BSc Business Management student Wiki Strozik didn’t have her own business idea but was keen to learn more about the ways she could contribute to the growth of a start-up business.
I came to the UK from Poland to study Business Management in 2019. Essex particularly appealed to me due to the campus lifestyle, the wide range of extracurricular activities on offer, having easy access into London, and the opportunity to be part of a diverse international community.
I initially heard about the Essex Startups team during one of my accounting lectures. I didn’t have a business idea, but I was intrigued that this service was available to students so signed-up to receive their newsletter to find out more about the opportunities that could benefit me in the future.
After two unsettled years of studying remotely during the pandemic, I was feeling ready for a challenge that would give me the chance to engage with other students again. It was then that I received an email about iTeams, an intensive 8-week programme combining business skills workshops with teamwork involving finding a solution to a real-world business problem. Feeling determined to enhance my skills and professional confidence, I signed up.
During the initial session, we were given an in-depth introduction to the programme and were assigned our teams. As a group we participated in a variety of fun ‘icebreaker’ games that allowed us to get to know one another and focus on our personal interests and life goals. There was such an interesting mix of people, from differing backgrounds, levels of study, subjects, and the other Essex campuses. It felt slightly daunting at first as an undergraduate student, but it quickly became clear that we all had something useful to contribute and could learn from each other.
The second session saw us receive our challenge, set by a local business. Each group was provided with a problem statement and met with the business owners to find out more about their reasons for assigning the particular problem. Over the weeks that followed my time on the iTeams programme consisted of weekly workshops with the University’s Entrepreneurs in Residence and regular meetings with my team to plan, research and discuss our proposed solution and how best to package it.
As a team, we were assigned a mentor for the duration of the programme. Ours was the founder of a marketing agency. His support and guidance were invaluable, helping us to maintain focused on key issues when we started to get carried away with ourselves!
At the end of the programme, we presented to the assigned business and a panel of experts and participated in the Q&A session that followed. The presentation included our understanding of the problem statement, gave a detailed analysis of our research findings, and our proposed solution to the challenge we’d be set.
Following our presentation, the assigned business came back to our team and told us that they’d be considering some of the suggestions we’d brought up ahead of taking part in the programme. As a result of the market research analysis we’d completed, it had confirmed that they were the right ideas to take forward and were going to implement them as part of their initial expansion plan.
The iTeams experience taught me so much about the way businesses operate, particularly those in the early stages of developing and expanding their product offering. I was not only able to put what I’d learnt in the classroom into practice but was also able to gain real-world experience of developing marketing strategies and presenting them in a professional/formal environment.
One of the things I value most about my iTeams experience was the friends I made. As a team, we formed a genuine bond and really enjoyed working together. Having the opportunity to work alongside students from different disciplines and levels of study, as well as forming connections with the Essex Startups team and the businesses involved in the programme, I was able to widen my network and broaden my future prospects.
And, as an extra bonus of the experience, cash prizes were awarded to the top three teams. Our team happened to be selected as the first-place winners, so each of us received £500!
I have recently started my degree placement year working as a Communications and Engagement Assistant, which is allowing me to develop my interests in marketing further and gain a deeper understanding of how business management theory can be applied in real-world situations.
My focus for the next couple of years is the completion of my placement and then my degree, with the aim of connecting with and learning from business professionals to enhance the skills on my CV ahead of graduation.
Working with a start-up business for iTeams taught me first-hand the impact individuals can have on the growth of a business, so pursuing a consultancy role for companies in the early stages of development is of particular interest once I’ve completed my studies.
I would recommend iTeams to all students, regardless of subject area or level of study. iTeams forces you out of your comfort zone and gives you the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of students with a range of skills sets, allowing you to actively learn from one another.
Presenting our solution as a team at the end of the programme was a really rewarding experience, and it was so exciting to see our suggestions become a reality.
If you have a potential business idea, or are interested in developing your business skills, find out more about the training, events and support Essex Startups offers to current students and recent graduates.
Applications are now open for iTeams 2023. If you're interested in working alongside external organisations to obtain the experience of overcoming real-world challenges, apply now to join the iTeams programme starting February 2023. Deadline for applications close 25 January.
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.