Fiona Duncan-Steer of RSViP shares her own experiences of university and examines whether education and university in particular still has its place amongst the entrepreneurial minded.
As Nottingham Trent University alumni, class of 2003 BA (Hons) Theatre Design, many would hope that I found myself immersed amongst the bright lights of Tinseltown or at least navigated my way through the West End, inevitably starting as a runner making tea and coffee for the big shots in the hope of catching my break – none of which was the case.
No instead I threw myself into the world of work for a few years, doing something entirely different to my degree topic – I sold insurance. Truth be told I would have sold flip flops – I just wanted to earn some money and enjoy a proper full-time salary after being in education my entire life.
This was a good choice why? Because I earned enough to save for my first home. I learnt valuable sales and people skills and I met my now husband. It’s certainly true what they say; everything happens for a reason. It was from here that my career path began and invariably linked together quite serendipitously leading to my current life as a business owner doing what I LOVE.
Following the glamorous world of insurance, I went into the cut throat world of advertising for a magazine and finally got to use my creative skills, in that I became an editorial contributor as well as sales exec – my first attempt at writing and little did I know the start of my writing career (I now write for various publications and have my own travel blog under my alias The Sleepy Vegetarian).
This job propelled me to take the leap a year later in 2008 – yes that scary transition from employment to self-employment. I launched my own business and have never looked back.
It was hard work – it was the recession. Some said I was brave, others stupid, but I persevered and earned very little money in the first two years. I was told to give up and try something else, but I followed my instincts and stuck with it. That was a good thing as in year three things got better and I suddenly started to reap in the benefits of my hard work.
I now run what is arguably one of the largest and most popular independent business networks in the East Midlands of which NTU have become members of (!). I have facilitated hundreds of thousands of business connections over the past twelve years of being in business and have hosted hundreds of successful events, carving a flawless reputation for my brand RSViP over that time, gaining regular media attention, but above all fulfilling my need to help and empower others to achieve their goals.
How did university help me? It acted as the basis, the foundation for everything I then went on to do upon graduation. It taught me discipline – I almost quit after my first year but instead I went back and carried on and it got better, so much better to the point that I loved everything about my second and final year and achieved a better grade than expected.
It also gave me time to really consider what it was I actually wanted to do rather than what I should do – I had only just turned twenty one by the time I graduated and although I was good at design I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do with that skill in the real world.
The Business School at my university now helps people like me to link the two together and have a fantastic after care program too – something I wish I had the benefit from back then but am pleased to see it in place now.
So yes, university was worth it. People have commented over the years on the fact that I haven’t used my degree in my work life after all – “oh what a waste and a shame” they would say.
My response to that is firstly, there are many similarities to designing of the theatre to designing of an event – creative and artistic skills come into play without a doubt, however the model is virtually the same. We use storyboards, consider the customer journey and fill a blank canvas with fun, visuals and experience just like you would within the world of theatre. It’s experiential and that’s all that matters.
Secondly, whatever subject your degree is in, just the pure fact you have shown enough discipline and hard work to achieve it is enough for most employers and bodes well on your CV, plus it’s pretty fun too!
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