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Alumni lead the way in setting up business

Birmingham City University (BCU) is the region’s leading institution for student entrepreneurship, a fact illustrated by three remarkable women who have set up their own businesses.  
Emma Shipley - Birmingham City University Alumni and Entrepreneur.

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Alumni lead the way in setting up business

Birmingham City University (BCU) is the region’s leading institution for student entrepreneurship, a fact illustrated by three remarkable women who have set up their own businesses.  
Emma Shipley - Birmingham City University Alumni and Entrepreneur.

Emma Shipley has set up a very successful online textile design business and now sells her products in Fortnum’s and Harrods. Selling scarves and cushions to wallpaper and fine dining, her brand designs encapsulate beautiful luxury products in bold colours and statement prints.

Morgan Grice has created a truly inspirational online business called ‘Odd Orange’ selling fun andcolourful prints, notebooks and greetings cards. Her business emerged from her obsession with sketchbooks and her inability to find the perfect one.   

Shovon Wiggan a Business Management graduate, founded her own business called Inspire-a-Doll while also being a mum and studying.  Shovon’s multicultural dolls aim to bring more representation to the toy industry.

Emma, Morgan and Shovon all feature in the BCU’s current Alumni Exhibition and Festival highlighting over 25 outstanding graduates.  Emma grew the business on her own but said if she had her time again, she would seek out support much earlier. In contrast Morgan and Shovon benefitted from BCUs BSEEN Business Start Up Service and STEAMhouse which they credit with empowering them to set up their own business.

Emma said ‘As the business kept growing, we attracted more and more stockists to sell our products. I eventually branched out from scarves into interiors, fabrics and homeware. I’ve also had exciting collaborations with high-profile brands such as Swarovski, Anthropologie, Aspinal and Disney.  

We sell mainly online now but we’re still in some lovely department stores as well, and I have a team in London of about 10 people. My advice to current textiles students would obviously be to work really hard, but more importantly, figure out what’s unique about what you’re doing. The industry is so competitive, so there’s absolutely no point doing what has already been done.’ 

Emma added ‘If you’re going to start your own business, try and get as much help as possible. I didn’t as I felt I had to do it all on my own, but there are resources out there to help you, including online courses, mentors, and government schemes for setting up businesses.’  

Morgan Grice has set up her own business called Odd Orange

While Emma now has a thriving business, Morgan is still working hard to go full time with her brand ‘Odd Orange’ while freelancing. She said ‘ Since graduating, I am most proud of setting up Odd Orange. I never thought that I would have the guts to set up my very own business. It’s a lot of work for one person, and as I had no business background, I have had to teach myself everything.  

But working with BCU’s BSEEN programme, which offers students and recent graduates a start-up package to turn their business idea into reality, gave me the opportunity to learn how to turn those skills into a business. It was an amazing experience and I couldn’t recommend it more to anyone who is considering setting up a business or going self-employed.’  

Morgan added ‘It’s very difficult and requires a lot of work to start a business like this, but with lots of research and support from BCU, mentors, friends and family, it was mostly a matter of getting my head down and doing it. Getting a trademark and the legal aspects were the most difficult part of it for me. But making the products and seeing people’s reactions was by far the best.’ 

Shovon Wiggan, owner of Inspire-A-Doll.

Shovon had to balance being a mum and studying while setting up and then running her own business which she did thanks to support from BCUs STEAMhouse, a collaborative community developing business ideas, skills, knowledge and ambition.

Shovon said ‘After having time out of education to have my son, I went back to college to do an access to business course.This gave me a kickstart onto the path I wanted to pursue at BCU studying business management.

I was inspired to create my own business whilst studying. BCU have initiatives within its STEAMhouse building – a place where you can bring ideas and get advice and guidance from business experts and academics. I got access to facilities, offices spaces, workshops.’

Shovon added ‘Being part of STEAM has helped make me feel really at home. STEAMhouse gave me the confidence to reach out to manufacturers, helped me with branding and provided me with an office space to build my business.’

For further support, or if you’re looking to start or develop your business as a graduate, find out more at BSEEN.

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