Award-winning U Start project supported local businesses through COVID-19 pandemic
The U Start project, located within the Centre of SME and Enterprise Development, paved the path for budding entrepreneurs.
The U Start project, located within the Centre of SME and Enterprise Development, aimed to assist students, staff (both academic and non-academic) and local graduates from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and lead partner Lancaster University to start up their own businesses through pre-and post-start-up support.
Support included the development of an entrepreneurial mindset through online and face to face learning environments in the form of 1-1 mentorship with business experts and workshops. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the project met with initial challenges. Yet, disruption was minimal as they were able to switch workshops and 1:1 business mentoring appointments from face-to-face delivery to Microsoft Teams. This also gave the project the opportunity to deliver more workshops online than planned.
Struggling local SMEs received free business mentoring and workshop access and SMEs were provided support accessing their COVID-19 grants. Additionally, the project helped business owners who were in financial difficulty close their businesses down. Doing this prevented these business owners from receiving fines which would lead to further financial strain and pressure.
"Doing what I did and going to U Start meant that I could take on some side projects while studying. Then, when it came to finishing my degree, I walked out of class on Friday and straight into a job on Monday."— Ashley Allen, Freelance Web Developer
The project led to UCLan having the highest number of student start-ups in the North and we rose to 3rd highest in the UK. The project’s activities also contributed to the Centre for SME and Enterprise Development being awarded the Small Business Charter (SBC) and was a major factor in the Centre being awarded exemplar status. In 2023 the Centre was awarded the Educate North Best Entrepreneurial University of the Year Award.
Freelance Web Developer, Ashley Allen praised the support provided by the project team, which saw a total of 1,629 beneficiaries register for U Start support over the lifetime of the project. Ashley said: “I’ve spoken to people who have gone to other universities… they’ve wanted to follow a similar sort of path to me, but they just don’t know how. Doing what I did and going to U Start meant that I could take on some side projects while studying. Then, when it came to finishing my degree, I walked out of class on Friday and straight into a job on Monday.”
Whilst this project has closed, the University actively supports regional businesses. Find out more through our Enterprise and Engagement Unit who will review your enquiry and signpost you to the most appropriate area of continuing support.