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There has been much discussion recently about the causal link between student international mobility and employability. For example, the UK Higher Education International Unit and Joint Steering Group on UK Outward Student Mobility have, over the last year, been exploring, among other things, the idea of a national strategy for student mobility and a body to support it.The British Academy-University Council of Modern Languages position statement published in March 2012 articulated the importance of residence abroad as a means for students to develop key skills required in today’s global employment market.The business sector has also been vocal about the skills it requires from graduates.The CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2012, for example, highlights the need for enhanced skills in communication and collaboration in intercultural contexts. However, the case studies presented in this report are evidence that intercultural dexterity can also be a principal driver of commercial success for individual students or graduates.This report reveals the stories of former students of a wide range of disciplines who used their experience abroad or built on their intercultural skills to identify business opportunities and launch an enterprise of their own.These entrepreneurs discuss lessons learnt and give practical advice to current students on developing and making the most of their linguistic and intercultural skills. Naturally, setting up a business is no easy task and not all start-ups succeed, but – as this report demonstrates – the experience is always a rewarding one and the ‘commercial awareness’ developed in this process is highly valued in today’s fiercely competitive jobs market (Wilson Review of Business-University Collaboration 2012). I hope that this report encourages more students to venture abroad for an extended period and to consider the door of opportunity that this experience opens.





3 6 7 8 10 Solving a problem you’ve experienced Case study Travel Case study 2: Language barriers and language skills Case study 3: Claire L Grant Language Services Understanding your target market Case study 4: All Abroad Social media and technology Case study 5: Applingua Ltd Intercultural skills Case study 6: ISSOS International Culture Case study 7: RAW France Experience Case study 8: Mediterranean Homesick Blues Starting a business abroad Case study 9: Importing and exporting

11 12 12 14 14 16 17 18 18 19 20 22 22 23 24 26 26 28 28 30

Understanding your customer Case study 10: Packed Munches

31 31 31

University enterprise centres and entrepreneurs-in-residence Case study 11: Co-Go Coffee to Go

36 36 37 39 41 42


The time spent studying, working or volunteering abroad during your degree course is an excellent opportunity to identify and start up a new business. However, too few students are aware of entrepreneurship before or during their international placement. This report will emphasise the fact that students who speak foreign languages, travel and understand other cultures have a unique entrepreneurial opportunity. It will encourage you to look at your year abroad in a more critical and innovative way, to be aware of business opportunities and to make use of the start-up support networks and services available to you when you start your first business.

For the 2011 Global Graduates into Global Leaders report (, leading employers were asked to rank a list of global competencies by order of importance.The results showed that the most important global competency for graduates is the ability to work collaboratively with teams of people from a range of backgrounds and countries. Understanding foreign languages and having intercultural skills are crucial factors in achieving this competency. If you can communicate your ideas to team members of different nationalities, you are, in effect, the bridge between their languages and cultures. This is a very desirable skill for global business leaders, as they need employees who are able to compete in global marketplaces. If a business can expand internationally simply by bringing on board a team member with the relevant linguistic and cultural skills, then imagine what that individual could do by him or herself.


For many students, the thought of running their own business is much more a pipe dream than a career option. At this stage in your life, however, using your spare time to solve a problem you’ve experienced by creating a new product or service on a shoestring budget could lead you to being able to work for yourself.You could do something you’re passionate about, forge your own career path, develop the skills you’re interested in and create the lifestyle that you want, which is a dream come true for many people. However, being your own boss and the routine and discipline it entails is not easy; how can you tell if you would be able to cope?

The words most commonly associated with entrepreneurs are: drive, self-confidence and ambition. Entrepreneurs are quick learners who make the most of their time and resources.They are good communicators who are careful with money, deal with problems head-on and like to be challenged. The best entrepreneurs are successful because they are passionate about what they do, and their enthusiasm spreads to their clients and their team. This helps because when things get difficult, it’s easy for them to remember why they do what they do, and that pushes them to keep going.


Measuring UK Student Mobility (, a recent study by the Inter-Organisational International Student Moibility Group, suggests that the UK has approximately15,000 outwardly mobile students each year, “although the total figure is likely to be a good deal higher than this”. Each university has different options for the placement abroad. As an eligible student, you can study at a foreign university as part of the Erasmus Programme (britishcouncil. org/erasmus.htm), you can do an Erasmus work placement (, you can become a British Council Language Assistant (, or you can do your own research to find a job or volunteering opportunity abroad.

During your time abroad, you will have the opportunity to learn lots of new skills. Alongside developing your knowledge of the language, you could find time to teach English, do online courses, travel, take foreign business classes, learn new sports and discover cultural traditions unique to your destination. Although some of these activities may seem more like hobbies than skills, it is the experience and the learning process that are so important.These skills could keep your start-up costs down, and may come in useful at any time, if not in starting a business then in prompting a business idea. On top of this, the confidence you gain from working outside your comfort zone will make you more competent, more self-sufficient and more open to new opportunities.

Your year abroad is an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurship. In the words of Robert Lo Bue, founder of Applingua Ltd, “UK students who have done Erasmus often don’t see themselves as ‘British’, but more ‘European’. I think that only helps us set up businesses, because we don’t see things relative to our local environment; we have a more global outlook.We’ve often also seen things that work abroad but don’t exist in the UK - these are gaps in the market!” Here are ten more reasons why your year abroad is a particularly good time to think about starting a business: • you are abroad for up to 15 months where you understand the language and culture. During this time you will encounter a number of problems, one of which you might be in the perfect position to solve yourself; • as a 19-24-year-old student who is well travelled, speaks a foreign language, has had a year or more of higher education, has worked in an international environment and developed independence, self-confidence, determination and resilience through living abroad, you are already showing key entrepreneurial characteristics;


• you can spot an import opportunity: you are immersed in a foreign culture, surrounded by new products and services that you can’t get at home in the UK; • you can export products or start a business abroad: you wish you had the products and services that you can get at home; • you have one or more of the following: a maintenance loan, a tuition fee loan, an Erasmus grant, a salary, scholarship/award money and savings, money from which could be used as start-up funding; • you are Internet-savvy, you appreciate the value of businesses having an online presence, and you are familiar with social media marketing.This knowledge is a serious advantage; • you are abroad for an extended period, so you may better understand the language and culture. This gives you a significant advantage over potential or existing competitors; • you have free time during evenings and weekends (maybe even weekdays!) to do market research, use online resources, make notes, scribble ideas on napkins, take a business class, buy domain names, make prototypes, take photographs, conduct online surveys, find out about funding opportunities, enter business plan competitions and read inspiring books; • you build an international network of contacts. These people could be your first customers, your cultural advisers, your team members, or maybe even your business partners; • it’s really, really fun.You learn numerous new skills and make new contacts, and if later on you decide that entrepreneurship is not for you, your experience and transferable skills will look fantastic on your CV alongside your international experience, and will give you a huge amount to talk about in job interviews.


All enterprises begin with an idea, a so-called ‘lightbulb moment’, it is very possible to be inspired by other people’s ideas. If you’re looking for ideas, consider your degree course, hobbies, skills, interests and what you’re passionate about. Ask yourself the questions: • have you found a gap in the market to create a new product or service? • have you experienced a problem that you think you might be able to solve? • have you used a product or service that you think you could improve? • do you have a skill that you could teach? Or a product you could sell? • have you had an experience that you could introduce others to? If you have a good idea but don’t have the relevant skills to put it into action, then find someone who has and ask them to teach you.While you’re at university, you are surrounded by students with the most diverse range of skills imaginable. If you need to build a website, why not ask someone doing a degree in Web Design and Development? If you need help with your business model, why not consult a lecturer from the Business faculty or Innovation Centre? If they can’t help you, it’s likely that they will be able to point you in the right direction.


