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Emily Davies, Student Startup Manager

Think:Try:Do welcomes new Student Startup Manager

This month we welcome the newest arrival to the Think:Try:Do team, Student Startup Manager, Emily Davies.

Can you tell us about your background and what brought you to Exeter?
"I moved to Exeter 18 months ago having spent 6.5 years previously in London. I didn’t know the city and had only visited Devon twice and so it was somewhat of a leap into the dark! Though I loved London and still miss many things about the city, I had decided it was time for a change of scenery and because I was in search of a new challenge and adventure and to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something new. So far, it has certainly been all of those things and more!"

What attracted you to the Student Startup Manager role?
"I have worked in Higher Education for the past 6.5 years and really enjoy working with students to develop their confidence, professional skills and helping them to discover what it is they want to apply their skills and talents to. I moved to Exeter for a maternity cover role as Global Employability Consultant and when that contract ended, I picked up some freelance coaching work with a local company called Corkscrew, based down in The Generator Co-work space at the Quay. Corkscrew is an EU accredited social enterprise that provides skills and training in entrepreneurship to young social entrepreneurs. I found it exciting and inspiring to be working in a startup environment and could see the impact the organisation are having on opening up a new range of possibilities and opportunities for these students. When I saw the job as Student Startup Manager at the University of Exeter, it seemed the ideal way to apply my experience within higher education and employability with the world of enterprise, entrepreneurship and startups and I was thrilled to be offered the position. As a brand new role, it has also given me space and opportunity to be creative and to bring new ideas to the table which is something I’ve found energising and very rewarding."

Can you explain your areas of expertise and how students are able to utilize help to explore business ideas at the University?
"Think:Try:Do is the University’s Enterprise support programme. At its heart, the programme is designed to equip students with the knowledge, skills and understanding of how to take an idea and to develop it into a viable business, whether that be a high tech startup, a social enterprise or an innovative new product/service. We provide the building blocks through Try workshops exploring ideation, through market validation, to developing an MVP and planning an effective go-to-market strategy. In addition to workshops, we also offer 1-2-1 meetings, mentoring and support. We also aim to inspire the students by bringing in guest speakers to the TRY workshops to share their startup stories, lessons learnt along the way and to discuss the realities of starting and running your own business."

What's been the strongest/most creative business concept that you’ve come across to date?
"Whilst I am fascinated by new technologies and applications, I am a pretty creative soul and have a bit of a soft spot for hand-crafted products and designs. I met with a student a few months back who is developing prototypes of lightweight, high performance wooden surfboards using new materials and an innovative design. The prototypes are almost complete and time will tell if they perform well but I’m excited to see this designer and maker progress with the project."

What message would you give to a student/individual who is struggling to get their business going?
"The most common reason that startups fail is because people build something that nobody wants. It is therefore vital to take the time to really validate the idea and being open to making changes and pivoting form the original concept. It is also important not to be too in love with or too attached to the original idea/business concept as this can sometimes stand in the way of its evolution and development. Be open to feedback, to making changes, to evolution. And above all, it is important to be open to feedback and advice, to be resilient and to accept setbacks and to learn from your mistakes."

What makes you tick?
"I really enjoy enabling people to people to discover what it is that they are truly good at or makes them happy or how they can apply their talents skills and experience. I also love seeing people learn and grow and develop over time whether in confidence or in knowing themselves better or figuring out what it is that makes them tick.  Aside from work, music brings me a great deal of happiness, whether it is going to see a great gig or sitting down and writing or playing music at the end of a long day -it is a great way to unwind!"

Date: 25 October 2017

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