Members of the SIFE team

Exeter entrepreneurial students impress SIFE UK

The University of Exeter’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team has successfully competed in the regional competition and been selected to take part in the opening round of the 2012 SIFE UK National Competition.

SIFE Exeter operates across all three University campuses and, set up less than a year ago, has already got 119 members working on 11 community and commercial projects. The three campuses are working together to make a positive difference in their local communities of Devon and Cornwall; at the same as harnessing students’ entrepreneurial and volunteering spirit and improving their employability skills. Some of the projects that Exeter SIFE students are working on include empowering homeless people and helping them develop skills for living an improved life, and generating biodiesel from waste vegetable oil to use in Student Union vehicles to reduce environmental impact and generate a cash flow to finance future social enterprise projects.

The team has raised more than £6,000 in their first six months and received grants from the University Annual Fund, Wilkinson, Centrica and Enterprise Rent-A-Car who commended the team’s work and achievements in bringing together students and their immediate communities.

Laura Bonner, SIFE University Advisor at the Exeter Campuses, said: “During the regional competition, we felt so proud of the SIFE Exeter team. It’s fantastic news for them to be competing in the opening round of the National finals and a great achievement for such a young team. They are highly motivated and talented, and have the enterprising attitudes that we are keen for all our students to develop. They set themselves tough challenges and are working really hard to achieve them. We are thrilled with their progress so far.”

SIFE University Advisers at the Cornwall Campus, Professor Alan Booth and Antonia Coppen have been stanch supporters of the cross campus collaboration. Alan Booth said: “This is an outstanding example of teamwork and cooperation across the campuses. The Exeter team really caught the imagination of the assessors at the regional competition. Their annual report won plaudits for its ability to transmit key information with clarity and impact and their presentation belied the difficulties of co-ordinating two separate groups that are one hundred miles apart. The mix of student cultures - business studies from Streatham, and humanities, life sciences and renewable energy from Cornwall - gave our team a range and freshness in their projects and presentation that will set them apart in the national competition. We have high expectations of them for this, their first year at the SIFE Nationals. But next year, with this very positive experience behind them, who knows?”

The national competition takes place on the 18 and 19 April and will involve the SIFE Exeter team having to deliver a presentation which outlines their achievements to a panel of leading business people and graduate recruiters.

Paul Blackmore, Head of Employability and Graduate Development said “SIFE is a great initiative that helps support extremely worthy social causes whilst enabling students to develop key employability skills, commercial awareness and ultimately enhance their career prospects. It is also a popular and well established global organisation well-respected by all major employers and subsequently engages extremely talented students. It is therefore an even more remarkable achievement for our students to be selected to progress from the regional heats into the national stages of the competition in its first year of operation at Exeter!”  

Rishit Radia, SIFE Exeter co-president said “I wanted to take this opportunity, to work with a group and create something big; something that would change the world’s view of social entrepreneurs. The SIFE platform was the best route for this. SIFE has incorporated a proper structure to help students make a change. It also, at the same time, gives students a chance to develop skills to become socially responsible business leaders. It is a great platform to turn something you are really passionate about into an actual project.”

Jess Drew, SIFE Exeter co-president concluded "I'm so proud of our team for what we have all achieved this year - and getting to the national competition is so exciting and a huge achievement! Rishit and I attended the nationals as observers last year and it really showed us what an amazing and unique thing it is to be part of a SIFE team at university. This year we can't wait to be competing there - the atmosphere is electric and it is fantastic to see what students alone can achieve in their communities! A brilliant end to a brilliant year.”

Date: 11 April 2012

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