There are two types of business which are generally started by university students; some businesses solve a problem the students have experienced themselves or have developed the solution for on their course, while other businesses are based on the students’ own skills; creating and selling products, or offering services like web development or proofreading. As a student with enhanced linguistic and intercultural skills, you have major advantages over your peers; you have the linguistic and cultural skills to successfully import and export products to and from the UK, you could write about your experiences abroad, you could start a business which connects two different countries or cultures, you could use your language skills to teach, interpret or translate, or you could start a travel or tourism business in your year abroad destination to introduce foreign visitors to the local traditions, language, food, drink, art and music.

In this report, the founders of ten businesses in the fields of language, travel and culture have been profiled. Some businesses are based abroad, some online and some in the UK, they sell products and services, and they have all been started relatively recently by students and graduates of UK universities who have gained experience living abroad, either during and/or after their degree.Their businesses are: • an online network for students, who study or work abroad during their degree; • a luxury travel website; • a language services agency working in English, French, Italian and Spanish; • an iPhone and Mac app translation company; • an international summer programme based in the UK for young people of over 60 nationalities; • a vineyard tour company in France; • a book written about experiences as a language assistant on a year abroad; • a live-in language assistants organisation in Spain; • a subscription service for students to receive classic British treats on their year abroad; • a coffee business which puts advertising on the side of coffee cups.


Experiencing a problem and realising that you are in the unique position to solve it is a great way to start a business.You understand your customer because you are or have been the customer. This means that your solution is a product or service that you would have personally found useful, so it will be of value to other people in your situation. The year abroad is particularly challenging for students, who often report issues in the areas of travel, shipping, finding accommodation, keeping in touch with home, settling in quickly, language barriers and finding a job, among many others. Once you have an idea for a business, you need to consider the business model.

Yes, I spent 15 months in Florence, Italy, where I studied History of Art in Italian at the Università degli Studi di Firenze. It turned out that thanks to the unique combination of my degree course subjects, I wasn’t actually required to attend university or submit my grades - I simply had to work on my year abroad project and ensure that I was fluent in Italian on my return - so I did the minimal number of courses at the university and spent my time taking up part-time jobs like writing the sightseeing section of Time Out’s Florence and Tuscany guidebook and interpreting for an English journalist. I also did courses and classes in Italian to learn new skills like drawing and calligraphy, and travelled as much as possible. I came up with my business idea right at the start of my year abroad, and it was a case of ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ – I couldn’t believe that the website I really needed didn’t exist, so I felt it was up to me to create it. Having incorporated Third Year Abroad Ltd on my year abroad, I returned to university thinking that as a Humanities student, my degree didn’t give me nearly enough practical skills to survive in the working world, so I took ten weeks of lifelong learning classes in both Economics and Statistics alongside my studies. I went to a careers fair soon after I returned, where I came across Launch.ed (, Edinburgh’s free support service for student entrepreneurs, and told them about the business I had incorporated. They encouraged me to enter the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) Business Plan Competition and I did so, even though the final coincided with my finals! I am really grateful for the advice and support I was given throughout the whole process, as my idea developed hugely in that time. Graduating with a business plan meant that all I needed was a bit of hands-on experience working for two online start-ups to learn the ropes and give me the confidence to start up on my own a year later.

12 helps students before, during and after their third year abroad from university to make the whole process less scary and overwhelming, while promoting and supporting the study of Modern Languages in the UK.We provide information, case studies, advice and a networking platform so students can learn from each other’s is now the UK’s biggest network of students who study or work abroad during their degree, which is really exciting! Through our activities we have created a very focused network, and based on feedback from our members we are creating new, targeted products to solve their problems, such as products are the basis of our business model, alongside advertising and sponsorship. I was 20 and alone in Florence on my year abroad, in week number two of 60. I had to sign up to courses at the university along with all the local students, and my Italian was useless. After a wild goose chase, I finally arrived at the right place for matriculation to be faced by an ‘out to lunch’ sign. It was 11am. I waited on the sunny step outside for three hours and, fuelled by espresso and panini, I compiled a long list of everything I wished I had known before I left.That was page one of Language skills and intercultural skills are so important in my business.The website and our social media channels have members and followers from all around the world who speak many different languages, so I need to ensure that the site’s content, newsletters and social media updates appeal to different nationalities and non-native English speakers too.We have a lot of guest writers on the website, so what goes up on the site has to be accurate in terms of the language and cultural details.The guidebook company I worked for on my year abroad valued local knowledge and insight very highly and reaped the benefits, so I understand the importance of working with clients and stakeholders in their native language, and I would never hire a team member without language skills or international experience for this reason. ? I wish I had known about my university’s innovation centre and entrepreneurial society before starting my year abroad. I missed so many inspiring entrepreneurial speakers and networking events in my first two years, and then when I got back to university for my final year I hardly had any free time! If I had been involved then I would have been more aware of entrepreneurship on my year abroad and would have used my time out there much more wisely.


Meet other young entrepreneurs. As soon as you are at an event surrounded by entrepreneurial people, you realise that nothing is impossible. Someone always knows the software you should use or the person who will know how to solve your problem.Your network is invaluable for free advice. I have some friends who have also started businesses to help students, and we all network for each other so that we can effectively be in multiple places at once. In my experience people don’t change on their year abroad, they just come out of their shell. They are suddenly so out of their depth that when challenges arise, they have no option but to take them in their stride, without the support they were used to in the UK. They go through a sharp learning curve, and there is a lot of trial and error involved. This is what you need as an entrepreneur, so while you’re in this mind-set and have perhaps found a creative solution to a daily problem, it’s a great opportunity to start a business.

Your year abroad gives you a unique opportunity to travel.You can take advantage of extensive university holidays and cheap student travel deals to explore your new destination and the surrounding cities and countries.Your experience travelling will open your eyes to other cultures and may even spark a business idea.


I didn’t actually, even though there was the option to, because I wanted to get through university as fast as possible and start a career! I did however backpack for five weeks in India with friends in the summer after first year, and for two and a half weeks in Japan in the summer after second year (after a ten week internship). I always wanted to be a banker, having grown up in an affluent part of South London where there were lots of young guys making money in the City, and the A Levels and degree I did were always meant to prepare me for such a career. I interned at UBS in the summer of 2010 (the summer after my second year at university) and I hated every second - it was not stimulating at all, I was bored out of my mind, couldn’t stand the people and the culture but, worst of all, I just didn’t feel I was creating anything valuable there. At around the same time, I was broadening my horizons through travel.The summer before the internship, I’d spent five weeks with friends backpacking all around India. I’d never experienced such freedom before and I distinctly remember suddenly realising (during a pit-stop on an 18-hour bus ride between two towns in the Himalayas) that life didn’t have to be linear at all. Instead, it was a huge canvas of unlimited potential and possibilities that was really only restricted by your own state of mind.This changed my whole outlook on life completely, and once I knew I couldn’t face a career in banking this was all I needed to inspire me to set up my company. Even if my company wasn’t in the travel sector, it was more the whole philosophy of personal freedom that really motivated me to just go for it.

Gadabouting is a luxury travel website focused on beautiful photography, stunning video, captivating storytelling and enthralling events to inspire travellers to try new things and to travel to new places. Users can create a ‘scrapbook’ to collect their favourite items, and we help them get in touch with specialist travel agencies who have the expertise to turn their dream trip into reality! Gadabouting is unique in that it focuses less on the actual selling of travel experiences and more on the value of conversational and content marketing which, in this age of social media and short attention spans, is rapidly being realised to be a very powerful marketing tactic.We want to make travel inspiration and planning a beautiful and enchanting experience by moving away from the hard sell, and we think this is a really unique selling point (USP).We are targeting working professionals who are aged 35-54 and are time-poor but cash-rich.We hope to launch in August.


