is to: be the most sought after creative studios in Glasgow; have the best and most open community; provide the most relevant professional opportunities and have great craic.

IRONBBRATZ has been invited to speak at events for creative and student entrepreneurs, been commissioned to undertake a month-long project at the Market Gallery in Glasgow and has served on consultation groups regarding finance for creative practitioners.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.