How can international students set up their own business in the UK?

As an international student studying abroad, starting your own business doesn’t have to be a pipedream as there are several support networks and routes such as the Start-Up Visa to help you along the way. We don’t deny that being a business owner can be difficult but don’t let your international status prevent you from exploring a great idea. To register a business, students need to find endorsement to apply for the Start-Up Visa and the best place to start is by discussing this with your institution who may be able to help. It’s important to remember that while international students in the UK cannot be self-employed or undertaking business activity while holding a student visa, students are well placed to start their ideas while at university as this allows for research, creating a business plan and starting to engage with customers and investors.

One of the other benefits to starting your journey while at university is the support from your institution. Most universities will have resources, contacts and facilities to help facilitate your ideas. Find out if there is an enterprise team you can discuss your ideas with and see if this fills a gap in the market. We often talk about the great resources provided by universities where international students can gain help and advice for free while studying, and the enterprise team certainly provide this support for students.

Neha’s story

We spoke to UWE alumni and founder of Walk to Beat Neha Chaudhry for her experience as a former international student. Neha has a Bachelors degree in Product Design and Technology and a Master of Science in Marketing from UWE, Bristol and shared that “walk to beat was an idea that emerged from a product design degree and UWE helped bring it to life.” Walk to Beat designs smart assisted living products to empower the aging population and their first product is a smart walking stick.

Neha engaged with the services available from UWE’s enterprise team and expressed that UWE supported her from the beginning stages of exploring start-up grants and helped convert her student visa to a graduate entrepreneurship visa. They went on to provide her with an office space, workshops, facilities and 3D printing machines to get her started with her business ideas.

Neha shared that she “had support from expert mentors who had experience of their own businesses and also hands-on experience with overlooking other start-ups which was really useful, because they took us on a journey and they provided guidance with business plans, supporting and shaping our vision and also the execution. Most importantly, UWE provided us with a platform to interact with the industry which is difficult as a start-up. For example, I presented at the Bristol distinguished series which is where I met my first investor”. Neha’s success goes to show a pathway which can be used by international students to make the most of the support available while studying. She concluded that “If I were to give one piece of advice from my experience, and the most important thing I’ve learnt from this journey is persistence. Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of patience, patience and persistence. Keep going, believe in your idea because if you don’t, no one else is going to believe in you, and eventually you begin to see some light”

How to find support

If you’re currently studying and have an idea you’d like to start a business with, get in touch with the enterprise team at your institution. They have expert knowledge, contacts and facilities to help and will be able to support you while changing your Student Visa to a Start-Up Visa. You’ll need to be endorsed by a UK recognised body. This endorsement can be from a UK Department for International Trade or a Higher Education Institution, which means UK Universities are authorised to endorse students. For more news, global jobs and advice for international students register for GradLink for free access to our services or follow us on social media for the latest tips and vacancies.

By Jen Garmston Published: Mar 03,2021