Student Start-up Support scheme helps entrepreneur place product in 30 retailers & provide for 25 homeless charities21 Oct 2015
University of Exeter graduate Ed Vickers came up with the idea for his “more than profit” social enterprise whilst volunteering at Crosslines Homeless Charity in Exeter.
Following requests for spare socks and determined to provide further help, Ed had the idea to set up a high quality socks retail business. For each pair of socks sold, Ed would donate a pair of thick walking socks for the shelter to distribute.
Ed took part in Exeter’s Student Start-ups scheme and was encouraged to apply the “Think, Try, Do” approach to his business idea. The scheme starts with Think programmes in colleges and from the Employability team, through practical, Try activities delivered by the Students’ Guild and leading the Do stage, including mentoring and funding from the Innovation Centre.
Jollie Goods was the only company that year to be successful at the John Lewis Pitchup business competition through PopUpBritain. Soon Ed was able to turn his business model into a full time, very successful business.
One such programme; the eXFactor enabled Ed to consider entrepreneurship, realise the potential of his idea and prepare for the competitive world of work outside of his degree.
With the support from the Students’ Guild, Ed began to sell his socks at a weekly market on the University of Exeter campus. Following such a positive response to his 'Wear a pair, share a pair' concept Ed was able to work with the Innovation Centre to develop his business model and secure grant funding to set up the Jollie Goods website to sell his socks on a much wider scale. Ed was able to run his business on a part-time basis whilst studying for his degree.
By March 2013 Jollie Socks had been selected as the product of choice to represent the University of Exeter at a SETsquaredintra-university business competition held in Spitalfields Market London, winning the UnLtd price for 'Best Social Impact'.
Through the Innovation Centre, Ed was introduced to University of Exeter alumnus and successful entrepreneur, Phil Cameron, who was able to support the further growth and development of Jollie Goods.
Ed began selling through local, independent retailers with his big breakthrough in December 2013 where he secured a contract with retail giant John Lewis to sell his Jollie Goods throughout their stores. Jollie Goods was the only company that year to be successful at the John Lewis Pitchup business competition through PopUpBritain. Soon Ed was able to turn his business model into a full time, very successful business.
Now working full time on Jollie Goods, Ed has been able to support future entrepreneurs coming through the University of Exeter by getting involved in the “Enternship” programme which was launched in 2014. Recognising that work experience is incredibly influential for future career development the enternships help entrepreneurial students find internships in early stage and start up organisations, with a grant awarded to the company to cover their costs. Ed employed an Exeter student to support the development of Jollie Goods through the ‘enternship’ programme.
The social impact of Jollie Goods has been truly outstanding with over 7,000 fresh socks being given to over 25 different homeless charities in the UK. The socks can now be found at 30 different retailers.
The team are currently working on some exciting new editions to the product range ready to be launched at the end of September 2015. Ed’s ultimate goal is not only to continue to grow his social business, but enable young people to get directly involved to help the homeless throughout the nation.
Ed is delighted with the success of Jollie Goods and passionate about the Student Start-up Support scheme. He said:
“The Student Start-up Support scheme enabled me to realise the potential of my idea. I never could have imagined that Jollie Goods would be so popular. The “Think, Try, Do” approach guides you through each step of the business development, providing the initial skills, confidence and funding to get the business going.”
Since 2012 Exeter's Student Start-up Support programme has managed to secure a total of £200,000 of grant funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England(HEFCE) Higher Education Innovation Fund. Of this, £109,000 has been awarded as grants to 36 student-led businesses - averaging a little more than just £3,000 each. As of July 2015, 27 of these businesses continue to trade and between them they have managed to secure private investment of more than £200K and a combined annual turnover in excess of £2.2M.
The Student Start-up Support Scheme programme has demonstrated that it not only provides the spark required to create great new businesses, but that the students who engage in the programme can be the driving force behind Exeter’s future.