Inspired by her own experiences with mental health issues over the years, postgraduate student Ishani Jasmin has spent her time at LSBU ensuring other students to access as much support as possible. She has been working with the Students’ Union to engage students around wellbeing and mental health, running a number of student-led activities, such as yoga sessions and film screenings. Ishani has recently been accepted on to the University’s Spark programme, a six-month programme exclusively for current students who want to turn their ideas into a business while they study. Students get to test out their ideas and create a viable product or service, and the programme includes up to £500 funding, mentoring, office space, legal support and access to networks.
Putting a structure in place to help others help themselves
Setting out with the idea of organising student events, Ishani says her concept has organically developed into something quite different: “At the moment it actually looks kind of different from what I originally thought, because for a bit I thought it would be events based but, but it actually mostly looks like consulting; telling people what cheap and actionable steps they can put in place to make structural changes to a student environment in a way that thinks more about student mental health,” she says. “Examples include things like large-scale doodle boards and community plants that everyone can feed and water... I don’t think this will stay a student endeavour though, as I think universities are an open enough environment for me to establish myself as someone qualified to work with other organisations.”
The spark to success
Being accepted on to LSBU’s Spark programme was, Ishani says, a real thrill, and she believes the benefits are already clear. “Being on Spark is really helping me in a lot of ways. I didn’t think clearly about my business idea, and the thing it’s evolved into makes a lot more sense in terms of funding required, the impact I want to make, and the interest I have in the area. But when I walked into Spark with my initial idea, I was given the opportunity to think outside of it and outside of the parameters I’d set for myself and to figure out what might actually work better, and be more fun. I think a lot of people go into that kind of programme thinking about the thing they have specifically in mind, but it’s interesting to see how you can fulfil your need to solve that problem in a way that is more efficient and interesting and better. I got a lot out of Spark in terms of learning about design thinking and problem solving.”
Looking to the future
After graduation, Ishani is hoping to land a job in a social enterprise undertaking social research, alongside hopefully organising many more community events such as open mic nights, movie screenings, art fairs and street picnics. She says she’s also considering launching a mental health consultancy, and all of these plans are possible thanks to the enterprise support she’s received during his time at LSBU.
“For me, enterprise support meant having some honest help around to tell me when things would and wouldn’t work, and then what I needed to have them work,” she explains. “It meant the world to not be dismissed, but to be told why things were the way they were, and to work out the steps to make them work for me. I’d really encourage other students to get involved because, if nothing else, it’s a good way to learn about how to approach your ideas, and how to work on solving the problems you want to solve. On top of that, it’ll probably help you develop your business idea in directions you never thought it would go, but that are actually kind of better overall.”