It’s hard to comment on this as I’m yet to build solid relationships with clients as we haven’t launched, but I’d venture that I’d be more likely to hire someone who has travelled widely, as they tend to be freer and more innovative in their thinking than someone who hasn’t. I know every entrepreneur is supposed to have had their eureka moment as it sounds sexier, but Gadabouting was really an evolution of a few concepts and trends being tied together over a period of a few months. I spent a lot of time reading industry reports and thinking about the concept - it’s so important to dedicate an hour a day to being on your own, running through the ideas in your head with a pencil and paper to hand, and playing around with the ideas to see what comes of them. I only started thinking about entrepreneurship as a viable career option towards the end of university, so I never managed to get involved with the relevant societies and networks (although I was on the board of the Trading and Investment Society and there was a lot of overlap between that and the entrepreneurial societies). After university, I found support from Manchester Metropolitan University, which offered me space in its incubator, Innospace ( for £50 per month, which was incredibly helpful and introduced me to some brilliant minds. How long things tend to take (clue: three times longer than you think!). Also, don’t skimp on web developers and designers - they are worth their weight in gold if you find a good one, so ask around and shop around as they can really give you the edge. Read, read and read some more! Read all the technology blogs like TechCrunch (, GigaOM (gigaom. com) and The Next Web (, read all the design blogs, keep up to date with business and politics and make sure you’re aware of the latest trends in design, marketing, and revenue models. Get on Twitter and follow the opinion formers, and start forming your own opinions.There is such a vast amount of information out there that will shape the way you think, so start soaking it all up! Even if you don’t take a year abroad, travel as much as you can and meet as many different people as you can.There’s a huge trend towards conformity in society through what you wear, what TV you watch, etc., which tends to place you in a bubble. Break out of this and explore.

Being fluent in a foreign language has innumerable benefits in both your personal and professional life. If you discover you have an aptitude for and enjoy language learning, it’s worth considering an entrepreneurial career that takes advantage of your language skills, such as starting up a language school, a tourism agency or a translating and interpreting business.

16 Yes, I spent six months in Tours, France, and six months in Granada, Spain. I studied interpreting and translating at the universities there and also completed my dissertation in Spanish while in Granada. I used the opportunity to learn as much as I could about the cultures, languages and different ways of life there, as well as doing lots of travelling. I provide a variety of language services including: interpreting (conference and public service), translation, editing, proofreading, subtitling, language tuition and teaching. I offer all of these services in my languages - English, French, Italian and Spanish. I see my services as a way of bridging the gap between cultures across Europe. I have work experience in a variety of areas, such as European policy, linguistics and recruitment, and so I can provide clients with reliable, useful services which are tailored to their needs. Businesses that are looking to export to Europe also benefit from my services as having a cultural awareness of the countries concerned can help with company relationships - and this is of course something I can offer for France, Italy and Spain. I didn’t have a lightbulb moment as such; however, I’ve always been quite proactive and saw my business as a way to complement my studies in interpreting and translating. I officially started my business after graduation, however a large part of my research was carried out while I was abroad. As I translate from French, Italian and Spanish into English, a lot of my clients are based in these countries rather than in the UK, so I used my year abroad as an opportunity to research translation agencies abroad. I made contacts while abroad and also widened my network of language professionals, which is very useful in this industry. I get a lot of requests for translations from other languages, such as German, and having this network means I don’t have to say “no” to clients, I can simply outsource this work to my fellow colleagues. I have only recently been made aware of companies which help start-ups, such as ESpark ( and The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust ( Government Gateway, the Scottish Institute for Enterprise ( and other organisations also offer great workshops on setting up your own business and helping with finances. Networking events are good for letting people know about your business and I try to attend as many as possible. Online activity is very important in business nowadays so I’d advise everyone to try and set up a website, or maybe a blog. Write about your industry, use LinkedIn and Twitter to get your name known and make contacts. Financing can be difficult at first, so it’s a good idea to have a more reliable job at the same time.


You know what it’s like to arrive in a new country and feel lost, or to try and communicate with someone without speaking their language, or to try to use a new product without understanding the instructions, or to misunderstand foreign paperwork – imagine how useful it would be to have an intermediary who understands what you’re going through and can make it easier for you. As someone who knows and appreciates two languages and two cultures, you can act as a bridge between them for people.You can help them to buy a house abroad, communicate with foreign tradespeople, visit cultural sites, organise a wedding abroad or negotiate business dealings, and you are in a unique position to do so.

working as a marketing intern at Deutsche Bank.

Yes, I spent 13 months in Paris

All Abroad provides property management and maintenance services to non-resident (mainly British or non-French speaking) homeowners in the Gironde region of south-west France. As a single-solution contact for all property related concerns and requirements: security, upkeep and renovation, we operate to ensure the homeowner’s rental income and piece of mind. Furthermore All Abroad acts as an intermediary giving administrative support in the challenging foreign context allowing foreign homeowners to manage effectively their property investment at a distance. We’re still in the development stages but have a few clients onboard and we’re looking to be fully operative come next March or April, before the peak seasons begin. Being self-employed doesn’t mean less work or work of a less challenging or intensive nature, however being directly accountable for every element of the business and its progress is incredibly rewarding and means I wake up every morning looking forward to developing and growing my business.The first few weeks have been very hard as there are lots of legal and tax-related obstacles to overcome but also finding the customers can be tricky. Once I have a solid customer base and monthly contracts are in place, the stability will enable me to focus on growing the company even further. When I was on holiday one year in a rented villa with my family it occurred to me that somebody must be doing a lot of work there to maintain this property and to keep it running in between incoming guests. Secondly, when hearing someone in my family (who owned a property abroad) complaining about the poor service he was receiving from a similar business in Portugal, I thought I could do that, and I could do it better.


My language and intercultural skills made it a lot easier to set up a business in France as battling the paperwork and pen pushers would have been impossible otherwise.They have also helped me settle in a lot quicker as I’m accustomed to the notion of living in France after my year abroad and found integrating myself to social and business circles came naturally. Ultimately my language skills and local knowledge are fundamental to my service offering. As I mentioned, my company’s main function is to act as the intermediary between a client, their property and anything it encounters, be that paying guests, building work or even dealing with utilities companies for example. France and speaking French have always been my passion so I guess in order to apply this to a full-time vocation it was inevitable that I would start up in France. You always bring work home with you (because home is where I work). It’s very hard to escape and put business issues to the back of the mind, but nowadays, whoever you work for, your Blackberry can be going off at any hour so I can’t really complain. Business planning is essential. I don’t normally adhere to such objective methods but I’ve found that until you can coherently write your idea down on paper no one will take you seriously as you’re not taking the business seriously. Sometimes when you have that lightbulb moment you can get carried away and blinded… never ignore it, but step back at some point to reassess that you’re really going in the right direction. All the clichéd statements are true: going abroad on your placement year “broadens your horizons”, “you make new friends” and some may even go as far as saying they “found themselves”. But I do believe it is true. Everybody who goes on a placement year says they learnt more than the first two years of university together, but I can honestly say there was a more remarkable (positive) difference in the character of those who had been abroad; a significant increase in confidence and drive, all reinforced by the new friends you made from being in a different country together. There was always a lot of encouragement from my university to pursue the entrepreneurial route and help from the careers service who can put you on the right path to getting things moving.There was also an entrepreneurial society which no doubt would have been good for creating contacts, but unfortunately I didn’t take advantage of this.

