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Advice for young entrepreneurs at LSE

The meeting was organised at the LSE by TiE UK, the aim of which is to mentor the next generation of entrepreneurs.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2006 20:08 IST
UK Bureau

The London School of Economics (LSE) student Nick Smith, along with two other young businesspersons, got an opportunity to present their business plans to hard-nosed businessmen, who in turn provided valuable tips to them.

The meeting was organised at the LSE by TiE UK, the aim of which is to mentor the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Smith's business idea is the result of his disgruntlement with the décor of the Halls of Residence. Unhappy with having to live in Halls of Residence during his first year at university and keen to brighten up his and fellow students' rooms, Smith founded Dormasphere, which imports socially conscious handicrafts from Bangladesh, and sells them to students at stalls on campus.

The company is looking to spread its stalls throughout the UK, and morph its web site into a fully-fledged web shop, where students and the rest of the public alike will be able to spice up their rooms in a socially conscious way.

His presentation was honest. He disclosed his mistakes and findings and the businessmen made a number of observations such as encouraging him to dilute the "too-ethnic" look of his products.

The expert panellists were Roger Mountford, chairman of HgCapital Trust PLC, Anthony Rosenfelder, managing director of Veritas AG and vice-chairman of Veritas UK, Martin Lewis, money saving expert and Jay Patel, director NewMediaSPARK plc.

All four panellists advised Smith to focus on the 'Fair Trade' aspect of his branding as that elevates the products from being different to what is sold in Camden market and the like.

But the successful entrepreneurs were concerned about Smith's education. Should the student entrepreneur drop out like Bill Gates to run his company?

Though Mountford advised to 'go for it', Rosenfelder stressed, "It's nice to have your education as an insurance".

Patel said, "Focus on your business when schools opens (as there is more demand) and study hard during the summer before exams."

Though they had differences of opinions when it came to whether or not the student should quit his studies, they all agreed that he should focus on 'fair trade' while marketing his goods and encouraged him by pointing out "that STA travel was started by students".

The popular business show Dragons' Den contestant Elinor Olisa also impressed the panel with her clinical presentation. Having been in the business for three years, she was capable of answering difficult questions and convinced the panellists that the business was good enough to attract investment.

Olisa's company www.DegreeArt.com, established in 2003, invites customers to buy, rent or commission the finest contemporary artwork created by students and recent graduates of the UK's most prestigious art establishments.

Three of the four businessmen panellists believed that she has a 70 per cent chance to raise funds and advised that she should look for a wealthy investor who is interested in art.