AMID the doom of soaring unemployment it seems graduates in Edinburgh are bucking the trend and providing some hope for the future.
Napier University has reported a surge in student and graduate entrepreneurs, with the number of new businesses set up by students and graduates more than tripling, from 17 to 52, between 2009 and 2011. Enquiries to the university’s entrepreneur support unit – the Moffat Centre – have more than doubled, from 71 to 146, during the same period.
Attendance at Moffat Centre workshops and seminars has also increased from 200 to 250 over the last two years, with more students now coming from backgrounds other than business and enterprise.
Manager of the centre and business advisor at Edinburgh Napier, Nick Fannin, said: “We have seen a sharp rise in the number of students looking to start their own business over the last two years.
“It’s a tough jobs market and those with an entrepreneurial mindset have taken the plunge and worked hard to create their own job. Part-time jobs are also harder to come by, so we’ve also seen students finding innovative ways to fund their way through university.”
Among the businesses recently opened is the Haggis Hostel on West Register Street.
Co-owner Chris Davidson, 34, graduated from Napier with a degree in hospitality management in 2010. He used the Moffat Centre for support and advice while starting the business, which opened last August.
Fellow Napier graduate Becky Rawlinson, 24, opened her own fashion boutique, Athena, in the Grassmarket six months ago.
She sought advice from the Moffat Centre, which was set up at the university in 2003, while studying a BA Hons in Culture, Media and Society at Napier, and opened her boutique just one month after graduating last summer.
Becky “re-fashions” used fabrics and old clothes to offer her customers items such as a dress made from jumpers, a scarf created from T-shirts and belts produced from old saris.
“Although I have always been into fashion, I never thought for a minute that I would one day own my own boutique, especially at such a young age,” she said.
“The team at the Moffat Centre really helped me get my head around exactly how my business idea could grow. They also put me in contact with business support organisations where I learnt about the practicalities that go hand-in-hand with owning and running a business, including the not so glamorous side, like bookkeeping and business planning, so that I didn’t just get caught up in the fun and creative aspects of designing the clothes.
“I ended up turning what were a few ideas on paper into a real live business, with premises in under two years. It’s a truly brilliant feeling.”
The Moffat Centre is available as a support source for any past or present students of Napier who want to know more about starting up their own business.
It offers access to computers, as well as free printing and phone calls.
Mr Fannin added: “We don’t see the trend of students and graduates looking to start their own businesses wavering soon and usually in the second semester, we see a real boom in activity at the Moffat Centre as students move towards completing their courses and degrees. We look forward to supporting more fresh ideas and entrepreneurial spirits.”