How to support them, and tips for starting your own – from St Andrews’ very own student entrepreneurs.

Whilst researching the different businesses being run by St Andrews students, I asked each of the owners about what advice they would give people who are looking to get involved with student-run businesses – whether by supporting them, or by starting their own. Here’s what they had to say…

For people looking to start their own business:

For the first steps in running a business, Sofie Brøgger Jensen – one of the co-founders of Concept Zero – says that doing the groundwork well is vital. She says anyone considering starting a business should really take the time to research the sector, asking themself: what’s already out there, and what can I add? Researching the companies who would be your competitors is also a great idea. Find out who they are, what they’ve done, and – most importantly – what has and hasn’t worked for them. Compile all of this research with the resources and network you have available, and you have a good base to launch your business.

When it comes to the resources required to start a business, Madeleine Bruce – the owner of St Andrews’ only edible cookie dough company, That Dough Tho – reminds us that you really can start from nothing. She recommends researching beforehand, in order to gauge whether there’s a market for the products or services that you want to provide. Then, once you know that there’s a gap, you actually need a very limited amount of capital to launch a social media-based business. Start small with limited materials, take your time to work out the market, and build your business gradually from there.

However, if your business does require a larger financial investment, you don’t have to fund it alone. Lachie Fingland, owner of Torrie Gin (launching soon), recommends exploring your options. Although he is funding his venture with savings from his previous jobs, he knows that there are grants and schemes that people can apply for in order to get financial support. You usually need to have a strong business plan in place, so it can take some serious preparation, but it could enable you to launch the business you’re planning! Finally, Lachie says just “be brave and be bold”; it’s impossible to know if something will work out, but if you’re able to take a risk and learn something then it’s effort and time well spent, even if your venture doesn’t go exactly to plan.

Mhairi Claire Lynch, the face behind Making For Good, and Flora Edmiston of Flora’s Totes both recommend making use of social media before you start your business. You can use sites like Instagram for market research, to find out what products and services are already being offered by different brands. Also, you can do surveys and polls to get an idea of who would buy your products and how much they would be willing to pay. Our generation has grown up with technology which is constantly evolving, so why not put our skills to good use? Additionally, these sites are easy to use and incur fewer costs than outside retailers, so you can post pictures of your products and build your business from there – no marketing knowledge required!

For Lucas Gater (DYR Designs) and Jennifer Worswick Irving-Bell (Looking Glass Makes), ensuring that you’re truly passionate about the products that you’re making is a key step to success. As Lucas points out, you just have to get stuck in and not be afraid to make mistakes – if you do things you want to do, it’ll make any success so much more rewarding. Customers will also be able to tell that you’ve put real consideration and enjoyment into the products that you make them, says Jennifer, and this can have a hugely positive impact on your sales.

Noemie Jouas of Noé Dresses emphasises the importance of making mistakes. As she reflects on her past experiences, she realises that the things she tried and didn’t succeed at are the experiences that taught her the most. Sometimes failure is uncomfortable, but Noemie is glad that she has put herself in uncomfortable positions, because she learned a lot from those times. When you do succeed, no one will know about the failures you may have had in the past, so take the risks you can and put yourself out there! Often, you have nothing to lose but time – so why not try?

Molly Borrett, the owner of Scents by Molly, has some tips for managing a business alongside your university studies – which is no mean feat, as any of these owners will tell you. She tries to stay organised and create a schedule so that she knows exactly when she’ll be studying, and which hours she can dedicate to her work. Molly also emphasises the importance of being able to prioritise: when starting a business, you’ll have to face lots of decisions that you never would’ve expected, so knowing that you have a plan and being aware of what you want to do is vital.

Suhit Amin, founder of Saulderson Media, reminds students not to neglect university while focusing on their business. Of course, in order to achieve success you have to work hard and put as much time and effort in as you can, but university is also a really unique experience. You have the chance to meet a likeminded but diverse group of people and make life-long friendships, and the opportunities provided by being at university won’t come along again, so remember to make the most of your time as a student too.

Ria Chakrabarti, founder of the start-up Veristyle (which hopes to launch in summer 2021), says that anyone starting a new business should take advantage of all the resources on offer to St Andrews students. Whether that’s by using the tools and technology available in your school, or by creating a network with other students and teachers, students should really make the most of what’s available to them – you’ll never have this pool of resources again!

Finally, Hanabi Blackmoor, who runs Blackmoorxart, says it’s important to find other small businesses like yours and connect with them. Building a supportive community and giving each other feedback can be really beneficial for your businesses and yourselves – she knows that mental health is a big concern for small business owners, as it’s easy to become so invested that every minor failure feels like a massive one, so having that network around you can really help.

How to support small businesses if you can’t purchase their products:

If you are unable to support small St Andrews businesses by purchasing their products, just helping to promote them can make a huge difference! In a place like St Andrews, even just talking to a friend about a product/business can be a huge help – word of mouth goes a long way in small communities like ours.

And of course, supporting their social media pages by sharing, liking and commenting on posts really helps to broaden their owners’ audiences and make them visible to new customers. Also, use Instagram’s ‘save’ feature on various posts and pages – it’s a quick and easy way to help boost the businesses’ accounts!

Thanks to all the business owners who took time to speak with me and pass on their great tips and advice.