Lisa Fleming – MSc Entrepreneurship and International Development graduate

MSc Entrepreneurship and International Development graduate Lisa Fleming shares her experiences studying the programme at Plymouth.

"I graduated with a merit grade which was far beyond my expectations and was also delighted to have won the Federation for Small Business prize for ‘Outstanding Postgraduate Taught Student 16/17’ which was awarded to me at the graduation ceremony together with a cash prize by Alison Theaker, FSB Chair."

It wasn't just one thing about the programme that stood out to me

My initial aim was to gain a snapshot of how entrepreneurship is taught so that I could develop my ideas of encouraging entrepreneurship and enterprise education in schools. I wasn't expecting to gain a whole load of other experiences like making like life-long friends with students from China, Nigeria, Spain, Italy and Germany, and becoming confident at making presentations and writing assignments.

Returning to study

I hadn't studied for 20 years so for me taking a masters was a massive step in to the unknown. The lecturers were a valuable resource to our learning as they provided support and guidance, as well as the encouragement to be creative. 

The modules encouraged ideas on how to harness your entrepreneurial spirit and invested in the concept of business start-up can be accessed by everyone.

However, the extra-curricular activities were a godsend! Designed to complement the theoretical taught modules in the form of workshops, talks, mentoring programmes and guest speakers. These resources helped me to gain confidence and offered a practical element to the theory. 

As we were the first Masters on the Entrepreneurship programme, we had the chance to have a say and an input into what goes into our modules and how they are taught, so that the proceeding students would benefit and so the course could evolve and grow. The ethos of the course was ‘innovation’, so new ideas were taken on board.

Features of the programme I particularly valued

As well as the expertise of the tutors, The Futures Centre employ their own Resident Entrepreneurs who really are an important resource to tap in to as they are at the cutting edge of entrepreneurship.

Gareth Hart of Iridescent Ideas set up his own business by helping other businesses become social enterprises, offering us a realistic and practical business start-up viewpoint. He taught us that businesses can also be social enterprises and that a 'social enterprise economy' really is possible. He guided us through a business proposal called ‘50/50 Energy Café’ where as a team we were assigned to develop a local social enterprise, on a budget, that would not only make money, but benefit the community.

It made us think about tapping in to vital local resources where initial costs of business start-up are minimal. 50/50 meant one side of the café turned unused food supplies into delicious meals and serving to the public, and the other turning the ‘waste of waste’ into eco-energy for the national grid and subsidising community access. Gareth’s enthusiasm encouraged us to make the proposal work and it paid off as it was very rewarding plus we got a good grade!

Opportunities to engage with other entrepreneurship students

"My colleagues taking the MSc Entrepreneurship programme had the chance to create a business plan and make a pitch of their enterprise to us, whilst we created a proposal for a developing country and to pitch to them. Although this was a scary prospect it was good to get feedback from colleagues and was interesting to see other business ideas and the chance to input your ideas and ask questions."

Postgraduate business facilities

The physical learning environment at the Mast House was a fantastic bonus. The Futures Entrepreneurship Centre with its high-tech, minimalist study rooms, the ‘Mayflower 2020’ artwork, and capital city themed lecture theatres provided an inspiring backdrop to our studies.

You can enjoy stunning views of the charming Sutton Harbour with its super yachts and fishing trawlers, and the far-reaching view of Plymouth Sound whilst listening to the lecturer and taking notes.

Working on business proposals

A proposal that was fantastic to work on was ‘Seeds’, a social enterprise that was designed to aid a farming community in Ghana, by turning unused cocoa husks into buttons for clothing and making them a saleable product. It tackled schooling and equality issues; created family and community links; inclusivity and counteracted poverty levels by generating an income alongside their cocoa farming.

This project opened my eyes to poverty, what can be achieved by setting up a social enterprise and the pitfalls too!

The audience feedback was great as it was agreed that it could be a viable project. We had a sample of the buttons for our presentation and the only downside was that our audience where disappointed they weren’t edible and they didn’t smell of chocolate either!

Image courtesy of Getty Images (#497141693)

Next steps

What first caught my eye was a statement in the University of Plymouth Postgraduate prospectus 'Are you considering working with local or central government to create policies and environments that support and enhance entrepreneurship?' My ideas to turn ‘informal education’ into ‘formal education’ in secondary schools seemed to fit this MSc Entrepreneurship programme perfectly.

My son was inspired to become an engineer as a result of a school trip to Babcock which was fantastic, but I feel it’s a shame where these opportunities are not reaching every child in every school. Whether it's due to the lack of funding or time constraints, I feel young people should have the opportunity to be inspired and motivated, and to have a career they are passionate about. Most importantly to experience that feeling of achieving something.

The MSc Entrepreneurship and International programme has developed my knowledge of the theory and practical elements of business start-up, as well reaffirming my idea of rolling out entrepreneurship education in schools. I would love to see the Futures programme used as a model for teaching in secondary schools as it is effective and it works!

My hope is to further development enterprise and entrepreneurship within the Secondary School education system and even to be considered as a compulsory element. It’s a radical concept but I feel is achievable! 

To help make this a reality I have been offered a place on the University of Plymouth’s Professional Doctorate in Education which begins in January 2018 and in the meantime am enjoying a role in the Faculty of Business Student Recruitment and Admissions department assisting the team with marketing.

For anyone with only a tentative business idea, and for those who wish to gain confidence and grow within your own personal development, then this course is definitely for you! After all entrepreneurship is not discriminatory, it is available to all!