Many year abroad students blog about their year abroad in order to keep their friends and family up to date with their experiences, and then spread the word about new posts via Facebook and Twitter.This helps them to record details about their year abroad that can be useful for projects, essays and interviews later on. Students also use websites and apps to find information about flights, accommodation, visas, packing lists and local culture.They share their travel itineraries, ask questions in forums, upload photographs, download tourist apps and use language-learning software. As a student, your knowledge and understanding of technology in terms of usability is incomparable and you can use this to your advantage.


I spent 12 months working as a trainee project manager in Munich, Germany. I loved my year abroad. I found a flat share with some locals, my job at a marketing agency was a dream come true, and I discovered German beer. It was the first time I began to actually feel like an adult. A time where I could choose exactly what I wanted to do, and when I wanted to do it. Freedom! I can’t even count the number of new experiences I had that year, the people I met, and the places I visited. I not only improved my German but I also met a lot of people in the process. I went skiing on weekends in winter and sunbathing by lakes in the summer.With Munich being in the centre of Europe, I hopped on a train to a new place every month. I went to Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, France and Switzerland. Not to mention the sneaky trip to Canada I managed to save up for with my internship wage. In fact, I loved my year abroad so much I wanted to recreate it after university, so I moved back after graduation 12 months later.They used to tell us at university that our year abroad would be the best of our lives. I just thought that was cheesy. I can now honestly say that it was, and still remains, the best year of my life and without it I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. I came up with Applingua during my second time in Munich, over two years after I’d finished my year abroad. Applingua is a translation agency, so obviously my love of foreign languages has helped me somewhat. Most of my job is project management, a skill I’d learnt during my year abroad at an international marketing agency. I met a lot of people during my two jobs in Munich, both German and other nationalities. I am still in touch with them all today, and I frequently turn to them for advice. It’s handy running a translation agency and knowing people in many different countries on a personal level.


Applingua Ltd is a small company now based in Cardiff, Wales.We take iPhone and Mac apps and translate them into different languages so everyone the world over can enjoy the apps we have all come to love. When I started no other translation agency specifically targeted app developers. I got my first client within two weeks of starting up - even before my website went live! My clients, app developers, are situated all over the world. Applingua’s aim is to make app translation approachable, accessible and affordable at all times. I also deal with 20-30 different native translators a month, across 12 different time zones. It sounds stressful, but it’s not. It’s hugely enjoyable and I love working with people from different cultures every day. All the idiosyncrasies of their languages and their work ethics make every day even better than the last. My second job in Munich was at a software agency, making apps for the iPhone and Mac. I was put in charge of getting our apps translated into different languages.Traditional translation agencies didn’t understand the iPhone, even though they all said they did.They didn’t understand that you can’t click something on a touch device and they nearly always returned text that didn’t fit on an iPhone’s small screen. I thought I could do it better. So I quit my job and I did. I wish I had known more about events like hack weekends or start-up incubators, where people can go for 24/48/56 hours and join a group and build an idea into a company. It’s all meant to be a bit of fun, but you can learn so much from them and some impressive start-ups have come from hack weekends. If you’re new to websites, register a domain and install Wordpress (for free). It’s famous for blogging but many big websites use it as their Content Management System (CMS). It’s really easy to use and you can have a great looking site in hours rather than days. And did I mention it’s free? You’ll have to look around for funding if you want to go down that route.There are also crowd-funding sites such as Seedrs ( and CrowdCube ( Check your university to see if they have any small investment funds. If you’re lucky enough to live in an EU convergence area, there may be quite a bit of funding available. Check your local authority’s website for more details.You can find many resources by asking people (like me!) on Twitter or searching Google.There is a lot of good information out there for start-ups now. Being an entrepreneur is like being a fish swimming upstream.You’re going to meet a lot of resistance but it’s nothing you can’t handle.That’s exactly what your year abroad is like.You often don’t speak the language well, you don’t get the culture and you’re put in situations which you just have to get through. Meanwhile you learn to be confident, to stay open minded and to rethink previous preconceptions you’ve had all the time; skills essential to do well in business. While you’re abroad, be sure to make lots of contacts. Usually lots of people around you are in a similar situation so everyone is looking to make friends. Be friends with them because they’ll be able to help you later! When you’ve got your idea, don’t be afraid to tell people about it. Friends and family will tend to agree with you, but you actually want people to disagree with your idea.That’s a great way to get you thinking about your plans and often you improve the original idea on the fly.Tell a total stranger, preferably one who works in your industry, and see what they say. My Erasmus year was invaluable and I recommend everyone do one!


As a year abroad student, it’s important to remember that while you want to discover everything about the new culture, the local students will be interested in yours too. The fact that you can communicate in their language and have been immersed in their way of life means that you are a much more effective teacher, as you can understand things from their point of view. Many students cook British specialities for their new flatmates, teach them English and introduce them to their own culture and traditions. If this interests you as a career path, you could consider starting an English school abroad, becoming an international tour operator, or setting up a summer camp for foreign students in the UK.

I worked in the US for four summers at a summer camp and the experience I gained there has been invaluable, and by working abroad I realised what I wanted to do. In addition, I worked a ski season in Canada and worked for Starbucks, which gave me incredible insight into how a company replicates itself down to the smallest details, and introduced me to the training manuals that tell you how to do everything. I have used all of this in setting up and expanding ISSOS.

ISSOS is an international summer programme catering for 13-18-year-olds from over 60 nationalities. Students are offered the opportunity to spend three weeks every summer at St Andrews or Cambridge taking part in a wellbalanced summer programme with a combination of academics, afternoon electives, evening programmes and cultural trips.


ISSOS is the only summer program of its kind in the UK, offering the combination of courses and structured in the way that it is. We are helping students to improve their English as well as introducing students to the UK as a place to take an undergraduate degree. Currently we have 16 former students at St Andrews University, six at Glasgow, ten at Edinburgh, two at Stirling and many at other UK universities who would not have considered the UK as a place to study before ISSOS. Our customers are 13-18-year-olds from all over the world and their parents; we target fairly wealthy families whose son or daughter attends an international school. It is going very well; we have grown from 50 students in year one to 470 in year six with a turnover in excess of £1.8m and a debt-free company. I love what I do, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love the people I get to meet and work with, and the young people I see develop and grow in confidence. I had always wanted to be a theatre producer and planned to return home to Scotland from the US and move to London.While standing in the mountains of North Carolina, surrounded by 300 kids I realised that I needed to do something to help children but had no idea how or what to do. At summer camp I met some children who wanted to travel to the UK but were too young and they had too much schoolwork over the summer. I thought there must be a way to combine the two, and the idea of ISSOS was born. They are invaluable. Although I do not personally speak another language it would assist my dayto-day interactions with many of our parents, who have English as a second language. Intercultural skills are paramount when dealing with over 60 different nationalities and all the challenges that come with that. Not everyone who is older than you or who has been in business for longer knows it all; always question why people are giving you their advice and always trust your instincts. Never give up and don’t listen to negativity, believe you can do whatever you set your mind to.When getting a website designed, know exactly who you are aiming it at, and spend money on your website if it is your window to the world. Don’t get a friend to create a site for £200, spend the money and make it good. People are your best asset, treat them well and have fun in business. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand or just ask questions; no one knows everything and you can learn so much from others so don’t be scared to ask for their help.

During your year abroad you learn all about the local culture.You find out about your new city’s festivals, politics, celebrities, food, economy, legal system, sports teams, artists and music. This information is of huge value to tourists, certain businesses and various publications, as people may not have the time, resources or communication skills to find out for themselves.You could use this insider knowledge to your advantage by creating a printed or online information resource, writing articles or educating visitors to the region.


