First question, can you tell the reader who you are? So name, job title etc.
Rachel Brown, Enterprise Programme Manager.
And what departments/students do you specifically help?
I manage extra-curricular student enterprise activity, so I support entrepreneurial students from every school in the college, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.
How do you do this? What do you spend most of your time doing?
Through a range of methods. I run 1-1 enterprise appointments every Friday, where students can come to see me to talk about any enterprise issue they might have. The appointments are quite varied, but typical reasons students come to see me is if they have an idea they’d like to develop and get feedback on, a problem they’ve got in their existing business that they’d like help with, or to talk about options for QMUL endorsement of the Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa if they’re international students who’d like to set up a business in the UK after they graduate.
A large part of my role is managing our ‘Try It’ and ‘Grow It’ awards, which offer seed funding of up to £500 to students who want to test an idea, and £5000 to students who want to grow an existing business. We currently have four deadlines a year, and I manage the promotion of these and the selection process.
I also spend a lot of time planning and delivering events and training programmes that run throughout the year to support student entrepreneurs – these include one-off sessions on topics such as how to write a business plan or run a crowdfunding campaign, and I also co-run a new 8-week incubator programme, inQUBEate, that provides mentoring and training for our enterprise award winners.
What’s the hardest thing about your job?
It’s incredibly varied and I find myself working with students who are starting businesses in a huge range of industries – I might be dealing with medical devices one minute, and chocolatiers the next. I have to learn about a lot of new industries to keep up!
What do you enjoy the most?
The creativity and innovation I’m surrounded by every day – I love talking to students about the new ideas they have, and it’s exciting to see the talent we have at Queen Mary.
What are you most proud of? What is your biggest success to date?
My role was new when I started, so I had a lot of scope to make the job my own. I’m pleased by the growth in the numbers of students engaging in enterprise since I started the role, and also by the quality of their business ideas. We’re starting to see a number of our students either winning or reaching the finals of national competitions, such as UnLtd’s Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year, NACUE’s Young Male Leader of the Year, and Santander’s 60 Second Pitch and Business Plan competitions.
What is the most common question you get asked by students?
I’ve got an idea for a business but have no idea what to do next – can you help?
And finally, tell us one thing we wouldn’t know about you.
I’ve had a variety of jobs in the past – the strangest was probably selling helium balloons on Blackpool Pleasure Beach. More exotically, I’ve also worked in Italy, France and the Caribbean.