The first and second year team entrepreneurs visited the Cornwall Business Show and we tried to create a way of motivating them to make the most out of the fair and to connect with local business. One of the coaches and I decided that we would create a points system and mix everyone into teams that collect points at the fair. Every contact they collected was worth one point and every booked meeting was worth five points. As a prize the winning team could get two coaches to cook dinner for them.
The fair was a very good experience for many team entrepreneurs and a number of them got great new contacts that will boost their projects onto the next level. However, it didn’t work for everyone. I talked to a few people about this and the ones who felt they got value from the experience were those who had their businesses up and running. As coaches, we need to find ways to encourage the members of each team company to start motivating themselves and supporting each other more. It is challenging to find the golden middle way when creating activities such as visiting fairs so that everyone can get benefit from the experience, whatever stage they’re at with their work and their learning.
It was delightful to notice how businesses welcomed team entrepreneurs to their stands and opened honest conversations. This is very different to what I have experienced at fairs in Finland. There it seems that the younger you are the less any business owner is interested in what you say and especially after you have said you are a student they seem to lose all interest. I like this feature in the business culture here in Cornwall and I have also noticed that when visiting local businesses, you are more warmly welcomed than in Finland.
However, I’ve also noticed that e-mails are more often not answered than answered. This is a problem with many projects since team entrepreneurs tend to get stuck waiting for replies to mails and that is why projects don’t move forward. It is easy to hide behind the excuse of not getting an answer to an e-mail. The solution to this is to walk to a business or call them and I want to help with that.
I feel there could be more communication between team companies and different years about ongoing projects and opportunities. Teams are running similar projects (for example selling clothing) and instead of sharing experiences they struggle with the same issues. It is important to learn by doing and by mistakes but I think that It would be even better to learn from the mistakes of others by sharing knowledge. We held a joint session for first and second years and the feedback was very positive, with different years sharing learning and business opportunities. The difficulty with joint sessions is the fact that we are running towards the end of the year and everyone must finish their assignments. The assignments between years are very different and require different skills and input so it’s a challenge to combine sessions at this point of the academic year.
Another way of making students more aware of what the other years are doing is by arranging social events outside of the university environment. I will arrange a few evenings where we watch ice hockey and socialize together before the term ends and hopefully it will help in closing the gap between years (and of course personally I will love watching ice hockey instead of rugby!)