After our trip to Birmingham, massively supported by Big Ideas Wales and Cardiff Met Centre for Entrepreneurship, we came back to our university for our very first society training. With two additional members joining us, we decided to come up with a bit of a strategy to figure out what students really need and create a ‘value proposition’ to the whole of Cardiff Met community. As I’m collaborating with an alumni networking event for my own research project in the Cardiff School of Art & Design, I had that sudden ‘ding’ moment: Parallel could be starting off with the creative school, using a mini stall & a simple activity to start a conversation with creative students and of course, to understand what they want from a society. Then do the same for the rest of our campuses, including Cardiff School of Management, Health Sciences, Education, Sport and also the new School of Technology. Typically, an entrepreneurship society is more of an attraction to business and sports students, but we are Parallel and getting far out of our comfort zone is how we do it as a society.
And we did, on a hectic Tuesday for me. Waking up at 6 am to prepare for an assessment as part of my course, I almost forgot (but did not, luckily) the printouts and materials for our stall at the Heart Space, a shared gathering area in Cardiff School of Art & Design (CSAD). Our art & design school’s career advisor was my superhero, for reserving us a perfect spot to arrange our stall despite this last minute idea. In the 11th hour, the rest of our members, unfortunately, could not make it help set up the event except for my awesome Parallel co-founder; but we were unstoppable. With just two pairs of hands and a lot of that entrepreneurial spirit, in a blink of an eye, we managed to get everything in place. Putting up our activity posters and of course, a big smile on our face; I started giving out our society membership cards and drawing people in, to Parallel’s stall. Big tip: committed committee members are important, but a positive attitude regardless of the situation is key to running a society!
Around lunchtime, as usual, the Heart Space started to fill up with creative people from a variety of disciplines, from fine art, illustration to fashion or interior design. With such a dynamic community, this networking opportunity was a ‘spot-on’, for Parallel to get further into the mind and expectation of our creative students. Things seemed to flow smoothly until we encountered our big ‘hiccup’: the ‘freestyle’ presentations from alumni guest speakers unexpectedly took up that whole busy lunch period and we did not get the chance to introduce ourselves on stage early enough. By the time these alumni talks were over, space became absolutely empty, so much you could probably hear your own voice echoing. To make the situation slightly more dramatic, my co-founder had no choice but to rush back to his lecture, which left me on my own with an awkward smile and some leftover membership cards. “No way I’m going to just stand here waiting for people to come up…”, I decided to go ‘get’ some people myself. Rolling up the posters and popping them on my back with a twisted cord, I walked around the two wings of art & design building… There is always a way for everything, and if not, just make one.
Networking and communication skills, as cheesy as it might sound, actually were my lifesavers at this point. I realised I ‘bumped into’ acquaintances on literally every single floor; this, however, certainly was no coincidence. It was all previous connections made through being engaged in university’s co-curriculars, within just a year! After a good 75-minute leg workout climbing floors and breaking some sweat in the UK’s 2 Celsius degree weather, things paid off. I managed to gather opinions from an additional 30 participants; about what Cardiff Met’s young creatives need and expect from a university society, and generally, their main struggle in terms of early career. An idea of what Parallel could do to support these talents quickly formed in my head; as I rushed back to disassemble our stall before the campus closed. Lesson: the more people you open up to, the better the things you gain.
The event ended with a long sigh of relief and a massive pat on the back for I & my co-founder; we made it! But it is just the beginning of our journey, I am definitely going to further this ‘research’ on student’s expectation throughout my time in Cardiff Met; because things change and times don’t wait for anyone. For Parallel, we are looking forward to our first launch event after this Easter holiday, fingers crossed, with the appearance of some special guest speakers (shh, it’s a secret for now). Hard work sure pays off, but smartwork rewards much more. So be proactive, trust your own ability and do things you would not have done usually; because as a student, that’s what will rocket your experience in university onto another level!