In this post, alumnus Sam Finnegan-Dehn reveals how a courageous hand raise during Edinburgh Innovations‘↗️ Start-up Week led to him starting his own business. Sam received a Masters degree in Philosophy from The University of Edinburgh and now runs his own tutoring business. This post belongs to Teaching Matters’ Learning & Teaching Enhancement theme: Embedding enterprise in the curriculum↗️.
It is by no means an understatement to say that Enterprise Education has had an absolutely transformative effect on my life, and on my career. Here is why:
It all started with an email from Edinburgh Innovations, who sent out an open invite for The University of Edinburgh students to get involved in something called the Start-up Weekend. Having just graduated from my postgraduate degree in Philosophy, I was eagerly looking for opportunities that could help me learn and grow. While I had always been interested in enterprise, I’d never really had the chance or the confidence to give it a shot.
So, on a whim, I decided to take the opportunity and sign up for the weekend. When the weekend came, I made my way back to Edinburgh from my hometown in North Wales in order to get involved. In short, the weekend completely exceeded my expectations.
On the first day, we were split into groups, and those that had decided to come with an idea for a start-up were asked to pitch it to the rest of the group. I had reluctantly raised my hand to demonstrate that I had come with an idea, and before I knew it, I was standing before the group telling them about how I was interested in creating a business that was focused on tutoring life skills to students and young adults.
I was, of course, completely nervous but the group was a really welcoming one, and the leads of the weekend, Jack McMillan and Christina Starko, were really good at creating a positive environment for everyone involved. In short, people liked my pitch, and the idea ended up being chosen as one of the ideas that would be developed over the weekend.
Over three intensive days, a team of students and I developed the idea and the business model, and tested it out with business advisors and students before creating a pitch that, on the last day, we presented to the judges, the rest of the group, and many others. It was a success.
What started with a reluctant raise of my right hand, ended with a team of people pitching my idea to judges and experts in the field.
Since that day, my interest and involvement with enterprise has only intensified. As a result of my activity with Edinburgh Innovations and Start-up weekend, I have also given a talk on my experience to academics on the importance of enterprise in the curriculum, began work with another start-up and pitched their idea live in front of venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and academics, and started my own tutoring business, working with my original team to develop the brand and the client-base.
Without that email from Edinburgh Innovations↗️, who knows whether all of this would have happened. In any case, all I can say is that I am so grateful that it did, and so passionate about continuing to champion and advocate for enterprise to be taught and valued by schools and universities across the country and the world. I believe that, with the right education and guidance, we all have an idea, unique to ourselves, that could turn into a viable and productive business.
It really is possible to make it a reality. You only have to start.
Since graduating from his Masters degree in Philosophy from The University of Edinburgh, Sam now runs his own tutoring business, BFDTutors↗️. He also writes freelance articles on AI ethics and the philosophy of technology, and works in the third sector for a mental health charity, Mind.