‘UNEEK’ approach to graduate's business

Fern Snailham’s lightbulb moment to launch her own business came during the year she spent freelancing across the UK promoting new products and raising brand awareness.

Still uncertain whether a university degree was what she wanted after finishing a childcare course at college, the 23-year-old took a year out promoting everything from supermarket products to cars. The work offered Fern the freedom and flexibility of being her own boss but she decided she needed the business qualifications to support those ambitions.

Fast forward three years later and within days of graduating with a first-class Business Management degree here at Sunderland, Fern began setting up her very own promotional staffing agency – UNEEK Staffing. With the support of her university lecturers, Fern secured membership with the Enterprise Place, our business support facility which gives her access to their co-working office space in Hope Street Xchange, the University’s new centre for enterprise and innovation.

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Fern, from Stanley, County Durham, explained: “After college I decided to take some time to work freelance within promotions nationally, that’s when I decided I wanted to start my own agency and applied to study Business Management, to develop my knowledge base and experience, supported by the qualifications. I loved the course and embraced every opportunity that came my way, I had a goal in mind when I started and I never veered away from what I wanted to achieve.”

She said: “I have no doubts about my decision, I just feel motivated and excited by this opportunity. I’m also very grateful for all the advice and support I’ve been given through the Enterprise Place, I couldn’t ask for a better location.”

Fern is now in the process of building up an in-house database of hand-picked, reliable promotional staff, covering the UK. She plans to match personalities to brands to convey key messages, and deliver a positive, memorable brand experience.

She says: “All our staff will be vetted, and we’ll hold audition days up and down the country. When I worked in this industry, I came across situations in which some agencies would send anyone to promote the products, but who weren’t necessarily right for the role, the personality and the brand were just completely off. We want to make sure we match people’s personalities to the correct brand, to make sure it’s the correct fit for the campaign.”

Dr Derek Watson, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism, commented: “Our business programmes are specifically designed to not only provide students with essential business insights and live commercial experiences but also to imbue them with a ‘can do attitude’ in order to seek a meaningful career path.

“Fern is a natural entrepreneur but freely admits our degree programme has provided an essential business grounding to channel her creativeness into a successful business model. I will certainly be asking Fern to share her success with our student community”.

Laura Foster, Enterprise Place Manager, said: “Since joining the Enterprise Place in June, we’ve seen Fern go from strength-to-strength. She has shown determination and passion and is an inspirational example of a graduate entrepreneur. We have confidence in her vision of launching and growing her own successful business, right in the heart of the city centre”.

For more information on UNEEK Staffing, go to: https://www.uneekstaffing.co.uk/

The Internships and Enterprise project is receiving up to £2,207,656 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. ‌The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. ‌Established by the European Union, European Regional Development Fund funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding

The Enterprise Place offers students and graduates the opportunity of up to 12-months free membership and access to:

  • Professional, co-working office space in Hope Street Xchange
  • Expert one-to-one business advice
  • A place on our Start-Up-Skills course
  • Workshops, events and networking
  • Commercial editing software
  • Dedicated business development support team
  • The opportunity to join a community of entrepreneurs

For more information about the Enterprise Place, go to: https://www.sunderland.ac.uk/more/services-for-business/start-a-business/

Hope Street Xchange

Launched earlier this year, Hope Street Xchange was developed by the University with £4.9m investment support from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP’s) Local Growth Fund and £2.23 million from the European Regional Development Fund.

Based on the City Campus it links the University to the region’s small business community by supporting fledgling start-ups and offering space for existing businesses to develop and grow. From here businesses can access students and graduates with the skills they need - through a range of options including placements, internships and knowledge transfer partnerships – as well as connecting them with the University’s world-leading research base, sector expertise and specialised hi-tech equipment.

The centre was initiated by Sunderland Business Group, which aims to support entrepreneurship and increase the number of business start-ups with support from the North East LEP.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry, who recently toured the centre, said: “The Northern Powerhouse is about economic growth and creating jobs. When I visited the Hope Street Xchange this morning, I saw the University of Sunderland's commitment to fostering strong links with local businesses and helping their graduates launch their own start-ups.

“This is an excellent example of businesses and a university working together to unlock the economic potential of the region."

North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is a public, private, and education sector partnership that covers Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland local authority areas.

Its aim is to create 100,000 more jobs for the North East economy and to ensure that 70% of these jobs are better jobs.

A better job is defined as being in the top three Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) categories, which are: managers and directors; professional occupations; and associate professional and technical occupations. Measuring this means LEP can demonstrate higher skilled and more productive roles in our economy.

LEP develop and lead the delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) which details how they will achieve this plan for growth for the North East.

For more information go to: http://www.nelep.co.uk/

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