Yes, I did an eight-month placement as a language assistant for the British Council in a French high school in Reims, France. I ended up spending just under a year in Reims as when my placement finished I didn’t want to go home! I became almost fluent in French (though I think I became totally fluent when I moved back to France after finishing my degree). I also met my boyfriend in Reims - yes, a Frenchman! And a Frenchman who owns a champagne house at that! So I’d say I got language skills, confidence and, soppy but true, love!

I have a business running visits around my boyfriend’s small family champagne house. I also help people organise their stay in the Champagne region and book tours in big houses for them too.There is no other business like mine as I am providing a service to English speakers who don’t have access to a car, yet wish to get out of the city to see the vineyards and visit a small champagne house. Being a native English speaker, I am easily able to communicate the information about the champagne house and teach them how champagne is made. I help tourists make the most out of their time in the area. My customers are mainly Americans and Australians, and some Brits too along with other nationalities - Norwegians, Russians, Malaysians - and I love it. There’s actually nothing better than talking people through the production of my favourite wine in the world. I wake up excited every day, keen to find out who I’m going to be spending the day with!


I had finished my eight-month placement in the school and my parents came to visit me and meet my boyfriend’s family. When they got to the champagne village (near Reims) I showed them around and they were just blown away by how lovely it was to see such a small champagne house. I thought hang on a minute, there are probably thousands of people wanting to see this - and so I set off on my journey! I had actually made the first draft of my website before I even went back to university to finish my degree. I need English to talk to my English-speaking customers and French to talk to everyone around me! My customers are often very grateful that I can help them with things like booking tables in restaurants. Little things, where speaking the language can make a huge difference. Well, to start with, if I wasn’t placed in Reims, then none of this would have happened, which is a scary thought as I actually cried when I found out I’d be in Reims and Nice was my first choice! I wouldn’t change that for the world now though! My language skills were and still are very important. From communicating with my boyfriend’s family to ensure they’re happy with the work I’m doing, to setting up my business and having to read through lots of complicated French documents, it wouldn’t have been possible without my knowledge of the French language. I really feel as though I have a life skill, and one that I’m extremely proud of. My experience as a language assistant taught me that I didn’t want to be a high school teacher! It also taught me that I’m quite good at communicating information to people and essentially what I do now is teach people about Champagne, so I suppose the teaching experience helped in that sense. My inspiration came from my own personal (touristic) discovery of the region, city and then vineyards and champagne houses. I had been a tourist in the area and learnt everything from scratch, which means that I can relate very easily to the way my customers feel when they arrive in Reims. It helps to understand a place from a tourist’s point of view, as well as the local’s point of view, and that’s what inspired me to get started. I’d like to have known more about the business start-up system in France. Like most things in France, it’s very complicated, especially if you enter into a regulated field of work. I had a lot of problems at the start and it would have been nice to have help from university even before I started. Weebly ( is a great build-your-own-website company. It’s very easy to use and free to start with. I didn’t need financial support as I have very low overheads, but make sure that you keep control of the financial side as it can all get confusing very quickly! Look at your competition and find what you can do better than they can, and what you can do that they don’t. Interact with your customers. I was very personal with my first few customers, and we still send emails checking how each other is doing. They’re the ones that give the best feedback when you need it most. GO ON A YEAR ABROAD - it will change your life if you let it. And if you do want to start a company abroad, be willing to take risks. Try to find out all the information you can before starting up, but don’t let people tell you that you can’t do it.You can - you just may have to change the path to get there. And never forget the importance of speaking a language. There are so many people who wish that they could, so enjoy it and be proud! Not really; I did a module in my final year called Professional French, which I suppose helped me understand some of the systems within French


businesses and learn some business-based vocabulary. It also meant I had a perfect CV for when I needed a job when I moved back to France. So in terms of helping me on the path to where I am now, I guess it did help. But I wouldn’t say it was a direct influence. I haven’t had any contact with my university since setting up my business.

The year abroad is not just an opportunity to develop your career prospects; it also makes a huge difference to your personal life. Many students have never lived away from home or even been abroad before, so the experience makes for quite an inspiring story. You could generate revenue by writing about your year abroad placement in regular instalments for a publication while you’re away, or by compiling your thoughts and observations into a book format. Yes, I was a British Council language assistant in Cannes from October 1994 until the following May. After my assistantship I worked in a hotel in Cannes, and then became a waiter in St Tropez until the end of September 1995. It was the most formative year of my life and I learnt skills which became the foundation of everything I have done since. Most significantly, I started what was in effect my own business, as I ran a large network of private lessons in Cannes, tutoring students in small groups after school and at weekends. I created my own course, complete with study aides and a structure. On a personal note I became completely fluent and by the end I think I was as close to bilingual as you can get.


Please describe your business: Mediterranean Homesick Blues is a mixture of a diary and guidebook. I believe that it is a unique take on living in France.We have billed it as A Year In Provence meets The Beach meets The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4. It is unique in that it avoids the hackneyed clichés of living in France and shows how, even if it is a bumpy ride, we have more in common with the French than we might think. It will appeal to Francophiles, students of any discipline, teenagers, thirty-somethings and anyone interested in how people do, and occasionally don’t, get along in different cultures.The book is marketed through my own company, a marketing agency called OscarMike. I had two moments.The first was when I was studying on an Autobiography into Fiction writing course at CityLit ( and I thought: “My non-fiction story is interesting in its own right, and different from standard travel writing.” The second was when I read A Year In The Merde and thought: “I can write a more realistic version than this.” My language skills were fundamental in writing a book which serves to educate as well as amuse in my stories about a year spent living and working in France. An ability to communicate (and occasionally not!) in French was vital to the experiences which formed the book. The year I spent abroad was the entire inspiration for the book. Set just before the launch of the Internet, it meant that a lot of it was written down in the form of diaries and letters I kept to this day. As language is featured heavily in the book (there are actual vocab pages within the book) it was quite fundamental. As I have started promoting the book through my company, OscarMike, I have used my French extensively working with websites like (franceinlondon. com) and le Tropezien magazine. I have many meetings in French and I would suggest that my fluency has set me aside from competitors.  I think that there is an element of discovery and making your own mistakes to everything.Writing a book can be a bit daunting and it is easy to never get started! But ultimately it has been the most creatively satisfying project I have ever worked on.You push yourself mentally and have a lot of fun in the process. I am intensely happy and love everything about how life has panned out. I have enormous freedom and that all stems from my time abroad.  Speak to everyone you can at your old university; there will be more support there than you know. Approach people with no fear - I didn’t think Alastair Campbell would respond to my plea (he was a language assistant too, so I asked him to write a one-line review of my book) but he read it, liked it, and wrote the review. There are incredible resources online but often the official places are the best ones to start in.  It is a perfect trial run for real life so use it as the testing ground that it is. You have an enormous safety net around you - enjoy it! The friendships and business relationships that I started then are largely still in my life and also formed much of what I have become.  No, although that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t available, I just didn’t look in to it. However I did visit my old French department and received support from them regarding how to progress with the writing of the book, and they gave me an introduction to the British Council.


