The success stories behind Aston University’s MSc in Entrepreneurship

Published:  10 August, 2023

A student “annoyed” at wasteful plastic hotel toothbrushes launched a business providing recyclable bamboo products as part of their MSc in Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School.

This was just one example of how students who want to turn their ‘eureka’ moment into a successful business need to embrace innovation, find a problem that needs solving and then create customer value.

The success story was recalled by Jocelyne Fleming, the Course Director of Aston Business School’s MSc in Entrepreneurship.

Fleming, a senior teaching fellow in economics, finance and entrepreneurship, was speaking in the latest episode of the ‘Aston means business' podcast series, presented by journalist Steve Dyson.

She said she defined an entrepreneur as someone who sets up a business and wants to take a financial risk for the hope of profit and recalled one such student who was very interested in sustainable products for hotels after becoming “annoyed” at all the “throwaway” products.

Fleming said: “Even before he’d graduated, he had secured several contracts of hotels who said: ‘Yes, we want sustainable products,’ and he hadn’t even fully sourced them then. He subsequently has won a contract with a leading chain to sell bamboo toothbrushes.”

Another success story she referenced were two alumni who met during their MSc and started an educational consultancy that develops “bespoke training programmes” for large businesses.

She said there were two types of entrepreneur: “We have people who have a real passion to try and make things better, or try to improve on existing products or services, and then you have another type of person who really is interested in creating new things we haven’t experienced before.”

She said an example of innovation was Airbnb, which was “a take on hotels and visiting places”. And when Blockbuster collapsed, Netflix sold videos, adding: “It’s really that idea of how you can improve an existing service.”

“But anybody can be an entrepreneur,” she added, “if you are using eBay, you’re setting up on Vinted, or you are managing your car-boot items on a Sunday. There could be a bit of entrepreneurship in all of us really.”

Fleming said Aston University’s MSc in Entrepreneurship was a mixture of core modules relating to business venturing, entrepreneurial strategies, innovation and emerging economies, and a module where students have to run a business throughout the term to see if they can make a profit.

In term three, they start their main project, which could be starting up an idea for a business or studying in another country with one of Aston’s partnering universities.

There were also placement opportunities, an “incubation space” for students to think about their business, mentors, and specialised academics with vast experience of start-up businesses.

“We also have innovation vouchers which is an opportunity for students to apply for funding to help start up their business.”

She added that Aston University was “completely committed to entrepreneurial activity”, adding that they won Entrepreneurial University of the Year in 2021.

“Aston loves everything entrepreneur, so you get support from a whole host of areas.”

She said the MSc course had a “very high pass rate” with around 65 to 70% of graduates ending up either starting a business or undertaking entrepreneurial developments back in their existing business.

Fleming’s top tips for prospective students began with having a plan and being “passionate about something that you’ve noticed, this gap or problem you think you can solve.” And then to test it. She said there was no point in having an idea, or ‘eureka’ moment, that no-one was interested in.

Students also needed to “embrace innovation” as everything was changing, while her last tip was creating value. “Is there something, an idea that you have, that can make a difference to somebody? Then it’s worth pursuing.”

Sign up for the PWE newsletter

Latest issue

To view a digital copy of the latest issue of Plant & Works Engineering, click here.

View the past issue archive here.

To subscribe to the journal please click here.


"How is your manufacturing business preparing for a net Zero target?"


Events Diary