What is a small business to do?

That’s the question that the University of Portsmouth asked itself in 2013 when it decided to cement its position in the local community as an organisation that supports and drives small business development. Three years later the efforts were recognised with the Small Business Charter award. However, this is just the beginning and we are keen to go from strength to strength.

The University of Portsmouth has a long standing reputation for engagement with Small Business in the Solent Region. Our strategic involvement as the accountable body for the Solent Growth Hub was a logical extension to this and after helping businesses invest over £8 million, we are keen to take this to the next level.

Our students are fiercely entrepreneurial, many of them have set up their own businesses and gone on to become highly successful.

It doesn’t just stop there. Over the last three years we have really upped our game, offering dedicated incubation space in three great locations, delivering mentoring and coaching, and facilitating business advice through our students, events and dedicated programmes.

Pat-smith-web

To receive recognition by the Small Business Charter for the work we undertake is the icing on the cake. I was proud and thrilled to represent the Business School and collect the award on behalf of the university. An alumna myself and a firm believer in business and student development, I am looking to the future and how we can continue the high standard necessary to retain our accreditation and to go beyond the current benchmark,  working with colleagues on our best practice exemplars.

To support the academic element of all we are looking to achieve, we have appointed a Professor of Small Business and Enterprise Development, David Pickernell. His role is outward facing, to engage with Small Businesses in the region, with a particular interest for those based on the Isle of Wight, who form a very important aspect of our business community.

When I spoke to him recently, he said, “I’m very pleased to be joining Portsmouth University at a time when small business, enterprise development and innovation are more important than ever. The university is rightly proud of its role as an enterprising university, particularly with regards to graduate entrepreneurship,  but also in terms of how it assists existing small business in the region, and I hope to contribute to that agenda moving forward.”

Our commitment doesn’t stop there - in Spring 2017 we will be welcoming Professor Maria Battisti, who will be leading with regard to Small Business research and curriculum content at the university.

The national Small Business Charter workshops have been very useful,  allowing me the opportunity to learn from other like minded universities, to share knowledge and good practice, and to help shape future initiatives at national level. It allows a platform to feedback our findings as we seek to deliver programmes relevant to our Small Businesses.

So what next for the Small Business work at Portsmouth? On top of our existing activity we are looking to evaluate some new programmes and get them off the ground. We are currently conducting a survey to capture the needs as identified by our Small Business contacts.

We have encouraged students from across our faculties to join the thriving and very active Student Enterprise Society.  It was noted by the charter assessors that the recently established society “is clearly an area for future development and an interesting variation on the traditional society model”.The society has gone from strength to strength, recent events were themed to appeal to the ‘budding entrepreneur’. Their success was phenomenal, with a 100% satisfaction rate from the students who attended and many reporting that they were inspired by the local entrepreneurs who gave up their time and shared their stories and ideas.

The Small Business Charter award reminds us why we do this. The importance of the work we deliver and the impact we have in and on our region, it is our driver for achieving even greater success in years to come.

Pat Smith is the Enterprise Development Manager at Portsmouth Business School