Hacks, University of Hertfordshire

Entrepreneurial taster session at University of Herts


The University of Hertfordshire‘s new College Lane development provides housing for 3000 students. It’s a finalist in the annual Student Accommodation Awards. But there is not yet an out of hours catering service on site. The University is keen to give its graduate entrepreneurs the chance to exploit this opportunity by offering a 3-year franchise plus a £50k mobile catering van to the successful applicant.

That’s a big commitment; both by the University and the franchisee. Silicon Abbey, working with the University’s Enterprise Team, ran a session on Saturday to help teams prepare.

We were enormously impressed by the quality of the participants; everyone had a real passion for business, were clear about what they wanted to offer, how they would develop the business and, as importantly, under no illusions about the complexity and hard graft of running a successful catering business. I left feeling torn between sadness that only one opportunity was on offer and confident that such a talented group of individuals will be fine, whether or not they secure this opportunity.

My other reflections on the day were:

  • although you can Google loads of business plan templates (Livewire, Princes Trust…) that’s never the same as discussing it with an expert;
  • in a situation where the franchise parameters are tightly drawn; the University knows what it wants and students’ out of hours diets are pretty predictable too, getting across your personal credentials is even more important. The candidate who best communicates their potential and passion is likely to come out on top, and;
  • finally, especially on a Saturday, our decision to allow teams to use the time to work on their ideas and get our messages across in one-to-one discussions worked well. It saved time and allowed us to individually tailor our advice.

As ever, it was great to work with the University and its talented graduates. Looking forward to the next (tasting) session!

Feedback from participants:

“The thought processes you have begun as well as the insights and advice you gave us today were incredible. Today was a great experience and I’m genuinely excited to explore this venture.”


“A really fantastic day. I liked that it was a workshop format which encouraged us to get stuck in and have a go in a supportive environment.”


“A very relaxed feel to the day yet we were covering important topics. Spending time with each of the mentors provided different ideas and viewpoints on my idea which proved hugely helpful.”



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