How to go from Graduate to Entrepreneur

Wednesday 21 August 2019, UCAS advice

by Ella Hendrix

How to go from Graduate to Entrepreneur

Ella Hendrix

It takes a special kind of person to be an entrepreneur:  they’re typically creative, with a different way of thinking or seeing the world, a passion for what they do, and maybe even a serial risk-taker.

In today’s world, where over 1.7 million people are graduating from university each year, competition is rife for graduate jobs. But it has also never been easier to hone your entrepreneurial skills and set up on your own.


It is generally accepted that entrepreneurship is a trait that people have. It is difficult to learn how to be an entrepreneur. It tends to be something that you are born with, or develop over time. Most people who are entrepreneurs have a drive to succeed, and a need to break out of traditional employment.

However, setting up your own business – however daunting it may seem – is possible, especially for graduates.

It is usually one of two roads that people take to entrepreneurship and setting up their own business:

  • By being a self-starter – hunting down opportunities everywhere, and building up businesses over time.
  • Studying, taking employment in a field where you ultimately want to work, then set out on your own once you feel that you have the skills and knowledge required.

Graduates as entrepreneurs

Graduates make great entrepreneurs. You might not have had experience in setting up your own business but there are many skills that students learn while at university, which can be useful in setting up and going out on your own.

These include:

  • the ability to work on your own – especially at first, you will be spending a lot of time with yourself!
  • the ability to conduct quality research – according to Informi’s How to Start a Business Guide. 'Whether you go for a business start-up idea that has been tried and tested, or something new, innovative, and potentially lucrative, you need to do your research.'
  • the ability to think outside the box and be creative
  • the ability to collaborate with other people with different skill sets

Becoming an entrepreneur

There are many reasons why people would want to start up their own business. For most people, it is about having control over their destiny, and the idea that they want to do things their way, or quite simply that there is no-one else dealing with an issue that needs to be dealt with.

If you are set on becoming an entrepreneur and think that you have what’s necessary, it is important to start off in the right way. The sad truth is that it’s not easy to succeed as a small business. The stats are unclear, but there is evidence to show that around 50% of start-ups in the UK don’t make it past the first five years.

The key to success however, is mainly in the planning. If you are thinking about starting up your own business, there are several things which you should be considering before you take the plunge.

Is your idea a solid one? This is the most critical part. You need to have a business idea that is solid and has the potential to work. This is one area where your research skills will come in handy! You should look at everything from the business structure, to how other similar businesses are doing, and how to make it work financially. Make sure to be as thorough as you can, as this will give you the best chance of success.

One reason why many people trip up is that they aren’t clear about what they are trying to achieve with their business. It can often be more useful to narrow down to a niche than to try to be all things, so decide what you want to do and make that as clear as possible. This will be vital when you are deciding on branding and trying to sell the idea to other people.

Once that you have an idea that you think could work, speak to people, and carry out some market research to see what other people would make of it. There are now a bunch of online resources which can help you to gather and analyse this information. Make sure that you are speaking to your target audience and don’t be afraid to change things.

With a solid basis, you can then go on to write a business plan, and try to secure the financial backing that you would need.

Although there is a certain amount of skill involved in becoming an entrepreneur, as a graduate you almost certainly already have a lot of the skills needed if you do decide to go out on your own. With a little guidance, there is no reason why you can’t make a success of your business venture and reap the rewards for years to come.