Business Insurance

Interview Series for Business Students: Q&A with Ashley Bird from Nottingham Trent University

Education is one of the most influential factors in determining a young person's future, and we want to share experiences of the up-and-coming generation of professionals. Our team at NimbleFins is conducting a series of Q&A interviews featuring top students at different universities across the UK. This interview is with Ashley Bird, who is studying Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at Nottingham Trent University.

Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.

I have been to boarding school since the age of 10 (a true ‘wild child’ experience)!

What has your experience been like at Nottingham Trent University?

My experience at NTU has been an extremely positive one. From the facilities on offer to the student night life and societies, I can confidently say that I have enjoyed the last four years at NTU, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting an exciting, creative or entrepreneurial atmosphere.

What other school were you considering, and why did you choose Nottingham Trent University?

My undergraduate university applications were sent to Leeds, Edinburgh, Loughborough, Cardiff Met and NTU.

Apart from the fact that the university accommodation NTU had on offer made it a no brainer, the feeling I received while visiting NTU on a post-offer open day was extremely welcoming. I just knew deep down, walking around the campus and city centre that NTU was the right place for me. It’s hard to explain, but there was this positive intrinsic feeling I had and knew the place was for me.

The course I chose for my undergraduate degree, Fashion Marketing & Branding, was very attractive due to the various course trips, opportunities for creativity and entrepreneurial assignments.

When choosing my place of study for a masters, I looked no further than NTU due to the positive three years already spent at the university.

I also thought the course, Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship, sounded very intriguing and exactly what I wanted to do to take my business idea to the next level (which also happened to be my undergraduate dissertation).

What influenced you to pursue the MSc Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship programme?

I had completed my undergraduate degree with an innovative sharing economy start-up idea in the fashion industry and I wanted to turn this idea into a reality, and thought what better way to do that, than spending another 12 months working on it and developing the concept with people of a similar mind set?

(The real-life business consultancy opportunities, both in the UK and abroad, were also very attractive.)

What has your experience been like with the programme? What did you find especially valuable about your degree course?

My experience has overall been a positive one. I had not expected as many international students on the course, which was a pleasant surprise. I have spent the year not only developing my business but learning about new cultures and making contacts in 11 different countries!

There’s a debate that you can’t ‘teach’ entrepreneurship, which I agree with to a certain extent. It is definitely up to the individual to take what is on offer and apply it to their business whenever possible.

The most valuable aspects of the course to me were not only the facilities and access to the many trend forecasting and research databases through the library, but the constant help and support on offer from various lecturers and staff members.

It has also been very valuable spending the year with other entrepreneurial individuals who are able to give their opinions, thoughts and advice on your business idea. It has been great to spend time in a trusted atmosphere where you can bounce ideas off of one another.

What was your favourite class/module and why?

My favourite module was all about the supply chain. It’s odd to think, but I had never studied or really spent much time thinking about a company’s supply chain in much depth.

It was great to map out various supply chains and understand how products truly get to their end customers. It also highlighted to me how beneficial it is to be both agile and lean when operating a business.

What has been most challenging about studying MSc Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship? Is there anything you wish you had known ahead of time?

Something that was challenging when studying this course was the broad range of ideas and stages that individuals were at with their businesses and therefore expecting and needing different things out of the course.

Some individuals joined the course with no business idea, some had an idea that was very much an early stage start-up (such as myself), and others had been operating a business for a few years or were looking to expand/improve their family business.

Have you participated in any relevant internships? If so, where were they and can you tell us about your experience?

During my undergraduate degree in Fashion Marketing & Branding, I conducted an internship at The Corner London (an advertising agency) and enjoyed work experience at Ted Baker, Centaur and Claire Christian Couture, all of which were great opportunities.

My experiences were eye opening and it gave me a chance to use what I had learnt in a university classroom and put it to good use in a real-life work setting.

What are your future career plans and aspirations?

I have an ultimate aspiration of being an entrepreneur and starting multiple businesses.

My career plans as of now, include focusing on setting up my businesses, RHNT and DIRT, and brainstorming any other opportunities that come my way.

I love the idea of staying creative and working in a fast-paced industry where I can continue to develop and grow as an individual. But, if I were to get a ‘real’ job, it would be in marketing, PR or communications, with a back-up plan of taking a law conversion course and becoming a lawyer.

What do you think are the challenges that young entrepreneurs face?

Despite the struggle with limited capital and the funds needed to start a business, I think one of the major challenge’s young entrepreneurs face, is building the right connections and being told ‘you’re too young to know what you’re doing’ or not having any prior real-life business experience that some investors require to unlock the necessary funding.

What is the best piece of advice related to your field of study that you have received?

To remember that whatever you do, learn fast and don’t be afraid of failing. The winner always learns faster than the competition.

What advice would you give someone interested in MSc Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship or Nottingham Trent University?

If you’re interested in NTU—don’t be afraid to get involved in as much as you can. Definitely join a society or team sport and make the most of it, including team nights out to Ocean!

NTU is a great place, and there is so much to take advantage of. Something I wish I did more of, would be to make more use out of the trend forecasting and research databases on offer through the university library (sounds nerdy, but imagine finishing uni with an awesome business idea you could actually pursue!).

If you’re interested in the IME course—it’s completely up to you what you want to achieve and what you want to gain out of it. The effort you put in, the more you get out.

Do you have any favourite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in MSc Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship?

Some books that I have read during this last year that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in IME include: Range by David Epstein, Grit by Angela Duckworth and The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters. All of which have taught me invaluable things, and I wish I had read them sooner!

Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the Founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.