Rhi is a PhD Psychology student at Bangor University from Kent. She participated in numerous enterprise activities including Enterprise by Design, which is a multi-disciplinary ten-week course allowing students from different disciplines (Business, Arts, Engineering and Science) to come up with a solution for a different real life problem given every year.
Going to Mexico to participate in ELOP, a cross-cultural collaboration program where students work on a real project with actual clients, allowed Rhi to gain many skills which will she believes will be useful in her future career. And the ‘The Ugly Food Shop’ project, which Rhi was heavily involved in, is considered to one of the best and most successful student entrepreneurship projects.
I really loved the environment at Bangor, both in a physical and a less tangible sense. I love outdoor activities, in particular surfing, so the close proximity of the beaches and mountains to Bangor initially attracted me. Then when I came to Bangor for an Open Day there was such a friendly, supportive atmosphere that I immediately felt very at home. Of course the research and reputation of the psychology department was also a big plus!
The first enterprise activity I became involved in was a competition called The Pitch, which was held in Cardiff. This involved presenting a detailed marketing strategy as part of a team of three. The main focus was on the feasibility of the marketing campaign, as well as the way in which it was presented to the judges. We had a fantastic time designing and pitching our presentation and came 2nd overall.
I had such a great experience I decided to try and take up as many related opportunities as possible. This included a few more competitions, one held in Lancaster in which we competed throughout the night to answer and pitch our solution to a brief delivered 24 hours before, and another in Birmingham based on a format similar to ‘The Apprentice’.
I also participated in two trans-disciplinary programmes, where students from different schools are put together in teams to share their expertise. This included travelling to Mexico (to take part in ELOP) to work with students from Europe and America, and facilitating a team back home in the UK, as part of the Enterprise by Design competition.
One of my favourite activities was opening a pop-up shop that we named ‘The Ugly Foods Shop’ with my friend Daniel Taylor. We sold the fruit and vegetables normally rejected by supermarkets which are perfectly fine to eat, but look a little odd.
At first I was keen just to improve my employability; during my undergraduate course I had a lot of fun and did a lot of sport, but when I started my Masters the importance of standing out in a field full of graduates really hit home. Many of the enterprise activities were very relevant to my degree as I was learning a lot about branding and business at the time. That being said, a lot of these experiences were far more than just adding to my CV. I had the chance to really develop my skills in an applied environment, I got to travel outside of Europe for the first time, I was shown the value of collaboration across different fields of study and I also had a fantastic time meeting new people and making new friends.
What did you gain from this experience?
I think one of the most valuable outcomes of my enterprise experiences is the increased confidence I now have, in combination with practical skills. A lot of them required the ability to be daring in some way; whether it is proposing a controversial idea, pitching to a room full of people or walking down the High Street in a banana costume. This can be quite daunting at first, but I have definitely learnt that the more you put yourself out there and the more effort you put in, the more you get in return. I also have to rate the social connections I made during the course of the activities very highly; I met some fantastic people who have become both friends and colleagues and I think that nothing feels better than working hard as part of a team to achieve a shared goal.
It was definitely worth participating! A lot of the time these opportunities aren’t easy – they require a huge amount of hard work and commitment. But the benefits of engaging with enterprise activities and truly immersing yourself in the experience are so extensive and I have always felt extremely satisfied after completing each and every one of them.
Developing your skills...
The University were extremely helpful in helping me develop as an individual in a variety of ways. The B-Enterprising department in particular were fantastic, consistently going above and beyond to ensure we had everything we needed – whether it be all the logistics of entering and travelling to a competition, or getting behind the counter to peel a mango during the mid-morning smoothie rush at The Ugly Foods Shop! I think the culture at Bangor is excellent – a huge amount of importance is placed upon students’ holistic development, and there are many great people in the university who are keen to see students succeed in the various paths they choose. I specifically have to mention Lowri Owen from the B-Enterprising department and Emlyn Williams from Bangor City Council who first presented the opportunity of opening a pop-up shop to myself and Dan, and who also supported us throughout the entirety of its existence.
We were awarded the Santander Universities Excellence in Enterprise Scholarship for our work on The Ugly Foods Shop. As a result we received £1,000 to further our enterprise activities and were invited to a lovely ceremony! This was obviously a great experience and we really appreciated the hard work we put in being rewarded. It also gave us a chance to publicly say thank you to all the help we received from various individuals – which was extensive!
At the moment I am currently studying for a PhD in Psychology, so the main goal is to do a good job on that! But I think something very important I have learnt in the past year, is the value of taking up a variety of opportunities. Traditionally, a PhD is a very specialised, deep piece of research, which I think has immense value. However, I would also like to continue developing my skills in a variety of areas at the same time, and am mindful of appreciating the seemingly unrelated potential of other fields of study to enhance myself.