There is a chance that you will have so much fun on your year abroad that you decide to return to live there after graduation. Or maybe travelling in your holidays inspires you to emigrate. Either way, if you are worried about negotiating the foreign job market, don’t discount entrepreneurship as a career option.You can create your own job! There will be considerable red tape involved (less so with online start-ups), so having knowledge of the language and culture will be of huge benefit, alongside having contacts in your destination. It’s also highly recommended to get in touch with an experienced entrepreneur in a similar area of business who can tell you all about how they started up abroad. No information resource can compare with the benefit of someone’s hands-on experience. No we didn’t, but we did plenty of travelling during the summer holidays, across the Middle East, Asia and Spain.We fell in love with Spanish culture in particular and so it was always a bit of a dream to live here. We didn’t know any Spanish before we came, but picked it up (and are still doing so!) over the last three and a half years.We found that it’s not only the language barrier but the cultural difference too! During our time here, we have learnt and understood the needs of Spanish people (of all ages) who are learning English. Our idea was never for an English speaker to go into someone’s home and just teach English.The Spanish families we visit understand our programmes as a cultural experience enabling them to be immersed in English in day-to-day life.We encourage all participants to play sports together, or go to the park, as well as sitting down with a homework book. Basically after three years of English teaching we realised that Spanish people are fed up with grammar exercises and formal classes: they are looking for a different approach. When we first came to Spain without any Spanish or knowledge of Madrid we had no clue about finding a place to live or a decent place to work.We spent a small fortune in


temporary accommodation too! We want to help others find a more affordable way to experience life in Madrid.We feel that after three and a half years we have learnt a lot to pass onto our volunteers who arrive here for the first time. In our training sessions, we not only pass on advice about being a great language assistant, but we also teach our volunteers how to integrate into Spanish culture.

We arrange for volunteer language assistants to live with Spanish families in Madrid, Spain, to help the families with their English.We are unique as we provide specific training (using our past knowledge of teaching English to Spanish people) and host a welcome reception for all volunteers upon arrival. We strongly believe in helping the volunteers make the most of their time here in Madrid, and we provide advice and support to help them learn Spanish and meet other young Spanish people in Madrid. It’s a great way for students and graduates to experience life abroad while at the same time ensuring that their host families are immersed in the English language without having to go to classes. Our Spanish families are keen to involve the language assistants in Spanish life and make them part of the family, which was definitely one of our aims! Our customers are pre-university students, graduates who are perhaps looking to get into the TEFL world and, in some cases, university students who are on leave to get some work experience in teaching. Things are going very well and we have had some really positive feedback with a lot of people who would like to repeat their stay.We are really enjoying the experience and have learnt so much in just six months. It feels great to achieve what we have so far. We met other language assistants in Madrid who went through a company based in Britain and this gave them no cultural introduction to Madrid itself.They weren’t provided with any help or resources once they had landed in Spain.We met a lot of people who, like us, had no idea about how to set themselves up in Madrid.We felt like there was an opportunity to provide such a service, which could also benefit Spanish families who are looking to learn English in alternative ways. Being your own boss is tough. Learning to be strict with yourself and switch off in the evening is sometimes difficult. Although we had a business plan, our biggest difficulty which we weren’t


expecting was to get our name out there. Advertising and marketing can be very expensive and learning to do it cheaply is not an easy task. So I suppose we wish we had studied Marketing at university or at least looked for some kind of business advice while we were there. Learn how to switch off and enjoy life away from the business, research what you want to do, don’t spend huge amounts of money without fully knowing the consequences, and create a financial plan in a spreadsheet with very conservative costs.We learnt how to create websites and other materials through online video tutorials, and the best thing was that it was all free! There are plenty of free resources on the net. We think it’s always best to get to know your city or country and its people before you set up any kind of business there, and use what you know to your advantage! Huge! Obviously we have to speak to all the families in Spanish when we visit them. Having daily contact with Spanish families when we were working as English teachers has helped us immensely.We understand that the abruptness and directness we’ve experienced is a cultural thing (so we believe!), whereas in British business dealings this is really not the case.The Spanish way of business life is very much centred on personal contact and building up relationships. Parents would much rather pick up the phone to chat to us than communicate through an email. We didn’t receive particular business support from the University of Sussex but I (Tim) worked for, and was involved with, the university’s Business and Enterprise department, which put on weekly talks and events (including a large summer conference) to help students start up their own businesses.The speakers who came (some who had started businesses abroad) inspired me to do my own thing in the future. At that time I just didn’t know what.

You might prefer to import or export products instead of moving abroad full-time. Having lived abroad, you will be very aware of the products that are readily available or oddly lacking. After some market research, you might discover that you have a unique opportunity to work with a business and fill a gap in the market. Smarta provides a wealth of resources for budding entrepreneurs, including five steps for finding help with importing and exporting products: You can also find useful information on the UK Trade & Investment website (, including key resources and elements to consider when starting out, but again it’s recommended to ask advice from an entrepreneur with experience in this area.


You should be able to describe your customer in great detail, down to their name, age, marital status, languages spoken, where they live, shop, eat out and go on holiday.This is extremely important so that you are aware of where they will see your advertising, what sort of marketing material they will pick up and why, and, of course, whether or not they would buy your product or service. It is advantageous if your business solves a problem that you have personally experienced, as you are or have been the target customer, which makes it easier to develop an innovative business model and then gauge its success.

I didn’t spend a year abroad during my undergraduate degree but I spent a year in the Netherlands studying for my Masters degree in European Law (taught in English). I have made a lot of friends from a whole host of backgrounds - Maastricht has lots of international students and is really welcoming to all students. While studying I have been working as part of an English cluster in a Netherlands company. This is what inspired me to create my business.

have been useful for research purposes.

So far my contacts abroad


The business is a subscription service that allows British students studying abroad to receive classic British treats while they are abroad. At the moment there is no other business that provides this service. We are very much in the starting stages as we haven’t yet launched, but we are hoping to launch very soon. At work the English students all work together in an English cluster.We’re always provided with a variety of teas and once, during a tea break, we all started talking about the biscuits and chocolates from home that we missed and wished that we could have with our tea. I realised it would be a good idea if you could get British treats sent to you while abroad. is being able to identify which treats are unique to the UK.

What helps

As we are still starting up we are learning a lot as we go along. I think the most important thing thus far has been creating a business plan – it has helped to identify our weaknesses and strengths. I would definitely advise you to research the business competitions and mentoring opportunities available to you.You should make a calendar and jot down all the key events, as these are so important in terms of networking and support. During your year abroad definitely take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to you. Starting a company abroad is difficult but it is also a rewarding experience. Always remember: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

You need to analyse what your competitors offer so you are sure you aren’t duplicating an existing business model but, if yours is similar, you need to add value or improve their offering.Visit the British Library’s Business & IP Centre ( in London and look through their extensive databases and publications to research your competition. The British Library is free to join and provides a workspace, training and events to help entrepreneurs with business networking, planning, and protecting their ideas. Market research is important so you truly understand your business’s unique selling point.Why would customers pick your business over someone else’s? Usability testing gives you an opportunity to try out your product or service with your target customer. Send out screenshots, mock-ups or surveys to potential customers (you can make free surveys with Google Docs (, with which you can generate handy graphs) and ask them lots of questions to help you develop your idea. Don’t be too worried about talking about your business before it launches; it’s great to have potential customers discussing your business and recommending it to their friends so you have fans and customers from day one.

No matter what industry your business is in, it will need an online presence to be taken seriously.Think of a name that is easy to remember, easy to spell, clearly relates to your business and has a maximum length of fifteen characters so it can be used as a social media username or ‘handle’. If you are interested in the words and phrases people around the world are searching for on Google in relation to the brand name you have chosen, check out the Google Adwords Keyword Tool ( shows you local and global monthly searches, and the level of competition you have for customers.You can


also search on Twitter (!/search-home) to see how people are using your keyword in conversation right now. Once you have decided on a brand name, it is important to secure your brand across the web. KnowEm ( is a useful website which shows you instantly which social media platforms (like YouTube, Facebook,Twitter and LinkedIn) you can still register your name with and which website domain names are still free.Whether you intend to build a website now or in the future, you need to buy the domain name you want before anyone else does. If the name you choose hasn’t been registered before, hosting providers such as 123-reg ( charge between £3-12 per year for a domain name, so this is a very good investment. You can build a website for free using a blogging site like Wordpress (, which is very customisable.The famous group coupon site, Groupon, started life as a Wordpress site.You can use templates to change the look and feel of your website, add multiple pages of text, audio and visual content, add links to your social media channels, and even install a payment system.

