Why More UK Grads are Opting for the Start-up Life

Guest contributor Stacey from Sage Advice UK looks at why so many graduates are choosing the start-up life over a more traditional corporate career. And if it sounds tempting, he suggests some key pointers to get you started.

What do food business Livia’s, production company Fat Panda, and dance firm  The Blair Academy have in common? All three start-ups were launched by recent grads from UK universities.

And these are just a handful of the 4,000 new businesses launched by current students and recent graduates every year. The number of grads trying their hands at entrepreneurship is growing too – there was a 30% rise in graduate-run start-ups between 2015 and 2019.

What’s behind this rise, and what should you do if you’d like to join their number?


Grand schemes, not grad schemes

There are several reasons why more grads are foregoing the usual career path and opting for entrepreneurialism instead:

Many businesses now cost less to launch

Thanks to advances in technology and the explosion of the gig economy, it’s much easier to launch a self-employed business than ever before. In many fields, you need nothing more than a laptop, your kitchen table and an internet connection.

Influence of start-up culture

We’ve all heard of the heady sums invested in technology start-ups. So, it’s no surprise that many grads with coding skills opt to launch their own ventures rather than working for a big business.

More attractive lifestyle

Surveys suggest that self-employed people are happier and have higher rates of job satisfaction. So it’s no surprise that many former students are attracted to the idea of working for themselves.

You could earn more

Research suggests that – at least in some fields – self-employed people earn more than those who work for someone else.
Now, being a business owner rarely leads to instant riches overnight – and starting up will be hard work. So, if you’re interested in launching a business, it’s worth taking a serious look at how ready you really are.


From mortar board to the drawing board

If you found your dissertation doable and didn’t struggle too much with getting your assignments in on time, starting a business might be a decent option. So, what do you do next?

1. Work on your business idea 

First you need to spend some time figuring out exactly what your business will do, what’s unique about it, and how it works. Writing a business plan will help a lot here.

2. Do your market research

Before investing time and money into your business, work out if there are actually people who’ll be willing to part with their cash for your product or service. Also research the competition – what are you doing that’s different?

3. Create a brand

Your brand is your company’s identity. Choose a name that’s not in use already (tip: search on Companies House), design a logo and market (promote) your business.

4. Get the business fundamentals down

Choose the right company structure; do your accounting; if you need one, find a retail space, workshop or office; and register with the tax authorities (HMRC).

5. Get help

Your university almost certainly has loads of resources for recent graduate entrepreneurs, including advice, mentors and even office space. There are also tons of start-up funding resources available from the government, local councils and even big businesses. Here’s a list of places to start looking for funding.
With more alumni foregoing typical career paths and launching companies straight out of uni, entrepreneurialism looks more doable than ever. Could it be right for you too?


Find out more:

Is self-employment right for you?
If you’re contemplating self-employment – whether as an entrepreneur, freelancer, consultant, contractor, retailer etc. – see our helpful resources, including the pros and cons of working for yourself, tools and tips, and bite-size interviews with entrepreneurs


For those budding business brains
A young entrepreneur describes the lure of running his own business, and why a growing number of graduates are shunning the safe corporate world for sleep-depriving start-up life.


Grad Bites: Essentials for Starting a Business
Monica set up her own Market Research consultancy. She gives her best advice for those who are considering starting a business, including the importance of networking and being able to sell yourself, and your business!


Stacey McIntosh, contributor

About the author

Stacey McIntosh is the editor-in-chief of Sage Advice UK. He has more than 15 years of editorial, PR and social media experience and has worked across print and online for national newspapers, magazines, PR and marketing agencies including Metro, GQ, Men’s Fitness, International Business Times UK and Cool Blue.
See more from Stacey here.