Telling the truth about SME life today

Lancaster, the breeding ground for budding entrepreneurs

I’m just back from a weekend in Lancaster. Not usually a destination that would top my list, but this weekend the university was hosting the inaugural UK Entrepreneurial Summit.

The idea was to mix budding entrepreneurs from various universities across the UK with some young entrepreneurs who are already doing things and get them all networking, sharing ideas and generally meeting a few like-minded people, which can be pretty hard for young entrepreneurs to do outside of the major cities.

I try to get down to a group called Leeds Inventure when I can, which mixes young entrepreneurs, young professionals and students with an interest in business. Through this, I ended up going to the summit representing Leeds, which is about 100 miles from where I actually live and work.

They attracted delegations from Bangor to Belgium. What was most impressive was the ambition of the organisers to build heavily on the event for next year and onwards. It was also great to see a fantastic mix of people, people who have come to live in the UK from nations all across the world. It was also good to see a lot of females at the event, since I’ve often found events connected to business to be male dominated.

Hearing the viewpoints from such a range of people was fascinating. I have to say, I was surprised at just how big environmental and fair trade concerns were among the group.

During the course of the weekend there was a good mix of speakers and activity-based seminars, which were great for getting people mixing outside of the groups they had arrived in.

One criticism I have is that I could not see the value of inviting two failed contestants from The Apprentice. I don’t know what they were scheduled to do, but rather than speaking and ending with a Q & A session, they opened with a Q & A session, which quickly ran into a session where the two drunkards (free wine….) asked each other questions and basically berated Alan Sugar and the other contestants. Funny for two minutes, on a good day. Not funny, interesting or, for that matter, very classy for 40 minutes. They just showed themselves up as far as I could see, and it seems everyone thought much the same.

The programme of events ran from arrival on Friday right through to departure on Sunday, which suited me ideally because I get bored quickly and don’t like to sleep too much. The business-like activities of the day were followed on each of the two nights by a lively trip to the bars and clubs of Lancaster, where everyone let their hair down in good style. However, as a note to anyone who likes RnB or hip hop music, I am not sure that this has penetrated Lancaster yet: if you happen to know the “Soulja Boy” dance, you will be looked at like you have two heads by everyone in the club.

For the next event, the aim is to attract more people currently running businesses to counterbalance the student majority and provide valuable networking for all present. I have no idea which city will host the next event, but I know I’m looking forward to it already. It will be in about a year from now, so anyone who would be interested in attending or sponsoring such an event, please do drop me an email and I will put you in touch with the organisers. [email protected]

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