There is a multitude of ways for your business to generate revenue: selling products and services on and offline, charging membership fees, having sponsors, and many others.You need to be creative and think outside the box to develop a competitive model that suits you. These days, online advertising is only really profitable if you have a considerable number of hits per month to your site from a highly targeted audience, so it is not recommended as the basis of your business model. If you have a text content-rich website, you can still generate automatic revenue through affiliate advertising, which is where you are rewarded for providing another business with customers. If you become a Skimlinks ( publisher, for example, they can convert any normal product link in your content into its equivalent affiliate link as a user clicks on it, or they can turn product references in your content into links to where the user can buy the item (and make it an affiliate link on the way). If you want to sell products or services online, it is easy to install an online payment system like Google Checkout ( to your website, so you can accept payments and automatically generate invoices. Alternatively, you could sign up to a website which can process payments for you so you can focus on marketing and developing your offering. Here are three companies that can help you make money from your skills straight away:

Consider turning a hobby or an interest into a social business with Ning ( Charge members (or collect donations) for site access, premium groups and content.You can also run your own ads, or sell branded merchandise.

Sell your handmade goods, vintage items and craft supplies with Etsy ( You’ll get your own URL for your shop based on your username, which you can promote via social media to build your brand loyalty.

If you have skills in photography, drawing or writing, you could self-publish a book with Blurb ( Use the company’s free and easy-to-use bookmaking software to design the layout, use their free promotional tools to get the word out and then set your price.You can keep 100% of the mark-up for a print


book, or 80% of the retail price for an ebook, but the best bit is that you don’t have to handle transactions; customers purchase your book using Blurb’s online shop.

By downloading a Twitter desktop application to your computer such as TweetDeck (, you can have automatic searches for keywords, relevant hashtags, lists of users in your industry and journalists who write about your area of business.You can then interact with individuals who are Tweeting about relevant topics by introducing your website to them or answering their questions. A useful hashtag to follow is #journorequest (!/search/%23journorequest), which is used by journalists who are looking for information and case studies.This is a very effective way to get your message out and received by the right people, and is also an opportunity to be seen as an expert in your industry. Never underestimate word of mouth marketing: a happy customer is your most valuable marketing tool. Ask them to spread the word about your business to friends, colleagues and family, and to give you a written or video testimonial you can use.

On your year abroad you will have one or more of the following: a maintenance loan, a tuition fee loan, an Erasmus grant, a salary, a scholarship or award money and savings. If you plan carefully, some of this could be used as start-up funding. However, there are other ways to get funding before your business is generating income. Entering your university’s business plan competition – or even a national contest – will motivate you to plan for the future of your business. Aside from the prize package if (when!) you win, you benefit from being forced to think about your strengths and weaknesses, team structure, competitors, USP, marketing strategy, financial predictions, and many other areas, within a strict time limit. Having a deadline will keep you focused and motivated. University business plan competitions usually go hand-in-hand with free advice and support from the innovation centre, which means that you will be able to work with experienced entrepreneurs, attend related events and meet other entrants; benefits which are not readily available in competitions after you graduate. Having a business plan will enable you to apply for bank loans and investment, so it’s a good idea to keep it up to date as your business progresses. Here are some other sources of funding for young entrepreneurs, in the form of loans, prizes and grants:

Start-up Loans ( is a government-backed project in collaboration with Start-up Britain, which lends up to £2,500 to 18-24-yearolds wanting to start a business.You can register for a free Start-up Loan kit ( from Enterprise Nation UK, which includes all the advice you need to make the most of your loan and start your business, including over £500-worth of offers on everything from business cards to websites, laptops and smart suits.

Shell LiveWIRE ( offers young entrepreneurs in the UK free online business advice and funding of between £1,000 and £10,000 to help them launch their new business idea. At the end of each month, 10 shortlisted entrants to the Grand Ideas Awards are asked to submit a one-minute elevator pitch video about their business.The community then votes alongside the judges for up to four of the most innovative ideas each month to be awarded £1,000.The website is also a great platform to find other like-minded young entrepreneurs.


UnLtd ( is a charity that supports social entrepreneurs. If you are a driven, committed and passionate entrepreneur with an idea which will change the world for the better, you could apply to win UnLtd’s Level 1 Awards (up to £5,000) or Level 2 Awards (up to £15,000), alongside the accompanying developmental support package, which will help you start up your social enterprise.

The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme ( provides money and support to help young people start up in business.You can get help with writing your business plan, access a business mentor, use a free advice line and apply for grants and loans from £250 up to £5,000.


Many UK universities offer lifelong learning classes on IT, economics, statistics and bookkeeping.These courses are taught by university tutors and are offered to the general public, and at a discounted rate to students. If you come up with business ideas on your year abroad but realise you are missing key skills, then either wait until you’re back at your home university to start these extracurricular classes, or enrol on local or online courses while you’re away to help you feel more confident.

University innovation and enterprise centres offer entrepreneurial advice and support to young start-ups. Many have free office space, business plan software and a library of useful resources.They may also run competitions and networking events and invite inspiring guest speakers, often alumni, to talk about their experiences in business. Some universities will also try to match up the skills of entrepreneurial students to spark creativity, such as teaming up a Web Design and Internet Technology student who has to create a website as part of their coursework with a final year student just back from a year abroad who has a brilliant idea but no technical skills. You might find that your university also has an Entrepreneur-in-Residence: an experienced entrepreneur who is based at the university and is on hand to answer business questions, talk through ideas and point young entrepreneurs in the right direction.

NACUE ( is a charity that supports and represents young entrepreneurs and student-led enterprise societies to help drive the growth of entrepreneurship in the UK’s Colleges and Universities.They organise workshops, pitch competitions, conferences and training days to inspire young entrepreneurs.

SIE ( is the national organisation for promoting and supporting enterprise and entrepreneurship in Scotland’s universities.They run New Ideas and New Ventures Competitions, which give young entrepreneurs a goal, while supporting and teaching them in accompanying bootcamps and workshops. SIE’s Regional Business Advisors also provide one-to-one specialist business advice and support for young people.


I chose to study at the Business School of Aston University because of its high-achieving reputation, its post-graduation employability record and its friendly atmosphere. I studied International Business and Modern Languages (German), a course that covered international economics, finance, marketing, plus the usual business topics and, of course, German. At university I co-founded the SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) society where students were enabled to work on projects to aid economic development within the Midlands region.We became the biggest student society at Aston University (not counting religious groups), and ran projects with various partners including the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where we taught kids business skills through a project which involved researching, designing, manufacturing and selling t-shirts. In the placement year of my university studies I worked at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, in the Global Investment Banking division, handling client corporate-actions in their back office. During the quiet periods in the share market, I started work on a business plan that became Co-Go Coffee To Go. While I was still in Germany, my coffee selling concept won the American-German Business Club’s business plan competition, something that gave me encouragement to pursue this project. Even though I don’t work in the same industry any more - the ways of working I learnt on my year abroad are skills I still use today.The year abroad was invaluable, and was probably also one of the most fun years I’ve had!


My coffee business put advertising on the side of coffee cups, the principal idea onto which everything else was added. I came up with this while ripping a coffee cup apart (I am a fidgety person). Aston University provided us with our first location for Co-Go Coffee - a huge help in the business. They also provided mentorship and advice through BSEEN (Birmingham Skills for Enterprise and Employability Network). I wish I had spoken to more people who were doing it already and listened to their advice. I was a little arrogant out of university and thought my way was the best way. Had I listened to others a little more I may have made fewer mistakes.That said, the mistakes I’ve made have helped me make better judgments now. Prove your business model as much as you can before committing big resources to the idea.Try it small - see whether you can generate any money from it. Don’t go into it blind hoping the money will come. Ask people for advice.


