Posted on Tuesday, 20 August 2019 at 1pm
by Lifelong Learning Centre Staff.
Three student entrepreneurs at Leeds, including the LLC’s very own Sarah Lloyd (photographed above on the far left by Hummingbird’s Photography), travelled to China to take part in an international entrepreneurs’ bootcamp in July, thanks to a collaboration between the University of Leeds Business Confucius Institute and Spark, the University’s business start-up service.
The ‘Young Entrepreneurs to China’ event is hosted by the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) – Leeds’ Chinese partner university – and organised by the Confucius Institute at Victoria University, Australia. This was the first time that this event was open to other international Confucius Institute partners and only 18 places were available.
Says Frances Noble, Marketing Executive of the Leeds Business Confucius Institute: “We needed to work fast to find the strongest applicants to secure the places for Leeds. We immediately thought of Spark and the Year in Enterprise programme. As well as assisting with the application process, the Spark team was also able to source funding for flights and visas which meant that we could not only put forward great candidates, but we knew the students could definitely take advantage of the opportunity and not have to worry about the costs.”
Sarah (BA Professional Studies), along with Abinav Bhattachan (BA Digital Media) and Caitlin Pharoah O-Reilly (BA Film, Photography and Media) travelled to Beijing and Shenzhen where they took part in a packed two-week programme of coaching sessions, business visits and cultural excursions, meeting with investors, visiting a Chinese start-up incubator and companies including Huawei Technologies, King Camp, Plug and Play and Lenovo.
Sarah was a little anxious at first – not least because she’d never flown before, let alone travelled as far afield as China – but also because her business is not focused on profit, like her peers on the boot camp. Sarah is setting up a foundation for knife crime awareness and to provide support for families affected by knife crime in Leeds, and has plans to roll it out nationally:
“I did worry that it might not be relevant as my business is a social enterprise focused on social responsibility,” she says. “But it’s actually helped a lot, inspiring me to think of ways to make the foundation sustainable in the long term so that I can grow it. I’ve also made loads of contacts, people who have connections within their own governments who want to talk to me more about what I’m doing and my social policy research, and this is fantastic.”
“It’s been quite surreal really. It’s been an opportunity I never thought I would ever have, both in a cultural and business sense. It was amazing and I loved every minute.”
Kairen Skelley, Spark’s head of Business Start-up said: “This was a unique and incredible opportunity for these three talented student entrepreneurs. We knew that they would make the most of it and it’s fantastic to see the impact that it’s had already on their outlook, confidence and their business plans as they start their Year in Enterprise.”
Dr Giles Blackburne, Executive Director of the Leeds Business Confucius Institute added: “This collaboration was a great example of being able to use the benefits of the connections that we have with China to facilitate and enhance other valuable programmes that are delivered at Leeds. It was a seamless collaboration and we hope to be able to offer the trip in future years too.”