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Sparking business ideas – the programme that allows students to test their ideas while they study

Architecture student Peter Oboko received funding, mentoring and office space through LSBU's Spark programme, allowing him to test out his business ideas

Spark is a six-month programme exclusively for current students at LSBU 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. The programme includes up to £500 funding, mentoring, office space (hot desking), legal support and access to networks.

From idea to reality

Architecture student Peter Oboko’s business idea is Personal-Printers Ltd, a printing company for students and professionals that provides a tailored service and delivery method.

With his business idea turning over in his mind, Peter first saw an advert for the Spark programme on one of the interactive boards at the entrance to the university. After visiting the website and finding out more information about the requirements and what the programme actually offers, he spoke to his business partner and together they decided that it was a worthwhile venture to embark on.

The constant feedback and pitching exercises boosted our confidence and really opened our eyes to the areas where we can improve within the business

Spark support

“At first we received support on efficient marketing strategies and then implementing the lean canvas model allowed us to keep our costs down and embrace the fact that being a small company allows us to be a lot more flexible than others,” says Peter. “The constant feedback and pitching exercises boosted our confidence and really opened our eyes to the areas where we can improve within the business.”

The support offered also helped Peter and his partner to identify ways to reduce the cost of goods sold by contacting suppliers directly or seeking alternative manufacturers. They then developed a platform to engage with their customers in order to gain much-needed feedback. In terms of marketing, they were helped to utilise social media, invest in books and have been pointed towards courses that will help them to further improve themselves and, in turn, provide a better service to their customers.

Better business thanks to Spark

So, what have been the outcomes of all this activity? “Our sales have really increased and we have managed to expand our reach in terms of customer locations,” explains Peter. “Our capacity has doubled so that we can take in more orders, we have a clear vision of where we would like the business to head and potential doors are opening for partnerships. Within ourselves, the business relationship has improved tremendously; we have clearly defined roles that we stick to and we are in constant communication with each other.”

Overcoming challenges

In terms of challenges, Peter says that time management was a huge issue due to the fact that he studies a very demanding course and so balancing business, Spark, university and other life events was something he had to learn how to manage. Creating a schedule and dedicating the right amount of time to each task was how he overcame this challenge.

Future goals

Now that he has those aspects in place, Peter is resolute in terms what he hopes to achieve in the future: “Quite simply, the future goal is to get Personal-Printers Ltd in a position where it is a self-sustaining business and then expand into other areas of printing and architectural design. There is no doubt that being on the Spark programme has been a huge help and will see us achieve this goal much quicker that would otherwise have been possible.”

Find out more about the student enterprise team.