Matthew Rusk

Student Entrepreneur in Residence Matthew Rusk

Student Entrepreneur in Residence on supporting student business at Exeter

With support from the Annual Fund, Guild and Innovation Centre, alumnus Matthew Rusk has taken over the role of Student Entrepreneur in Residence. In this interview, he shows how he is supporting student business at the University of Exeter.

Find out more about student businesses at the University of Exeter at Matthew's blog.

Can you explain a little about your own business and how it came about.

MGR Music developed from the growth of Guitar Lessons Exeter, a private guitar tuition business I started in my first year of university. Having been a guitar teacher in Leicester I realised that I could fund my studies through teaching in Exeter.

Consequently, I bought www.guitarlessonsexeter.co.uk which was first in Google for the search “guitar lessons Exeter”, and began to teach the students that came through the website. By my second year I had over 35 students, teaching about 25 hours per week and earning £25 per hour.

However, the enquiries continued coming in so I decided to take on a second teacher in Exeter, enabling me to concentrate on my degree. As I generated a small commission fee every time the student was taught by the second teacher I quickly released that this was a model I could replicate across the country – something I began to do at half way through my second year at Exeter.

I rapidly bought several other regional guitar lesson domains www.guitarlessonsleicester.com, www.guitarlessonssheffield.com and guitarlessonsnewcastle.com to develop them and hire teachers. I then began to move into singing lessons and expanding southwards. As the model was working so successfully during my third year I began to purchase over 100 domains, coving three instruments – singing, piano and guitar – located throughout the UK. I now work with teachers from Belfast to Aberdeen, and Plymouth to Newcastle – supplying hundreds of students to a huge array of private music teachers across the nation.

Why were you interested in the role of Student Entrepreneur in Residence and what are you bringing to it?

The role of Student Entrepreneur in Residence interested me as it was an opportunity to learn from some of the best business minds I have ever met. It also enabled my business to have an incubation year, with the contacts, support and funding to give the business the best possible chance for success.

I bring three critical skills to my role, a genuine passion for people’s business ideas, the drive to help take these ideas forward into working businesses, and the ability to build networks of entrepreneurs to ensure the support is there for students who are running businesses.

The Student Entrepreneurs Society is one of the fastest growing of Guild societies...

Yes, the rise of the entrepreneur in the social eye (the Apprentice, Dragon's Den) combined with the public’s aspirations for economic freedom, wealth and success has encouraged more students to consider enterprise as a realistic choice post-graduation.

What sort of student projects are you involved with?

I have been involved with around twenty student businesses, everything from selling wacky premium men’s dining shirts (Winston Shirtchill) to supporting a wear-a-pair share-a-pair sock business (Jolly Goods) who give away one pair of socks to a homeless person for every pair of socks you buy. There as so many I can’t possibly list them here!

What is a typical week for you?

Meeting students in the Career Zone or Innovation Centre to listen the their business ideas, then holding follow-up meetings with students as they develop their ideas into working business models. I also organise events for students at every stage in the entrepreneurial process, from idea creation to running a business full-time post-graduation. This is the work I perform for the SEiR role, outside of this I run my company working from 7am -  11pm each weekday to fit it all in.

How far developed are the student businesses you are involved with?

The student businesses are taken from the very earliest stage of idea creation to post-graduation employment, I work with all of them to support and up-skill the students in any way I can.

Can you give us a flavour of the range of businesses students are creating?

Yes, the idea creation fall into two main areas – internal student-facing business ideas (clothes, discount cards, event businesses) – and external-facing ideas (web design companies, social enterprises, extreme sports products). The range is as broad as the business environment itself, with the diversity of Exeter’s student population being mirrored in their ideas.

What do you like best about working with them?

I find the passion that students have for their business ideas by far the most exciting part of my job. No one asks a student come up with a business idea, or sacrifice hours from their social lives, degrees and other hobbies – this is their choice. They are driven by something which is a love for what they do – I think anyone would respect such dedication.  

What will you do after this?

Hopefully run my company full-time – expanding across Europe will be my next big challenge. I would also like to influence the way music is taught in schools as there is much improvement that needs to be made in this area.

Even if this is just a hobby I will continue to do this for many years to come – ultimately this is why entrepreneurs are successful, they turn their hobby into a money making venture, if not it says a hobby – but they continue to work on it simply because they enjoy it!

If you had one tip for fledgling entrepreneurs what would it be?

Fail, then fail again – only then will you succeed.

Date: 4 January 2013

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