Having access to clear, concise information is key to helping students explore their business ideas, according to Marek Tokarski, Entrepreneurial Development Officer at Newcastle University.
Marek is part of the Rise Up team based in the university’s careers service. The team is responsible for developing enterprise skills and supporting students and recent graduates to start up or grow their own business.
To help them with their work, the Rise Up team has access to premium online reference resources such as COBRA and Mintel.
“We typically use COBRA for people who want to start up in business,” says Marek. “The way the factsheets are set out, they’re very clear, brief and to the point. But they also have links so, if you do need to find out more information, it gives you a steer about where it is you need to go.”
Following an initial drop-in session, students who are serious about their business idea can book further one-hour coaching sessions with an entrepreneurial development officer. Marek finds COBRA, with its sharp focus on a single business idea, ideal for working with clients at this stage.
“Early on, we would be looking at using some of the market research data that is on COBRA. The BOPs (Business Opportunity Profiles) we find really useful because it doesn’t overload them with information… I really like them as a jumping off point to start looking at their idea and what it is that they need to consider – particularly if the student comes in and they haven’t thought about it enough to grasp what it’s really going to entail.”
Once a student has researched their idea and has a viable business model, they are referred to a Rise Up business adviser who will work with them on the practicalities of starting their business. At this stage, COBRA’s factsheets (practical ‘how-to’ and compliance guides) prove invaluable.
“It really helps us save a lot of time with advisers to get students to read these types of factsheets in advance,” says Marek. “Then when they come to us they’re in a much more informed position… sometimes they’ll just bounce ideas off the adviser and therefore it’s only taking five minutes, where before it might take a full hour of the adviser’s time.”
This saving is significant, as Rise Up’s business advisers are external providers and it’s important for the team to maximise efficient use of their time. Students can access COBRA from anywhere on campus. The Rise Up team can also e-mail COBRA factsheets, which adds flexibility, especially when working with alumni.
Both COBRA’s online interface and factsheets are custom-branded under the Rise Up banner, making the resource an integral part of Rise Up’s online information provision. “It really helps us offer a bit more of a seamless service,” says Marek.