Skip to main content
Busy work area - college
7 min read

Transitioning from graduate to entrepreneur

On average one in three people aged 18-24 are in full-time education. Each year around 1.5 million people graduate from university. Most of these graduates will go into employment or a graduate scheme, but there are some who will choose the self-employment path. 

So, how do you go about setting up a business whilst at university, or after graduating, and is there a proven formula for success?

Why graduates make great entrepreneurs

How degrees are taught has changed over the decades. Instead of focusing on ideas taught from textbooks, students are involved in group discussions and open debates. They are encouraged to draw on real-life experiences and to explore their creative thinking. 

It could be that during one of these group discussions or debates you may have seen that there is a ‘gap’ in the market for a new product or service. You’ll have to decide if you want to act on it now or wait until you have some business experience behind you? 

Without realising it, the three or four years you spent at university could have provided you with the skillset that is needed to be a great entrepreneur. Successful entrepreneurs often have the following qualities:

  • Observant
  • Question the norm
  • Lateral thinkers
  • Adaptable  
  • Know how to change their communication style to suit their audience.

These, amongst others, are some of the qualities that you may have developed during your time at university.  

Ultimately, the reason you want to be your own boss is that you want control over your career and can’t face working for anyone else and being told what to do. 

Reasons to start a business after you graduate

As well as a sense of pride you’ll have for building your own business, there are several other reasons why becoming an entrepreneur could be better than working for someone else.

  • Coworking

    In many ways starting a business is easier than ever. Figures from Companies House showed that in 2017, 589,008 business were formed. 

  • Chair

    Starting your own business means you can evade the competitive job market and start earning money sooner. On average, UK employers receive 39 applications per role (Source: Telegraph).

  • Coffee mug

    You’ll have greater flexibility over where you work and the hours you work. The average working week for a UK employee is 37.1 hours (Source: ONS).

  • Having a laugh

    Put your skills and knowledge to good use. One in three graduates are working in low or medium skilled jobs and are not utilising the skills they acquired at university (Source:

  • On campus

    Even though unemployment rates amongst graduates is low, in 2016, 3.1% of graduates were unemployed (Source:

  • Working together

    As an entrepreneur your earning potential is uncapped. The average salary for a UK graduate is £30,000 (Source: High Fliers). Running your own business, there is the potential that you can earn more than this. 

What graduates should think about before setting up a business

So, you’ve decided that running your own business is what you really want to do. What’s next? Before you open your doors for business, you need to think about these considerations. 

You must be logged in to use this checklist

Login or Register

Obtaining funds for your startup

Now that you’ve decided on an idea, you’ll need funds to get it started. It is possible to start a business on a minuscule budget but having a solid financial base on which to build a business is important. Apart from your friends and family, there are several ways you can fund your startup. You might be able to fund it from your own savings. However, with the average student debt running into the tens of thousands, this may not always be an option. 

Other routes include using money from your student loan, overdraft or credit card. If you choose this route, make sure you are aware of the interest rate and penalty charges associated with each.  

If you have a unique and even quirky business idea you may find that crowdfunding could work for you. The benefits of crowdfunding are that it can provide financial support when traditional lenders won’t help and it’s an incredibly cost-effective and quick way to raise finance. On the downside, it may mean you will have to give individuals equity in your business and on some platforms, if you don’t hit your target you won’t get access to any of the money raised.

A business mentor may be willing to provide financial assistance. If not, they should be able to direct to you organisations that offer business grants, such as the Princes Trust Grant and the government’s Start Up Loan.

Getting help for your startup

Whilst running your business is hugely rewarding it can also be lonely. At some point, you will face yourself in a situation where you’re unsure what to do. At times like this, you’ll need the support and guidance of others.  

If you feel like you’ve exhausted your current support network, broaden it. There are numerous places where you can seek counsel. The best starting point is your personal network. Friends and family can be a valuable source of information. Between them, they could have accumulated years of business experience and will likely have been in a situation like what you are facing. 

Financial institutions have extended their service offering beyond bank accounts and ISA’s. They offer a wealth of small business advice and run local business networking events and workshops, such as ‘How to perfect your business pitch’, and ‘Improve your presenting skills’.

Business mentors can greatly enhance your business’ chance of success. Amongst other things, a mentor will provide practical advice, support and most importantly, encouragement. When times get tough or you find yourself going through a quiet patch, it can be tempting to pack it all in. A mentor, will offer assurance and help you to develop strategies to deal with this. 

As well as being a great communication tool, social media is a valuable source of business advice and guidance. Check out Facebook networking groups that are aimed at small businesses. Find one that is in your area or that operates in your business niche. 

End of Article
Share this content

Brought to you by:

AAT Business Finance Basics

AAT Business Finance Basics are a series of online e-learning courses covering the core financial skills every business needs. They draw from AAT’s world-leading qualifications and will quickly build your knowledge on key topics including bookkeeping, budgeting and cash flow.

Visit partner's website

Register with Informi today:

  • Join over 30,000 like-minded business professionals.
  • Create your own personalised account with curated reading lists and checklists.
  • Access exclusive resources including business plans, templates, and tax calculators.
  • Receive the latest business advice and insights from Informi.
  • Join in the discussion through the comments section.