Graduate start-ups celebrated by Universities Wales


UWTSD Swansea College of Art Graphic Design graduate Dan Huxtable has shared his entrepreneurial journey, which culminated in the launch of his successful Fightwear Store UK business, at the Universities Wales event to celebrate the work of universities in supporting student and graduate entrepreneurship.

From video game developers to designer home-wear businesses – Wales’ graduates are the most entrepreneurial in the UK, outperforming the rest of the country and boosting employment and prosperity.

That’s according to universities’ research, which shows Wales has 12.3% of active graduate start-ups in the UK – despite accounting for around 5% of the higher education sector.

An event at the Senedd on 17 September celebrated the contribution made by graduate start-ups to the Welsh economy.

Speaking at the event, Daniel, an acclaimed young martial artist from Swansea, told how he has combined his passion for martial arts with his love of graphic design for the launch of his bespoke fightwear apparel business.

Daniel Huxtable, a third dan black belt who has three world titles to his name, established Fightwear Store UK in early 2016, alongside his design studies at University of Wales Trinity St David and his role as an instructor at G&K Martial Arts Academy, his family’s martial arts school, which has locations in Gorseinon and Dunvant.

Daniel has had mentoring and business support for his first entrepreneurial venture from the University and from the Big Ideas Wales programme,  part of the Welsh Government’s Business Wales Service which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

“I’ve always been business focused and love to keep my mind busy at all times, so it was always an ambition of mine to run my own company and be my own boss,” he said. "Being able to combine my love of martial arts and graphic design into the formula for a successful business is a dream come true.”

After doing his A-levels at Gower College Swansea, Daniel enrolled at University of Wales Trinity St David to study graphic design, where he met Kathryn Penaluna, Associate Professor in Enterprise Education at UWTSD, who introduced him to Big Ideas Wales and helped him pursue his entrepreneurial dreams.

Kathryn said: “We are thrilled for Daniel. He’s a fantastic example of a student applying entrepreneurial thinking to their studies to start their own business. At UWTSD we embed enterprise into all our courses. Not only does it enhance the student experience, it also increases employability when they graduate. Daniel is one of our success stories and is already acting as a role model to his fellow students. We are all excited to see his business evolve and grow”.

Daniel added: “I had heard of Big Ideas Wales on social media but Kath made me understand the scope and scale of what they do. Like Kath they have been really supportive in helping me get my brand off the ground.”

Professor Julie Lydon OBE, Chair of Universities Wales – the organisation representing the nation’s higher education sector –  says graduate start-ups have the potential to boost prosperity for decades to come.

She said: “We have worked to highlight the innovative and valuable contribution these businesses make to Wales and the ways in which universities support those students and graduates on their start-up journey.

“Wales performs well on graduate start-ups. The annual Higher Education Business and Community Interaction survey consistently finds that Wales outperforms the rest of the UK on the number of graduate start-ups we have per capita and these start-ups are more likely to last three years or more than those elsewhere in the UK.”

The  2017/18 higher education business-community interaction survey found there are 1,635 active graduate start-ups in Wales.

It is a number which has been steadily growing year-on-year, with 1,233 active graduate start-ups in Wales in 2014/15.

It comes after 2016/17 data showed that, of the UK graduate start-ups that have operated for at least three years, 12.3% are in Wales.

Graduate start-ups receive a range of support from universities in Wales and Welsh Government including funding, bursaries, mentoring and working space. But more can be done to support graduate start-ups, Professor Lydon says.

“The start-ups that we’ve engaged with throughout this work show us the breadth of the businesses generated by students and graduates,” she said.

“Everyone’s start-up journey is different, and although all were at different stages of that journey they shared an enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit that should be championed and celebrated.

“There are opportunities for us to provide a more consistent offer, and to build further links with local businesses that can help start-ups further connect to their local communities.

“And similarly, there are opportunities for other stakeholders to think about how they can offer good working space for start-ups, and opportunities for start-ups to meet, network and collaborate.”

Hefin David AM, chair of the cross-party group for universities at the National Assembly for Wales, said: "Wales' universities are producing graduates burning with ideas and ambition. And they are proving to be vital cogs in the national economy.

"Nurturing and developing this sector is crucial in creating a vibrant and diverse economy, where sustainable wealth creation is celebrated and given support from Government, the private sector and universities themselves."

Further Information

Rebecca Davies

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