By Claire West

Students from 18 university teams are competing in an ‘Apprentice’-style contest at Spitalfields Market. The event is organised by the University of Bath in association with HEFCE and UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs.

Students from SOAS, University of London selling homemade nut butters on their stand at Uni Popshop.

Sponsored by Ernst & Young, the ‘Uni Popshop’ competition will allow student entrepreneurs to test out their social enterprise ideas by challenging them to make as much money as possible for their ventures in a single day of market trading. Each team of five students will be given a £300 start-up loan, a business mentor and the use of a stall in London’s historic Spitalfields Market to sell their social enterprise products.

The young entrepreneurs have been planning which product to sell to the crowd frequenting the iconic indoor market, and devising a digital marketing plan before opening for business for just one day. They aim to make a tidy profit for their social venture while competing to raise awareness of the social and environmental impact of their project.

Offering inspiration and advice after the event will be the Bath alumnus and past winner of BBC1 series ‘The Apprentice’ Tom Pellereau, who will share his entrepreneurial journey with the students. The winning teams will be presented with prizes from UnLtd, digital agency the Eleven and Ernst & Young.

Ed Hughes, HEFCE Regional Consultant and policy lead on social entrepreneurship, said:

‘This exciting contest really challenges students to come up with creative and interesting ideas, backed up by business expertise. The result is a week of real-life practical experience leading to greater understanding of what it is to be a social entrepreneur and to improved employment prospects.’

Siobain Hone, Enterprise Education Manager at the University of Bath, explained:

‘Nowadays students need more than a good degree when they leave university. We’re giving teams a unique opportunity to test out how entrepreneurial they really are. This contest shows the true entrepreneurial spirit of today’s students and gives them a great opportunity to test out and develop their leadership, marketing, creativity, financial and problem-solving skills — all vital in enhancing their employability. Whatever they want to do when they graduate — whether or not they are interested in being social entrepreneurs — they will learn how to build and run successful businesses. It's a real chance to put theory into practice.’

UnLtd Lead Partnership and Support Manager, Lauren Croll, said:

’UnLtd are delighted to work with the University of Bath and HEFCE in running this event to bring social enterprise student start-ups into the spotlight. Our work is all about helping passionate, entrepreneurial individuals for whom positive social and environmental change is as important as financial profit, and we’re seeing many of the next generation of social entrepreneurs coming from UK universities.’

UnLtd has worked with the HEFCE since 2009 to found a movement in higher education institutions capable of finding, funding and supporting staff and students with entrepreneurial solutions to societal problems, with 550 social ventures created to date. As a result, the UK is a world leader in expertise, knowledge and models for social enterprise and social entrepreneurship support within higher education.

UnLtd and HEFCE have partnered with 56 universities in England, supporting them to embed social entrepreneurship at the heart of their culture and student experience. To celebrate and share learning from their collaboration with the sector, UnLtd are hosting the ‘Lead The Change’ conference in London on 17 July. The conference is participant-led and is aimed at anyone interested in playing a role in merging social entrepreneurship with higher education.