The Taming of the Shrewd Student: The Savvy Student Startups of our time

Saskia Patel, India Taylor-Smith and Jessica Patel: the co-founders of DeMoo Jeans

Students have had it pretty rough over the last few months. With universities across the country closed due to the nationwide lockdown and freshers week as good as cancelled in anticipation of an imminent second wave, virtual learning has been the order of the day and zoom parties had to replace house parties, gigs and gatherings.  

Now the future of university life is under the magnifying glass as the pandemic’s second wave sweeps across the nation. With all this along with an economy at breaking point, it’s no wonder the UKs future students will be set to think twice about a future tarnished by hefty student debts.

Some savvy students, however, have been living in the now, embracing student life and even channelling a little entrepreneurial spirit during their down time. It’s fair to say, the students of our time have learned a lot more than what they enrolled for.

With an increase in innovative commercial outlook among our Gen Z demographic, as much as one quarter of the current student population have founded or are planning to establish their own business whilst at university.  

Jamie Macfarlane, founder and CEO of Creator Fund, Europe’s leading investor in university startups said, “Cov-19 has not slowed student founders down, they have invested their extra free time to work on their ideas. The entrepreneurial ecosystems in universities up and down the country show us the plethora of world-class, international, diverse talent working together to deliver innovation.”

Refund Giant: A start up founded by Imperial Students and backed by Creator Fund

And it seems that business founders are starting out at an increasingly young age, with an increasingly principled agenda. We spoke to Danielle Brown, Alumni officer at the national enterprise education charity Young Enterprise:  

“The entrepreneurial spirit we see in young people is incredible. Their ability to adapt to our rapidly changing world, or think up creative new ideas really sets them apart. A noticeable trend is the number of Gen Z entrepreneurs who are driving socially responsible objectives forward with their businesses; it’s not just about making a profit but making a difference to their communities and the wider world we live in.”

The rise of the sustainable startup

The Creator Fund report suggests many student founders are looking to alleviate some of the socioeconomic and ethical challenges todays enterprises face, with diversity and sustainability at the fore.

One such sustainable, student-lead startup is DeMoo Jeans. Founded after a lightbulb-moment charity shop haul close to their student home in Durham, twin sisters Saskia and Jessica Patel and their friend India Taylor-Smith, set about their project, recycling and upcycling denim to make custom fit jeans and headbands to take a stand against fast fashion.  

“Sustainability is at the core of DeMoo. It is estimated that over 300,000 tonnes of clothing ended up in landfill between 2017-2018 (The Times, 2018). Charity shops often cannot cope with the sheer amount of denim waste, resulting in shipping to landfill sites. We know what we do isn’t much, but at least by purchasing DeMoo’s up-cycled jeans, our customers are on the right path in moving away from throw-away fast fashion.”

Some of the DeMoo designs showcased on the runway at St. Chad’s College Fashion Show (Durham)

Paving the way for smoother payments

With student startups on the rise, and side hustles turning serious across the nation as a result of COVID-19, entrepreneurs of all vintages are looking to find new ways to take payments more easily online, at little or no cost to their business.

With card machines for small businesses offering a convenient yet costly way to take contactless payment, and bank transfers proving a time-consuming endeavour, small businesses have had to review their payment methods. Many product-based startups have turned to platforms such as Etsy or Depop to showcase their online store and streamline their transaction processes.

New payment technologies driven by Open Banking, like Coupay are offering innovative solutions to address the payment challenges faced by many business startups. With subscription fees starting at just £3 per month (and a free 1 month trial), business founders can accept payments online for free or at a fractional cost to their startup business.

If you’ve launched a new venture during lockdown, or you’re dabbling with a side hustle, check out how Coupay could help you take payments faster and more securely with our smart bank transfer link.

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