BSc Sports Performance and Coaching student Ben Mendrys had already started a career as a freelance personal trainer alongside his studies, when an idea came to him that would put him on the path to entrepreneurship.
In the last year, I have been working in a small business offering a freelance personal training service. This has allowed me to apply the learning from my course into real-life situations and gave me an insight into self-employment.
During the second year of my degree, I completed a module based on the process of starting your own business or being self-employed so that I could learn more about this career path. We had to come up with a business idea that we could base a business plan on. The idea could be hypothetical, or a genuine product/service to be developed.
I studied physics at A Level so have a good understanding of the ways mechanical energy can be converted into electrical energy. Putting this together with my experience as a personal trainer, an idea began to form – what if I could create a device to convert the energy produced from gym equipment into electrical energy that can be used to power other appliances?
Having completed the module, I felt that I had a really strong business idea and was inspired to see if I could take it further, so signed up to take part in the Essex Startups Summer Bootcamp. The bootcamp covered everything from branding to preparing for an investment pitch, as well as facilitating workshops where we’d to work through business problems in small groups and start building our peer network.
Over the summer I was invited to pitch for investment from my department, as they felt my business idea had potential to be taken further. Having worked with the Essex Startups team on putting together my business plan after the bootcamp, I felt confident about presenting my idea, with relevant market and competitor analysis, and had a comprehensive proposal for how investment could be spent to progress the business to the next stage.
The pitch event took place in August and I was awarded £3,000, along with a couple of my classmates. This has reinforced the belief in my idea and has given me the determination to make the most of the support on offer.
The process has been a steep learning experience, having not studied business previously, and also moving from a service-based field to being product-based. But I am enjoying the challenge and am gaining a wealth of knowledge all the time, which is keeping me motivated. I’m about to start the final year of my degree, so life is busy with work, study, and now a start-up business, but as a naturally restless person I’m using this energy to keep myself focused on meeting all of my deadlines.
The funding awarded is going to help me build a prototype of my product and do the necessary testing. A current client has a wealth of experience within the engineering field and has offered to help guide the design and build of my product, and I have a strong relationship with the gym I work in so I hope it will be a fairly simple process to begin testing the idea!
I still have a lot to learn but having an injection of cash to get things off the ground poses a great opportunity and I’m excited to see where this could take me.
Further down the line, there could be the potential for expansion because ultimately if something moves then it has the capacity to generate power. However, for now, I’m focusing solely on the next stage of product development and not getting too carried away!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice – make the most of your network, that’s what they’re there for. Your peers and professional contacts can provide valuable support, so be sure to make the most of it.
If you’ve got an idea you believe in, just go for it. At the start of this year, I made a conscious decision to say ‘yes’ more because by being more open, more opportunities present themselves and you never know where they’ll take you.
University of Essex
Essex Startups offers wide range of training, support and funding opportunities to our community of budding entrepreneurs. Whether you already have a business idea, or are simply interested in the possibility of working for yourself in the future, we can provide the guidance and support to help make your dreams a reality.