A NUMBER of students across Belfast are on their way to starting their own enterprises.
They had been taking part in a business programme funded by Belfast City Council.
Now in its fourth year, 21 students participated in the Belfast Enterprise Academy (BEA).
The programme is designed for degree students living in the city and studying at Queen`s University, the University of Ulster and Belfast Metropolitan College who want to become entrepreneurs.
As part of the Academy, they get to meet other successful entrepreneurs and receive one-to-one mentoring as well as help with developing a business plan.
This year, the programme also received accreditation from the Open College Network NI with the students gaining a Level 3 Award in Business Development Skills.
Councillor Pat Convery from Belfast City Council`s Development Committee presented the programme participants with certificates for completing the BEA at a special ceremony in the Holiday Inn recently.
One of the degree students was local musician, Gary Todd, who plauded the pre-enterprise programme.
“I know how difficult it is for young bands getting bookings and setting up tours so I`m starting a company that will manage all that without taking a massive chunk out of the band`s profits,” he said.
“Up and Away Management is a joint venture with my colleague Peter McKevitt and will be based between Belfast and Manchester. The Belfast Enterprise Academy offered us the chance to discuss our business idea with a range of people.
“Now we have firm plans, we know what it will take to make the business work and we know what to do next. We are very excited about our business and it was great to share that with a group of people going through the same thing.”
Stuart Cannell, another BEA participant, who works as a fine art artist, added: “When I saw an opportunity to take part in the programme, I took it as I knew the Belfast Enterprise Academy would equip me with the knowledge for combining my passion with the business principles. It is this combination that will allow me to make a living for what I love doing.
“When I read that we had to develop a business plan, I was worried that the romanticism within my art might diminish.
“This might ultimately make art less about being creative and innovative and more about making money.
“However, throughout my time at the BEA, I realised that I could keep the romanticism within my work and develop a business mentality that would work in conjunction with one another.”
Since the Belfast Enterprise Academy was launched four years ago, it has seen 18 new businesses established with the creation of 31 jobs.
Councillor Deirdre Hargey, Chair of Belfast City Council`s Development Committee, said: “The Belfast Enterprise Academy is a stimulating and exciting programme that encourages students to consider self-employment and to develop business ideas.
“The programme also emphasises the importance of entrepreneurship as a driver for our local economy. We believe that by developing these talented young people, we will form a strong base for our future entrepreneurs and economy. I wish them now every success for a bright business future.”
The Belfast Enterprise Academy is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.
For more information on Belfast City Council`s support for local business, you can visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/business or the council`s Facebook Belfast Business page at www.facebook.com/belfastbusinessinfo