On Thursday 10th December at 18:00 UK time, the University of Hull hosted the first meeting of our alumni Entrepreneur Network. We had exceptional talks from two of our fantastic alumni, Dr Pearl Jarrett and Usman Ali, members of the network had the opportunity to introduce themselves, some group members had questions about starting their own business, and others were able to offer guidance. We were delighted with how the first evening went, and are already planning a second event on Thursday 11 March.
The evening opened with a welcome and a short talk about the role that the University of Hull takes in supporting student entrepreneurs, and suggestions for how, going forward, the group can become a place for supporting those student entrepreneurs, particularly when they are at the point of graduation.
Then Dr Pearl Jarrett took centre stage. Pearl is a Multi-Award winning Disruptive Changemaker and she is the Founder and Group CEO of The Jarrett Foundation. She delivered an inspirational story about how, having recovered from cancer, she took a more pro-active role in ensuring she lived her life how she wanted to, without fear, and without compromise, making a difference in the lives of others. Her story centred on her success in supporting schools in The Gambia and Jamaica. Firstly she was able to provide necessary equipment to do the job of teaching and then she was able to provide a supply of renewable energy that was secure and affordable, thus alleviating a substantial cost for some of the schools she was supporting in Jamaica. The story was an illustration of how much you can achieve when you set your mind to it, but it was also an illustration of the power of asking questions. So many times, simply through asking a question, Pearl was able to open a door, secure a much needed resource or space, or bring someone else on board.
Usman Ali spoke after Pearl. Usman is a Partner and Investment Analyst at Mobius Capital Partners, and in 2019, the Socially Responsible Investment Conference named him in their list of the top 30 socially responsible investors under the age of 30. Promoting a collaborative approach to entrepreneurism, Usman talked about the importance of always doing something with others who you could trust, who were reliable and who you get on with. For him, investing was an excellent way to change the world – to invest in companies whose values you believe in, and who are working to make the change that you want to happen. He also raised an interesting point about businesses not only existing to make a profit, but to have a purpose.
After the talks, the conversation opened up to the audience. Attendees were given the chance to make a short elevator pitch to the rest of the audience. There was also discussion around questions that new entrepreneurs had regarding starting their own businesses, and a lot of LinkedIn profile sharing for further networking.
The supportive atmosphere, the willingness to help, answer questions, offer guidance and be available to others who may have further questions, created a sense that this network has great potential. We certainly want to develop a network that provides great value to members, and is a place where entrepreneurs can go for support, advice and inspiration. One audience member summed it up perfectly when they said ‘networking is about giving’.
We can’t wait for the next meeting on Thursday 11 March.