Should you start a business at university?

By Rob Twells 2 years ago . 12 minute read

For those who don’t know, I started my business with my business partner Liam while still studying full time at University quite a few years back. I think most people doubted whether it would amount to anything – including myself – but that’s a story for another day! For my University course I had to take a year out working at a software company – it was here where I decided to start the business. One of the reasons I started was because I received terrible treatment at the company I was working for, the other was simply to pursue a passion.

Having an interest in design & digital marketing I began to take on work through my business outside of studying and the company I was working for. Within two months of working every hour outside of studying and working I could manage, I had more than my whole year’s salary at the software company secured in signed contracts. It became apparent to me that this was what I wanted to be doing. Many things crossed my mind, I even contemplated quitting University to pursue the business full time. Something I didn’t go through with thankfully!

For old times sake, here a photo of Frogspark’s second ever website!

Original Frogspark website design

The following two years while finishing my University degree, I worked tirelessly to make sure I was achieving in education and business at the same time. Those who have completed a University degree will know much work and stress is involved with that – without having paying customers to please for a business on the side! During those two years, myself and Liam never took a penny out of the business apart from to cover expenses for things such as meetings. There was no financial reward after those 80 hour working weeks. What drove us? The chance of being able to work for ourselves full time once we had graduated. Fortunately, when we graduated University, we were in a position to go full time. I’ve often looked back at the journey from attending Sheffield Hallam – learning Software Engineering – to launching my own design company.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have found our footing in the industry, thanks to a mix of careful planning and determination. That being said, starting a business is no small decision and the challenges should not be underestimated. For those of you who are at University and are contemplating starting a business, here is a rundown of my top reasons to take the first steps now:

Extra money

Many students would benefit considerably from a little bit of income on the side, just to help with bills or even buy that extra few pints at the pub! Why not start a business, start small and see how those small rewards can make a huge difference.

Learning opportunities

Many attend university to broaden our skills and learn how to reach the next level in a given area. If you’re starting a business in the same field as your university studies, the drive to provide quality to clients will keep you engaged at those long Monday morning lectures, and many things you learn will help with your business and overall ability. It’s a win-win!

Less risk

One of the most popular reasons people choose not to pursue their dream of going into business is understandably because of the risk involved. Who would want the risk of starting a business when they have a mortgage to pay or a family to support?

If you’re at University, the chances are that you don’t have those constraints and you have your whole life ahead of you. Making mistakes is a key part of business and while you’re at University, there is much more room for mistakes without your life crashing down around you.

Teaches you to prioritise

It’s hard enough when you have deadlines for multiple  projects, but throw in a contract or two for a client and you’ve got a lot to think about. Effective time management is a key skill in any career, so learning how to communicate and deliver quality will set you up for success further down the line.

Makes you more employable

Obviously if I ever have to actually use my degree and find another job, something has gone drastically wrong in my business career! But for those who want to increase their chances of impressing a potential employer, having had a small business during University can tell them a lot about you. Even if business isn’t something you feel you can do forever, showing a hiring manager that you are a self-starter and have the ability to create income off your own back will really make you stand out from the crowd. It’s those small additions to your CV that make the biggest difference.


All those reasons never stood out to me while I was studying and doing those gruelling working hours on the business. It’s only when I take a step back now that I realise starting the business at University was a great decision. Since then, I have my own home, I have bills to pay and other important things to think about. Would I be prepared to risk all of that to start a business now? Maybe – but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.

Going forward myself & Liam are working towards becoming the number one digital agency in the midlands. We’re going through a period of growth at the moment (as of July 2017) and we’re enjoying lots of new projects, team members and events. Below I’ll list some articles where you can more about the journey.

Should you start a business at university?

Interview with Paul Whyatt from the Derby Evening Telegraph about how we got started in business

Interview with my former University, Sheffield Hallam

Q&A with the East Midlands Business Link

Article by Marketing Derby on our growth

Another article by Marketing Derby on our growth

Article by East Midlands business news on our growth

Article by Krowd Source about our recruitment drive

To hear from a fellow business owner in Derby who also started their business during University, read this post by Ed of Driven Media how how to take the first step.

About Rob Twells

Managing Director, Frogspark Ltd

In 2012, I set up Frogspark whilst studying full time at University. Since going full time over two years ago, Frogspark has formed a fantastic team, worked with some great clients and is fast becoming one of the most widely known agencies in the local area.