Nele Wessels

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Although building a startup might seem difficult, it is possible to do so at Imperial College Business School. Whether you already have your own startup or are looking to found one during your studies, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved and I am going to show you how by providing insights from my own entrepreneurial experience.

Studying MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management

It is probably best to pursue a programme that fosters entrepreneurship. This is the reason why I enrolled in MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management, as it is probably the flagship entrepreneurship programme at the School, which is likewise known for its pioneer-position in innovation and entrepreneurship. The Master’s is developed around the principles of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship while building into a comprehensive management foundation.

I predict that my highlight of the programme will be the final term as we will be designating a few weeks of our time to solely focus on our startup and how to scale it up. And don’t worry: in case you decide that the startup world can wait for you, you can either do an internship, a consulting project or even an academic research project. There is an option that can be tailored to everyone on the programme.

Imperial’s entrepreneurship ecosystem

My advice is to get involved in the entrepreneurial landscape before the start of your programme. I personally reached out to the Imperial Enterprise Lab around three months prior to the start of my Master’s in Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management and therefore, was able to participate in Pitch’n’Mix Sessions. This not only helped me to test my idea with a new audience and get valuable feedback from students and experienced mentors but also mingle with new people from an early stage.

This made me feel welcomed into the Master’s programme and into the Business School. Once you are studying the programme, you should definitely take part in all the different events offered by the Business School and the Enterprise Lab. There are also a lot of accelerator programmes you can get involved in, like the Discovery Fund, WE Innovate or the Venture Capitalist Challenge.

Personally, I was lucky enough to get selected for the Discovery Fund as well as the ICE Accelerator. The various workshops, talks and tasks really helped to get things going and focus on different aspects that I didn’t necessarily look into before. All these programmes are a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and exchange valuable experiences. Cherish the opportunities, as your time at the College is over sooner than you think.

Inspiration is readily available

Whether you have an idea and are looking for advice on it, searching for a co-founder, or you are from a non-business background looking for somebody to help you with the business side of things, the Imperial Launch Club is the place to be. It connects (potential) founders with experienced mentors from the vast alumni network of the school. I was lucky enough to be involved right from the start in the club, both as a mentee as well as in my current position as a Director for PR and Marketing Content.

If you haven’t already got excited about starting something new, then the facilities will help you to get into the start-up spirit. With plenty of meeting rooms, networking space (with free coffee), pitch rooms and the newly opened Scale-Space, this is the place to be for a budding entrepreneur. So, go, check it out and embrace all opportunities possible.

Lessons from my own journey

Looking back at my own entrepreneurial journey over the past months, I feel I have learned a lot about the different aspects of entrepreneurship: from the hard skills, like how to make an income statement or forecast sales, to many soft skills, like how to communicate effectively or listen proactively.

One of the most important things I have learned, however, is to be patient, take risks, talk to as many people as you can about your idea and never give up on a dream, despite the many hurdles that might come: just do it! Although not everything will go the way it was initially intended to go, when one door closes another one opens, and these new opportunities are oftentimes even better than the ones before.

Having a startup that solves a problem that you have encountered helps you stay focused and determined regardless of the hurdles on your way. So, my advice for anyone looking to start something from scratch is to carefully look around you. What is it that annoys you, what problems do you encounter in your daily life, is there something that can be improved? These are the ideas to which you can stick to the longest without giving up.

My startup: Skinutri

Drawing from personal experience is what I did when creating the product for my own startup: Skinutri – I was always annoyed that many snacks were delicious, yet bad for someone with sensitive skin. Therefore, I created a brand that ensures that anybody can snack guilt-free without having to worry about potential side effects on the skin of scrumptious snacks like chocolate. Our products are created with organic, anti-inflammatory vegan ingredients, they are low in natural sugar and contain additional beauty ingredients, like plant-based collagen. We are currently in the trial phase and planning to launch in spring, so stay tuned!

Nele Wessels, MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management 2020-21, student at Imperial College Business School

About Nele Wessels

MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management

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