Career talk: student entrepreneurs

Founders of 'I Heart Dress Up Parties' Vincent Lam and Student Panelist Susan Su

Founders of 'I Heart Dress Up Parties' Vincent Lam and student panelist Susan Su at Entrepreneurs Week.

IF YOU were anywhere near Melbourne University last week, you might have felt a little overwhelmed by all the young innovators gathered for this year’s Entrepreneurs Week.

Targeted at students, the annual event is seen by aspiring young entrepreneurs everywhere as a chance to share ideas, network and learn from the best in the business.

But the highlight of the week was the Student Entrepreneurs: Agents of Change panel, made up of student entrepreneurs who have successfully founded businesses while they were still at university.

Speaking to the star-struck crowd, the panel offered advice in a two hour Q&A, fielding questions on everything from entrepreneurship to business and commerce.

The six students that made up the panel all had very different ideas and backgrounds, but gave pretty similar advice to those at the seminar.

Kevin Truong, 22, the first of the student speakers, founded Locongo, a global travel website that allows travellers to book holiday experiences with locals. Troung graduated from the University of NSW last year and now juggles Locongo with a full time marketing job.

“I really wanted to help out as many people as possible,” Truong said when asked about his role on the panel.

“I know it can be intimidating to attend most networking functions. There are always really successful people there, but this event was so much better because it shared real experiences from real students who have done it, and it means anyone can do it.”

Originally from Sweden, Niklas Olssen was also on the panel. Currently studying a Masters of Business, also at the University of NSW, Niklas does consulting work and is the founder of The Entrepreneurial Chase, an Amazing Race style event where teams of entrepreneurs race from company to company solving real problems.

“Just remember that everyone starts from somewhere, and that the biggest commodity is you,” he said.

“You are a think tank and that’s everything.”

Olssen and Truong were joined on the panel by Will Tan, another University of NSW student and the co-founder of Teebii, a business that allows university students to rent textbooks each semester.

“We saw an opportunity and we took it. It’s an emotional commitment and a lot of hard work, but it’s paying off. In the past year we have expanded exponentially and will continue to do so,” Tan said.

Andrew Lin, Marclay Richardson and Susan Su completed the entrepreneurial panel. Not to be outshone, the trio also had some pretty inspiring stories.

Sick of his constantly expanding tutorial classes, Lin, 22, co-founded Grad-Ready, an education program designed to give students’ additional information, support and tutorials in the lead up to exams and national tests.

Richardson founded his website, Gluten Fighters, after being diagnosed with Celiac’s disease at 14. Along with providing tips and a communication network for others with a gluten intolerance, Marclay also sells gluten-free products via the website.

And Su, 23, used what she learnt at her Business Information Systems and Chinese Translation degree to set up her own costume hire and sale business, I Heart Dress Up Parties. She now provides costumes to some of Melbourne’s hottest parties.

The chief executive and founder of Student Entrepreneurs: Agents of Change, Amir Nissen, is the man behind Entrepreneurs Week. Speaking after the event, he said he was really impressed with the quality of the young panelists.

“When we did the student panel in Sydney last year, we were packed out, but we had quite a few very large names as speakers. This year it was different, but if it has helped even one young entrepreneur and steered them in the right direction, then that’s all that matters.”

Inspired? Then don’t miss the upcoming entrepreneurial networking event hosted by The Hive at Melbourne University on September 4. Visit their website for more information and to book tickets.

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