The UK is a great place for international students to start a business. We are seeing increasing numbers every year of International entrepreneurs launching their startups in London after graduating from university. And the UK is benefiting from these International entrepreneurs enormously, as it is quickly becoming a hub for International startup activity. However, knowing where to start can be difficult. Here are some of the common questions I am asked, and what I tell international students about starting their own business in the UK.
1. Can international students start a business in the UK?
While you are studying in the UK on a Tier 4 student visa you can’t officially register your company, but this doesn’t mean you can’t start developing your business. In fact, this gives you the perfect opportunity to start putting a business plan together, talk about your idea with customers and potential investors, research your competitors and start building your brand credibility through social media channels.
2. What are the benefits of starting a business whilst studying at University?
Starting a business while you are studying at university won’t be easy, but it does have its advantages. Firstly you will have great resources and facilities available to you, and you also have the time to develop your business. You will also be surrounded by teachers who are experts in their field and could provide you with valuable market research if you ask them the right questions. Start by asking them about your business idea and if it fills a gap in the market.
Most Universities have an enterprise society where you can talk about your ideas and get help and support to develop your business to the next step. Universities also normally have business advisors on hand who will help answer any questions you might have, and this service is absolutely free! So make sure you get the most out of the free services and resources you have available at University because it could really help you develop your business.
3. Can I start a business on a student visa?
Unfortunately, you can’t start a business on a Student Visa. International students looking to start a business in the UK are required to have a Tier 1 Visa.
Applying for a work visa might seem like a scary process but changing your Student Visa to a Graduate Entrepreneur Visa is fairly straightforward. You just need endorsement from any UK recognised body who are willing to sponsor you and can verify that your business is credible. This can be from a UK Department for International Trade or a Higher Education Institution, which means UK Colleges and Universities are authorised to endorse you. Alternatively, if you can’t get hold of a Graduate Entrepreneur Visa you can apply for a temporary Business Visitor Visa, which will allow you to conduct certain business tasks but only for a 6 month period.
4. How can I support myself whilst trying to get my business off the ground?
A common concern for many international students looking to become entrepreneurs is knowing how to raise enough capital to get your business up and running whilst having enough money to support yourself. Setting up your own business is no easy task and will more than likely require you to work extra hours so you can support yourself. With a Graduate Entrepreneur Visa there are no restricted terms for how many hours you can work, so if you need to take on extra work to support yourself during this period, it is possible. There are also a number of tools available to help international students find extra funding, there are bank loans, funding competitions, and specialist schemes in place to help you launch your business. Follow the link below to find out more about the UK’s support programme for international students.
5. After leaving University where can I find help and support?
Help and support don’t have to stop after you leave University. The UK has a thriving startup community filled with great connections and experts in your field. There are endless benefits when you reach out to those involved in the start-up community. Starting your own business will be challenging so it’s a good idea to meet people who are in a similar position to you, or who have been successful starting their own business, and might be able to offer you helpful advice from their experiences so far.
Social media is a great place to start connecting and talking to other startup companies, investors and entrepreneurs. Follow people you like and who you find helpful so you can stay up-to-date with any news, events and trends. You can also find some great communities on social media through startup groups on LinkedIn and on Facebook. These are fantastic forums where you can ask questions and receive advice from experts and fellow founders, it’s also a great way to make new connections. Here are some great LinkedIn groups to get you started…
A Startup Specialists Group – this online network for entrepreneurs is one of the largest communities for startups, founders, mentors and investors on LinkedIn. Whether you are looking for startup support, planning your new venture, crowdsourcing your challenges, or looking to network. There’s a lot of helpful information here.
Band of Entrepreneurs – Band of Entrepreneurs is a non-profit organisation of, by and for entrepreneurs. Support, Education, Networking and Mentoring are the four cornerstones upon which Organisation principally functions.
Bright Ideas and Entrepreneurs – Bright Ideas & Entrepreneurs offers a networking community for all types of entrepreneurs, small business owners, startups, angel investors, VC’s and other like-minded individuals to join, share ideas, and connect!
Entrepreneurs Meet Investors – This group is for innovative entrepreneurs seeking seed/start-up funding and more mature businesses seeking capital for business growth.
Entrepreneurs Network – A network for current and aspiring Entrepreneurs. A place to find answers, ask questions and connect with people.
Startup Phase Forum – A community for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the start-up / startup phase to share information and support. They offer a wealth of information on marketing, SEO, funding and advice.
Make sure you also find the time to get away from your computer and make those all-important connections in person. Get some business cards made up and start attending networking events regularly, so you can meet more new people and get your name out there.