Solving a Waste Issue with an Enterprising Mind

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My name is Michael McLeod. I am a 23 year old student entrepreneur and post-graduate researcher (PhD) studying Integrative Physiology at the University of Birmingham.  I formed UniGreenScheme.

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In 2010 during my undergraduate studies, I started buying electrical equipment, antiques and collectables from car boot sales and auctions and selling them online. It was a simple business, but I really enjoyed earning money for myself, not through a job. By 2014, I had 320sq ft of storage and 2000 products in stock.

Balancing academia with business, I spent my weekends trying to acquire more stock and my weekdays studying in University. One day, my department was being refurbished and I was asked to help clear-out a range of equipment. I was struggling to find enough products to sell for my business, yet here I was putting over £5,000 of useable equipment into a skip. I soon found out, due to a range of organisational barriers, clear-outs were common-practice in universities across the UK.  We take unwanted items from universities and sell them on their behalf. We then return a profit share to the university. It’s a win-win for the university (environmental and financial benefit), and we now have ten universities with clear interest in the service, four of which are in contract stage.

1567From the start, the support offered by the University has been essential as even my first ever meeting with a university was organised by Paul Adams of Careers Network. I am consistently faced with business challenges but can always get sound advice from the Careers Network. As for training, all the workshops and classes I have attended ran by the Careers Network have been enjoyable, practical and useful and these attributes also perfectly describe the Postgraduate Enterprise Summer School (PESS).

I attended the 2015 PESS programme as part of the PGCARMS module. I have been on quite a few entrepreneurship courses/schools and honestly hadn’t expected much as many are quite dry / boring. PESS was definitely an exception.

156Our week focused around forming a team, solving a problem of the social enterprise Health Exchange, and at the end giving a competitive pitch for investment. This was all interspersed with engaging and interesting training on business models, marketing, finance and more. This training was useful not just for PESS but also my own business.

What made PESS special was that there was a great atmosphere: A real sense of energy and positive competition and each team seemed to really commit to the task. It wasn’t long into the week before we had started to build our presentation. We all sat around and debated options then got down to work. It was tough to get everything done in time but on the last day we were ready to pitch. I really enjoyed seeing some of my teammates speak so enthusiastically about the work they had done especially when we were called the winning team. Overall, PESS was a fantastic personal experience I would highly recommend, especially to those willing to try something a little different.

If you would like to attend the Postgraduate Enterprise Summer School, please email ei@contacts.bham.ac.uk.

Do you have a business start-up idea?  See our B Start-Up Page

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