Here are two useful websites which will give you more information about starting a business:

Smarta ( is a platform providing real-time access to thousands of people running their own businesses.These entrepreneurs pass on business advice based on their own experience, and you can also get live professional advice from lawyers, accountants and other services providers free of charge.

Start-up Britain ( is a national campaign founded by eight entrepreneurs to celebrate, inspire and accelerate enterprise in the UK, which it does by providing free events on subjects such as marketing, finance and technology, listing useful links on their website, and working with the Government on practical initiatives based on the feedback it gathers from the campaign’s supporters. If you’re interested in finding out more about what entrepreneurship involves, its website is a good place to start. Its Enterprise Calendar ( is particularly useful to find talks and workshops in your area.

This book shows how starting a business can be made into a science rather than an art. The Lean Start-up introduces the reader to iterative processes; coming up with an idea and then building and testing it in the shortest amount of time possible and for the smallest amount of money. It takes the ethos, adopted by Google and many others, of release early and often.You have to minimise your total time through the start-up feedback loop. This continual testing of your product or idea with your customers is the most effective way of successfully creating something your customers want because they, in effect, help you build and design it. The Lean Start-up takes you though this process and teaches you how to measure the metrics that count and which ones to ignore. Although this book focuses on products, it can be easily translated into service sectors. This book is a must read for those starting a business who want to minimise time, cash, risk and stress.

Business Model Generation is a very different book. Co-created by 470 people and designed by Alan Smith, Business Model Generation focuses on visualising a business model.


Until this book was released, people talked about the strength of their business model. During the dot-com boom and bust and even today, many entrepreneurs talk about the durability of their business model yet they are unable to visualise it.This is important because without this ability they are also unable to communicate their business model effectively to their customers, their team and their shareholders. It’s easier to test assumptions and find creative solutions to problems in a dynamic and fast-changing world when you can visualise all the angles of your business. At the core of the book is the Business Model Canvas.The canvas focuses on the different areas of a business such as the customers, the value offered to them, how to reach them, revenues, costs and activities.There are nine areas in total and, once completed, it provides a solid framework to build your business on. Like The Lean Start-up, it encourages you to try many types of models for different customers and the post-it note is often referenced. The book also looks at many different types of business models, idea generation and understanding customers. These two books work very well together.With the knowledge of both these books and other modern tools, it is possible to develop a business idea with almost zero capital.


Working for a small start-up in a relevant industry is the perfect way to learn the skills you will need to start up your own business. Small businesses require their team members to have a very diverse range of responsibilities: you could find yourself in charge of their social media communications, sending out the newsletter, writing copy for the website, answering phones, responding to customer feedback, doing usability testing and helping out on new projects.These are valuable skills to have before you go it alone. A good place to look for entrepreneurial internships is Enternships (, which has opportunities in a wide range of exciting start-ups and SMEs in the UK.

Erasmus For Entrepreneurs ( is a cross-border exchange programme which gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in other European Union countries.The exchange of experience takes place during a stay with an experienced entrepreneur, which will help you learn the skills you need to run a small business. Your host will benefit from your fresh perspective on his or her business and will get the opportunity to cooperate with foreign partners or learn about new markets.The exchange programme is partially funded by the European Union.

There is quite a negative response to failure in the UK, which is unfortunate because, in the words of inventor and entrepreneur Sir James Dyson in a guest column for Wired magazine: “By fostering an environment where failure is embraced, even those of us far from our student days have the freedom to make mistakes - and learn from them still. No one is going to get it right the first time. Instead of being punished for mistakes along the way, learn from them. I fail constantly. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.” ( If you start a business and it doesn’t succeed, then learn from your mistakes and try again! If you decide not to start a business, then clearly indicate your start-up experience on your CV and emphasise it in interviews. Remember it’s not just languages and intercultural skills that are appreciated by businesses; an innovative entrepreneurial approach to a problem is as highly valued in business, as in all walks of life, so your experience as an entrepreneur will benefit you whichever route you decide to take.


When you come into a company that’s had a founder and is a small family business, the first thing you have to do is make sure that you do no harm, and figure out really quickly which of the company’s principles have made it successful. So I realised that the company had a great methodology for teaching. I understood that the people who worked there were deeply passionate about the cause of language training, and that passion was a fantastic asset to treasure, nurture and develop and so I was very quickly conscious about wanting to continue the focus and the work on language training.We had an international strategy that wasn’t fleshed out, and we were working with small-scale distributors in very large markets.There wasn’t a very systematic way to increase awareness necessarily, so a lot of the business aspects weren’t great.That’s actually where I put most of my focus initially, to get back on the right track about what was working and what to do to increase cash flow. There were some fundamental things that I focused on. For example, getting everyone on the same page about the bigger goal, or mission statement.We knew that our focus would be on delivering the best technology-based initiative for language learning in the world, and that that was the ultimate goal for broader education including maths, reading, geography, history and all the other subjects that you can teach.We knew it was going to be more than software; we were going to introduce the live components


and the community element to the language-learning experience online – all of that was worked out very early and executed much later.The second part is reflective of my commercial philosophy, which was on the business side, and it was actually more important to be experimental than to be strategic. It was much more important to try out a lot of ideas than committing to a particular marketing approach.We tried to track everything as best we could so that when we got success from anything we did, it would just encourage us to rack that up, and that would unlock new potential, and so on. So we were highly tactical on the commercial side, and very strategic with the brand. And that works for us. A lot of the complexity in executing business strategy is the international dimension.Whatever industry you’re in, it’s likely that your biggest margin is going to be outside your home market.Take Rosetta Stone right now – our biggest market is the US which is our home market, but it’s very obvious that for the company to grow and be successful, we’ve got to hit a home run in Asia because about 40% of all language students worldwide are from China, Korea and Japan. A familiarity with those cultures and with those environments is increasingly vital so if you’re in college or university and wondering ‘what’s next?’ or ‘how do I prepare myself for the world?’ then having a good sense of technology or business is important. It’s also important to be able to draw on experiences of living abroad in assessing strategies for how to go global. Many Swedish companies – like Skype – are designed at the outset to be global. Most American startups with similarly big ambitions start out domestic, and so I think that if one lives in the UK, or somewhere in Europe, the more you can take a global approach, the more likely you can be competitive. It’s about your momentum and whether you can scale at a rate that’s fast enough to succeed. It’s amazing. My life has been fantastic. Being able to work in a field that you’re passionate about is so rewarding. Anyone who’s able to have work and passion combined has an amazing privilege. But I think that life is what you make it and you can have a lot of fun in any industry – you can have a passion for winning or making whatever it is that you’re working on better. One of the benefits of being able to work doing something that you love is that other people who work with you are also, often, sharing that same passion, and so you’re surrounded by people you like, and that’s also conducive to being fulfilled and satisfied at work. It’s almost like the work itself is a kind of virtuous circle.The harder you work at it, the more you love it, and the more you get out of it. For anyone who’s had an international experience, you know that you feel different when you come back; you’re enriched and you’re far the wiser, and so being able to work in a field where you’re able to give any aspect of that back and give other people the same opportunity is amazing!


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Š The Higher Education Academy, 2012 The Higher Education Academy (HEA) is a national body for learning and teaching in higher education.We work with universities and other higher education providers to help bring about change in learning and teaching.We do this to improve the experience that students have while they are studying, and to support and develop those who teach them.

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Languages and Entrepreneurship: A guide for students  

This report looks at some ways in which language skills, intercultural skills more broadly, and experiences abroad have enabled or inspired...

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