Entrepreneurship, challenges and University: Q&A with Studifuel’s founder

Enterprise Club’s Johnny Dixon interviews the founder of Studifuel about the beginnings of the business and the part University played, amongst other things.

Q. What are you studying at UoM?

A. I am a second year BA Economics Student – interested in subject since A-Level and think it’s quite a well-rounded subject.

Q. How did you get started with Studifuel?

A. I’ve been interested in enterprise from a young age and always wanted to start a small business, but I never knew how to get started. Living in halls as a health conscious student, I saw that the people I lived with had scarily unhealthy diets. People were eating frozen, processed foods for their meals and snacking on unhealthy and high sugar snacks. There’s also a real takeaway culture in Fallowfield. There isn’t anything bad about eating this food from time to time, but I saw that so many students ate nothing else. My friends from school told me this was the same at their universities, so I started to think about what I could do to improve student health.

With unhealthy food being so much easier to get than healthy stuff, I saw a gap in the market for a product that promotes healthy eating whilst being easy to get a hold of. The Studifuel boxes get delivered to your door and are filled with healthy snacks, vitamins and minerals, herbal teas and easy to follow recipes.

Q. What is a day in the life of Studifuel like?

A. As an e-commerce, there’s lots of different things that need to be done, so depending on the time of month, I’m either producing marketing for social media advertising, fulfilling orders, dealing with shipments or responding to customer queries. When you start your own business, you don’t always think about the number of trips to the postoffice! I study full-time, too, so I have to balance all of this with my uni work.

Q. How has your time at UoM helped you?

A. The environment at the University is something I really try to take advantage of. There are so many quiet spaces to work, like the SU and Atrium, and there are so many different people and programmes that can help you to explore ideas and grow your business.

I got involved with AccelerateME with Manchester Entrepreneurs, which really taught me a lot. I’m also looking at taking a module in enterprise next semester through the Masood Enterprise Centre.

Q. How did you get involved with AccelerateME and what did it entail?

A.  I found out about Manchester Entrepreneurs at the Fresher’s Fair in first year and went along to a couple of their events. From there I started out my business and found out about the AccelerateME programme. I applied for the programme this year and was successful. This 12 weeks programme gave me invaluable funding, opportunities for peer mentoring and knowledge about starting your own business. I think, most importantly, I was part of a community of people in the same situation as me, and we all developed our businesses together.

Q. What advice do you have for someone that wants to start their own business?

A. Entrepreneurship is a seriously valid career opportunity. You get to follow your passion and grow it. If you can put in the time and effort, you can really make something that’s bigger than yourself.

It is difficult, though. I don’t make enough to pay myself a wage. But I’m proud of the fact that I’ve planted this seed and watched it grow into something that’s having a serious impact.

I think it’s important that you test out your ideas first and don’t be afraid of failing. Not everything will work, but you have nothing to lose and a safe eco-system at the university that can help you with every step.

Q. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

A. Balancing my course with my business is a big challenge. I have to sacrifice my business for exams and coursework, but this has taught me a real lesson about managing my time and prioritising.

I’ve also had a few technical issues, and as my business partner is currently teaching in Asia, it can be hard to communicate these issues and get things solved quickly. This has meant that I have learnt how to problem solve and to organise our communications effectively.

I still make occasional mistakes with orders, which is just a challenge attached to working out of halls, but these are all part of the experience. You really have to identify and learn from your mistakes.

Q. Do you think of yourself as an entrepreneur?

A. It’s weird as a student to think of yourself as an entrepreneur, but I guess I’d say I am. It’s a scary word that’s hard to define, but I think the spirit of developing an idea into a real product is a skill that makes you an entrepreneur. Anyone can have a great idea, all it takes is a willingness to develop it and to pursue it as a career.

Q. Do you think that you could define what enterprise is?

A. I think it’s about developing certain skills. You need to be passionate, hardworking and dedicated, but you also have to have a creative spark because it’s easy to get started, but it takes work to push yourself and compete in online markets. You also need skills in innovation and learn professional people skills. I never thought I’d be able to network or work with others, but I think enterprise includes developing these skills to succeed.

Enterprise Club is a brand new initiative for any University of Manchester student who has an interest in thinking differently and treading their own career path

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