Last November five universities - four of them NACUE members - came together for the Social Enterprise Start-Up Weekend. The weekend consisted of workshops on  areas such as business idea generation and lean startup methodologies. The weekend was put on for students to develop business models, to then be pitched to a panel by the end of the weekend.

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Applications for the Social Enterprise Start-Up Weekend were open to students from North East Universities with students from our member institutions, Durham University, University of Sunderland, Teesside University, and Northumbria University taking part in the weekend.

We spoke to Douglas Jones, 29, recent MSc Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship graduate from Newcastle University who attended the event.

Douglas got involved in the Social Enterprise Startup Weekend after being alerted by one of his advisors from Rise-Up. The Rise-Up programme at Newcastle University provides support for students interested in setting up their own businesses. Douglas is also actively involved in his university’s enterprise society Newcastle Entrepreneurs, and is currently working on setting up a social enterprise through the UK Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme.


Speaking about his experience of the Social Enterprise Startup Weekend, Douglas Jones said: “What made the [weekend] unique was its fast-paced and competitive environment where students had two days to brainstorm a business idea and pitch it to a panel.”

“I found it very useful. I particularly enjoyed interacting with successful social entrepreneurs as they took time to evaluate our business model. They routinely offered their insight concerning our business model and discussed important issues such as achieving scale and measuring its impact. One of the key takeaways for me as an aspiring social entrepreneur has been the relationships I formed, and having the experience to pitch an idea in front of a panel.” recently ranked Liverpool as #11 in an article about the North West as an emerging business for startup entrepreneurs. Having read this article Douglas believes that it is encouraging news about enterprise in North West, as he looks forward to attending the Student Enterprise Conference.

He said: "Having read [the article] that ranked Liverpool higher than Newcastle for enterprise and start-up events; I would say this is great for the North West!"

"I will have my first taste of the North West at NACUE’s Enterprise Conference taking place in Liverpool 31 January – 1 February. I feel any organisation (including local councils) taking an active role in promoting and supporting enterprise/start-up in the region is very encouraging.”

Douglas believes that although organisations like NACUE are doing a great job at providing awareness of social enterprises, more needs to be done to promote and encourage students to set them up.

He said: “While providing awareness is important, I think it would also be useful for students to understand the value in creating social enterprises and the potential impact they have. Ultimately with the help of NACUE, regional Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), and similar organisations, students can view the creation of a social enterprise as a viable option after graduation.”

Douglas feels he has benefitted positively from being a part of NACUE’s network. He has been able to launch his own social enterprise in the North East.

Douglas continued: “The support and relationships I have gained have been invaluable. NACUE’s £8,000 grant provided me an opportunity to organise and host a leadership and enterprise development conference at one of NACUE’s member institutions in the North East.”

Douglas will be attending this year’s Student Enterprise Conference. Tickets are available here!

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