Parallel Society – an entrepreneurship society for students at Cardiff Metropolitan University, that I and a friend have just founded a month ago – was lucky enough to be sponsored by the Welsh government for a day trip to Birmingham’s Aston University. This is where the NACUE conference 2018 (National Association of College & University Entrepreneurs) was held; an exciting networking event for, well, anything student-entrepreneurship related. We started our journey at 6 am on a Saturday morning from foggy Cardiff, with nothing but a camera and a stack of our society’s business cards that I designed just the night before. Still, we didn’t know what to expect until our train made a stop at Birmingham Bullring.
Aston University’s campus was airy, scented with the freshness of morning grass. The buildings were a mix of classic and modern, much more spread out than our Cardiff Met’s campus; so it was quite a long walk from the entrance to the main hall where the NACUE conference keynotes would be. Unlike our visualisation of the event a week before, activities and talks were taking place in many different seminar rooms; which did not give us much of a chance to actually ‘network’ with every single attendee. Slightly underwhelmed, we went for lunch after a few talks and Q&A sessions. Free lunch vouchers and the variety of street food stalls at Aston were our highlights at this point.
While scooping up our “chilli con carne” and grabbing about five sachets of salt, a smiley lady with big curly hair approached us. She was a member of NACUE. Over lunch, she shared the incredible story of how NACUE, growing from a student entrepreneurship society just like our Parallel, to a massive social enterprise organisation in 2009, backed by big businesses like Lloyds Bank, Natwest and PayPal, in partnerships with many UK educators. Just after about 45 minutes chatting, we suddenly realised the potential for Parallel Society to grow; ideas after ideas were sparked in our head of what would be our next big proposal to Cardiff Met; as representatives of the student’s voice.
Following the inspiring conversation during lunch break, we met with other entrepreneurship societies’ committees from all over the country and listened to their unique stories of growth, from a small group of students on day one, to a community with hundreds or even thousands of members today. Some started with social media, some started with live campaigns, some simply started with regular casual gatherings, there was no fixed ‘go big’ formula; it was all about creativity, proactivity and flexibility. And of course, how can I forget, networking has always been the magic ingredient.
We met with other entrepreneurship societies’ committees from all over the country and listened to their unique stories of growth
We strolled around the campus a little longer after the last keynote, about the Sirius Programme, as our coach back to Cardiff was a long 2 hours after the end of the event. We found a mobile stall of frozen yoghurt, an eco-friendly routine in Aston university’s cafes called ‘Mug For Life’ and some super cool vending machines. Most student societies raised money for themselves with the typical ‘bake sales’; but Parallel would be doing it differently. We ended up with an interesting conversation about, what if, our society proposed for a frozen yoghurt stall from a franchise, or anything similar to be in Cardiff Met? This could be a sustainable source of income for both our society and the university, at the same time create more part-time jobs for students and more than anything, make our university even more appealing and student-friendly. Ideas were flowing non-stop, as we made our way to National Express coach and started the journey home.
NACUE was nothing like what I had imagined but was undeniably inspiring and a valuable student experience, thanks to the support from our university, Cardiff Met. Being one of the only two students chosen in my university to take this memorable trip; I was proud, but more importantly, the courage to push out of my comfort zone, engage with different projects and community of people, had really paid off.
I’m no role model, but as a student just like yourself, I’d say, make the most of your time in university; it’s not about a fancy CV or cover letter after graduation, it’s about experiencing as many challenges as possible, like the ‘boss’ that you are!
We finish with a short video to reflect our amazing trip!