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Young entrepreneurship is everywhere

Student Entrepreneur meeting

Katie Birrell shares her experience of student entrepreneurship as a young person at the University of St Andrews.

St Andrews is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe. It houses beautiful ruins, scenic beaches and is, of course, the home of golf. It’s the ideal tourist town. But try telling that to your average twenty-something. You’ll likely hear a response of: ‘It basically only has three streets.’ ‘There isn’t a single nightclub!’ ‘There’s nothing to do.’ While the first two statements may be true, my four years studying there has certainly proven the latter wrong.

So how do thousands of twenty-somethings keep themselves amused in a little fishing town on the coast of Fife?

The short answer: entrepreneurship. St Andrews is home to a unique ecosystem of business projects. It is vibrant, ever-expanding, and permeated every aspect of my life there.

A day in the life

In the mornings, on my way to the library, I would find myself admiring paintings on the walls of my local café as I waited in line. All were works by student artists, who would promote and sell their crafts at the coffee shop and pop-up events.

Before even making it through the doors of the library, I would pass clusters of friends gathered around stalls. Here, student entrepreneurs marketed their wares. I could buy an arts and poetry magazine, purchase a bespoke tote bag, or get tickets for a ball. And the next day, I could come back and do it all again. This time, it could be a music festival with globally acclaimed artists, a Bavarian-style Oktoberfest, or a ball where wearing wellies was compulsory. Each new day, a new enterprise beginning to thrive in our little community.

And once I’d settled down at my laptop, I would be remiss not to allow myself a little scroll through Facebook. Here, I would find students advertising their services on university groups and local pages. There were makeup artists, nail technicians, and musicians. A multitude of small enterprises that contributed to my day-to-day life.

Perhaps I might break for lunch at CombiniCo, a restaurant founded by two former students and friends. Afterwards, I might head to their bakery, Combini Café, where I could indulge in a sweet treat made by students who sell their home baking to the café.

For dinner, I might buy ingredients from The Tree, a non-profit food cooperative created by students to make local, organic produce accessible to the community. And if I was feeling a little lazy, I could order from EcoEats – a local student run, zero emissions food delivery service.

In the evening, I might attend a charity fashion show, like Don’t Walk, an event founded by a group of students including, the now very famous, Kate Middleton. The show has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity. It has featured in Teen Vogue, and received sponsorship from brands like Vivienne Westwood, Chanel and Coca Cola. Like many of the other student fashion shows in St Andrews, it even showcased the works of student fashion designers, who used it as a platform to promote and sell their products. And if I had nothing to wear, I need never worry. Because student-founded clothing rental company, Ensemble Dresses, had plenty of options to choose from.

Small but mighty

So, although it is small, St Andrews is certainly mighty. It may have the beaches, the history and the quaint Scottish beauty, but, as a pretty average twenty-something, I would tell you that St Andrew’s entrepreneurs have made it something much greater than that.


To learn more about how the Women’s Business Centre is supporting young entrepreneurs, find out more about their partnership with Queen Margaret’s University here.

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