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Student start-up support scheme helps to get social enterprise off the ground

16 September 2015

3 minutes to read

Student start-up support scheme helps to get social enterprise off the ground

More than 7,000 fresh socks are given to in excess of 25 homeless charities each year in the UK after the University of Exeter’s student start-up support scheme helped entrepreneur Ed Vickers get his ‘more than profit’ social enterprise off the ground.

Jollie socks can now be found at 30 different retailers.

Graduate Ed came up with the idea for his social enterprise whilst volunteering at Crosslines Homeless Charity in Exeter.

Following requests for spare socks and determined to provide further help, Ed had the idea to set up a high quality socks retail business. For each pair of socks sold, Ed would donate a pair of thick walking socks for the shelter to distribute.

Ed took part in Exeter’s student start-ups scheme and was encouraged to apply the ‘Think, Try, Do’ approach to his business idea. The scheme starts with Think programmes in colleges and from the Employability team, then moves on to practical, Try activities delivered by the Students’ Guild such as one-to-one meetings with experts, entrepreneurial events and retail opportunities. Concluding with the Do stage, which can include mentoring and funding from the Innovation Centre.

One such programme; the eXFactor enabled Ed to consider entrepreneurship through reflecting on his voluntary work experience with the homeless. Ed was able to realise the potential of his idea and prepare for the competitive world of work outside of his degree.

Ed is delighted with the success of Jollie Goods and passionate about the student start-up support scheme. He said: “The scheme enabled me to realise the potential of my idea. I never could have imagined that Jollie Goods would be so popular. The Think, Try, Do approach guides you through each step of the business development, providing the initial skills, confidence and funding to get the business going.”

With the support from the Students’ Guild, Ed began to sell his socks at a weekly market on the University of Exeter campus. Following a positive response to his ‘Wear a pair, share a pair’ concept Ed was able to work with the Innovation Centre to develop his business model and secure grant funding to set up the Jollie Goods website to sell his socks on a much wider scale. Ed was able to run his business on a part-time basis whilst studying for his degree.

By March 2013 Jollie Socks had been selected as the product of choice to represent the University of Exeter at a SETsquared (a collaboration supporting student enterprise) intra-university business competition held in Spitalfields Market London, winning the UnLtd price for ‘Best Social Impact’.

Through the Innovation Centre, Ed was introduced to University of Exeter alumnus and successful entrepreneur, Phil Cameron who was able to support the further growth and development of Jollie Goods.

Ed began selling through local, independent retailers. In December 2013 his big break came when he secured a contract with retail giant John Lewis to sell his Jollie Goods throughout their stores. Jollie Goods was the only company that year to be successful at the John Lewis Pitchup business competition through PopUpBritain. Soon Ed was able to turn his business model into a full time, very successful business.

Now working full time on Jollie Goods, Ed has been able to support future entrepreneurs coming through the University of Exeter by getting involved in the ‘enternship’ programme which was launched in 2014. Enternships help entrepreneurial students find internships in early stage and start up organisations, with a grant awarded to the company to cover their costs. Ed employed an Exeter student through this programme.

The team are currently working on some exciting new editions to the product range ready to be launched at the end of September 2015. Ed’s ultimate goal is not only to continue to grow his social business, but enable young people to get directly involved to help the homeless throughout the nation.

Since 2012 Exeter’s student start-up support programme has secured £200,000 of grant funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Higher Education Innovation Fund. Of this, £109,000 has been awarded as grants to 36 student-led businesses – averaging a little more than £3,000 each. By July 2015, 27 of these businesses were still trading and between them had secured private investment of more than £200,000 with a combined annual turnover in excess of £2.2million.




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