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LSBU Entrepreneur in Residence Neil Whitehead provides advice to student and graduate start ups

Neil Whitehead LSBU Entrepreneur in Residence

We spoke to LSBU Entrepreneur in Residence, Neil Whitehead about how he draws on 30 years of business experience and commercial knowledge to advise students

Neil Whitehead: Founder and Managing Director, Stuff International Design

Neil was introduced to LSBU by a former student entrepreneur who he had helped with her business.  As a qualified architect, Neil was invited to be an Entrepreneur in Residence in order to capitalise on his extensive experience with top international companies, including expertise in architecture (ranging from city master planning to smaller mix-use developments) and commercial brand design.

He combines this experience with commercial knowledge and forward thinking to bring a unique perspective and way of working to clients and students. Neil says he aims to bring “commercial success through branding and architectural design” and has had many notable successes through this approach. As a result, he has also been invited to sit on a number of company boards in order to share his expertise with them.

Being in business and sharing one’s knowledge with students is completely different to being an academic lecturer. In business, we need to really understand how to manage the practical realities of cash flow, tax, VAT, detail planning, funding, etc.  Once the vision for a business is established, this is where I can be of real value with my experience to a student entrepreneur.

Neil is the founder and MD of Stuff International Design Ltd, a commercial architectural, design and branding consultancy.  His team has created a vast portfolio of work that demonstrates their experience and expertise in delivering successful architectural and design solutions for large retail, leisure, mixed use and other commercial environments throughout the UK, Europe, Middle East, Russia and Worldwide.

Why did you become an Entrepreneur in Residence?

Having set up and run five different companies myself and spent 30 years working with the leaders of many global companies such as BNP Paribas, Ford Motor Company, ING Bank, KFC, Kingfisher, I enjoy advising start-up businesses and seeing how quickly they can grow and develop. Since I joined the enterprise team five years ago, I have been delighted to see many of the businesses I advise really bloom and some have gone on to be commercially successful already.

What does your role involve?

After meeting students, I like to start with a ‘workshop’ to get to know them and their business vision.  During this I help define who will be or are their core customers, to establish what is it that makes their brand different.  After this we establish a clear vision for the business, which will drive all communications as well as the product development in order to achieve commercial success. I meet the students on a regular basis to ensure their vision remains on-course and advise on situations arising.  I try to ensure that there is a good sales drive and find ways of inspiring investors to join and assist them in achieving their dream.

Why do you think this role is important?

Being in business and sharing one’s knowledge with students is completely different to being an academic lecturer. In business, we need to really understand how to manage the practical realities of cash flow, tax, VAT, detail planning, funding, etc.  Once the vision for a business is established, this is where I can be of real value with my experience to a student entrepreneur.

What highlights have you seen so far?

Many student entrepreneurs have stood out to me, for a wide variety of positive reasons. With Petare , I worked with the student specifically on the brand story, established a clear distribution strategy and guided the design of lock-up sales units to reflect the brand, and he has already achieved considerable commercial success. Another was Falcon DHQ, for whom I helped identify a security product and has recently successfully raised funding. With Fit-2-Trip I assisted with the branding and acted as an adviser in his business restructuring.

What has made you most proud to be an Entrepreneur in Residence?

I enjoy seeing students develop and grow in confidence in presenting and understanding the business of making money. It was great to be a part of the team when the university won the Times Higher Education Award for being the best Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2016, and hopefully it will attract even more talented students focused on starting their own businesses.

Any final thoughts?

I think the Enterprise team does a good job explaining its role within the university, working across all faculties, exposing students to the issues of intellectual property, bringing in practitioners to explain their stories and setting up competitions.  Providing funding to develop new ideas is essential in this new world where business models and technology are changing fast, making it an exciting time.

 
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