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Why start your own enterprise?

Employability: Why start your own enterprise

Transcript and audio description

Maddie: Hi everyone. So, I'm Maddie. I graduated Warwick in 2020 last year in Global Sustainable Development and Politics, and I'm now working as a Sustainability Officer at Solihull College and University Centre part-time and running my business Scrubby the rest of the week.

Rebecca: Hi everyone. I'm Rebecca. I'm a fourth year studying Ancient History and Classical Archaeology with Study in Europe at the Classics Department here at Warwick. Last year I was away on my year abroad in Rome, which was really exciting, but now I'm back here and studying hard for my final push. I'm also in my spare time really passionate about saving the environment and sustainability, which is why I'm talking to Maddie today. It's really exciting to be able to speak to her about her experiences and what she's been doing for sustainability since graduating.

Could you tell us a bit more about the project and how the university helped you with it?

Maddie: Yeah definitely. I founded Warwick Cup with two other students in our final year of university. They were both also Global Sustainable Development students, Holly and Ellie. Basically we started it because, from our time in Australia studying abroad, we all three of us worked on a project out there called Borrow a Cup, and it had a very similar structure to Warwick Cup. It was all about the circular industry around cup and coffee culture , and basically we took that kind of frame and how it worked on a campus over in Melbourne and brought it back to Warwick.

So what the scheme actually was, it was a cup sharing system. So we had x amount of cups and we provided them to the café, and then the customer would just ask for their drink in a Warwick Cup. Then they would use it and dispose of it in a particular Warwick Cup bin, and then we had volunteers that took those cups cleaned them in the Warwick facilities, and then they just got put back into the system. So it was a really circular system and ensuring that the focus was moving away from disposable coffee cups.

Rebecca: Your Warwick Cup enterprise has been such an inspiring thing for many people on campus who are interested in sustainability. Do you have any advice for people who also want to start enterprises like that to make campus greener?

Maddie: Yeah definitely. I would say just really go for it because so basically what happened was we had the idea when we were in Australia to bring this back to Warwick and we first initially had a few conversations with um positions of people in the college in the University, and we kind of got hit by a bit of backlash saying that ‘oh no there's currently a little bit of a plan to do this anyway, so we don't really want this to become a thing’. For us thinking about that back on the other side of the world, we were like ‘okay well they've had a long time to do this already and if something hasn't been done then we're just going to do it anyway and see who comes along with it’.

Because really the beauty of starting something at university is that you have nothing to lose. You have no money to lose, which is great. You have no job to lose because you are a full-time student, and it's just a position to be creative and do whatever you want. There's no kind of scariness of like ‘oh god if I fail’. I'm literally like there's no other option because you know you're eventually going to graduate and go on to do something, whether it's that or it's something new.

Rebecca: What skills and knowledge would you say you've gained from launching the project?

Maddie: Oh gosh a huge variety! I think the biggest one was management and time management. So, I was managing the team kind of on a logistical and operational basis and Holly was doing the social media marketing, and Ellie was doing the finances. So, kind of, I was the people person ,so I learned how to manage the team – from literally like your day-to-day tasks going completely wrong to massive meetings that we had with the Lord Rootes fund, or big presentations that we had with HSBC.

So that was amazing and that taught me so much about just personal confidence and like how to engage people, how to work well with a team and around kind of just day-to-day things that you need to get done for something to work.

Rebecca: The Lord Rootes funding that you got and the opportunity that you got there, do you think that that has helped spark a career development for you and made you look more employable when you've gone for interviews and applications?

Maddie: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean any job will want you if you're able to show that you're able to present, which was a big thing on the Lord Rootes Fund. You're able to sell yourself to a group of people that um you may not necessarily be used to working with, and that was a big thing for me. So the Lord Rootes Fund is made up of a huge variety of people from have a relationship to the University and who are really not intimidating, but have done really well in their lives and so that was a big stepping stone for me for that kind of confidence and presentation and employability skills in that sense, and that I've definitely taken forward at the moment.

Rebecca: Obviously, with the coronavirus pandemic and everything that's going on politically, there's quite a lot of worries for people about their jobs and whether they're going to have jobs. And that's a particular worry for prospective students as well, so do you have any advice coming into uni what you might advise students or prospective students about shaping their career path, or any words of encouragement there.

Maddie: Definitely. I mean, the first point is try your best not to worry because I didn't have a job until June, no July actually, in my final year. So a lot of people, at Warwick especially, go into graduate schemes that they'll get in like September of their last year. And in my final year I lived with like four Economics students and they all had graduate schemes, and I was like ‘oh my god, I'm going to be unemployed for the rest of my life because I have no idea what I want to do and I have no idea if anybody will actually employ me’. So the first one is don't worry because things fall into place, as long as you are facilitating them – so making sure you're making those connections, you're networking, you're getting involved is as many things as possible.

This job that I actually got, I applied for just on a whim. I really didn't think I was going to get it. It was fully not for a graduate. And I think that's a really important thing to remember; if you can sell yourself and you've done stuff at university that gives you the experience and knowledge and skills that the typical university graduate wouldn't have, you can apply for jobs that aren't for university graduates. And I did, and they told me at the interview that I was the youngest person that applied by 15 years.

So that's the thing – if you don't think you're going to get it, then that's okay, still apply. Because I applied for jobs where I was like ‘oh I'm definitely qualified to do that, that's the graduate scheme, that'll be really interesting’, didn't get it – but I ended up getting this job. So it's the way that you can explain things that you've learned and skills that you've learned and experiences you've had that can translate. So, honestly, don't stress because as long as you are facilitating and making those changes in your professional career life, then things will fall into place eventually.