I recently participated in the most exhausting, inspiring and eye-opening weekend of my University career. I entered the Kickstart Weekend organised by Entrepreneurs Durham, which is an entrepreneurial challenge in which you have approximately 48 hours to build a business from the ground up. This seemed like a ridiculously daunting yet exciting prospect for an English student with very little legitimate business experience, but I booked my ticket anyway – enticed further by the prospect of a midnight pizza delivery as detailed on the weekend plan.
I relaxed as soon as I arrived and started speaking to the people sat around me, most of who had a few entrepreneurial ideas of their own, but hoped to join a team – like myself. The icebreaker games let us eye-up our potential team members, and to assess our own strengths and weaknesses. For example, I found that I am great at finding the end of a roll of sellotape, but less adept at blowing up balloons (we were tasked with creating a protective egg cradle, to withstand the Entrepreneurs Durham Exec throwing our eggs around the Calman Learning Centre).
We then moved onto business matters, with everyone who had a business idea for the weekend pitching in quickfire style to the rest of the group. Groups converged around the ideas which appealed most to us, a brilliantly organic method of team creation. I teamed up with James, a Masters Psychology student, and Emma, a Geographer on her exchange year from Australia. We all had an interest in charity start-ups and were inspired by James’s pitch about gamifying charity giving by producing a charity app – the ideal team.
We immediately set to work brainstorming ideas for everything from names and logos, to business models and financial plans. We often found ourselves caught up in the minutia of brand colours and coming up with puns, and had to draw our attention back to the business side of matters. Luckily there was unlimited tea and coffee provided, because I spent a couple of night tossing and turning thinking about my business!
On Saturday we learnt more about our intellectual property rights such as the feasibility of trademarking our ideas, then set back to work on our pitch. We knew that the next day would involve pitching our app idea to four hot-shot business owners, who’d be looking out for every flaw and hole in our idea so it really had to be watertight to hold up. If you have ever seen Dragon’s Den, you’ll know exactly what I mean!
More Dominos than I have ever seen in one place was delivered at one point during the day, the Kickstart Weekend was hungry work, and it was the only time during the challenge that the entire room was quiet in tired appreciation of pizza. With greasy hands and refuelled minds we returned to work, finalising our app wireframes then heading out to watch Grey Fireworks – the largest display in the North East! At one point during the show it hit me that I had known the people around me for less than 24 hours, but by now I considered them good friends, and that was the most amazing part of the weekend for me.
Okay, so our idea didn’t win, but the Kickstart Weekend taught me about more than creating a business in 48 hours. I made something I was truly proud of over the course of the weekend, and I’ll always fondly remember my financially questionable, slightly unfeasible business. It could have been a stressful weekend given different variables, but instead I got to develop my skills in a brilliantly inspiring environment. And to top it off I made some firm friends in the most unlikely of situations. I am so glad that I left my comfort bubble of lectures, reading and procrastinating to actually try something new while at Durham!
Written by Sara Halliday, English student, Grey College.
Join Entrepreneurs Durham to find out more information about future Kickstart Weekends, and other entrepreneurial events they run: https://www.facebook.com/entrepreneursdurham/