One of the leading causes culling the entrepreneurial spirit of students and graduates is access to start up funding.

And yet, British students – and those on a Graduate Entrepreneur visa – have more ‘Zuckerbergian’ ambitions than ever before, wanting to be CEO of their own company rather than starting at the bottom of someone else’s. In fact, it’s projected that 50,000 students a year start their own business in the UK – 15% before even graduating.

Unfortunately, this ready supply of graduate entrepreneurs is exceeding the readiness of some institutions and investors to support them. Not all universities have figured out how to help entrepreneurial students, and few have access to start up funding.

All is not lost, however! Reflecting the growing wave of graduate entrepreneurs are a number of innovative organisations offering financial support and expert advice. They believe that the big ideas coming out of universities could change the game within enterprise, and want to ensure age and access to funding is not a barrier to entrepreneurial spirit.

If you are in the process of launching your business, here are five of the best places to find start up funding as a graduate entrepreneur:
The Young Entrepreneur Award

This new award, which has been put together by The Formations Company, aims to help and support students who want to start their own business after university, rather than go straight into a traditional job or graduate scheme.

Launched at the start of July, applications are open to current students who have aspirations of starting their own company, and to those who have just graduated. The top five finalists will all have their company formed (not only will their business be registered with Companies House, but also they will have a company bank account set up, logo designed, business cards created and receive expert advice – good, eh?), whilst the overall winner will additionally receive £1,000 in start up funding to spend on developing their idea. And even if you don’t make the top five, you might still be offered a £5 company formation for proving your passion.

In order to apply for the award, all you have to do is fill in a short form outlining who you are and why you want to start your own business (hint: show how you would use the money should you win!). Applications will close at the end of the summer – so you have plenty of time to get creative (there’s another hint…) – and the five finalists will be featured on The Formations Company website and social media channels. In the last stage of the process, a short telephone interview will be conducted with each of the finalists to determine the winner.

There really is nothing to lose here, and everything to gain. So, what are you waiting for?

Catalyst Founders

Catalyst Founders is a new company that invests in innate entrepreneurial talent under the age of 24. They provide access to capital, a support structure, and a network to enable young would-be founders to achieve their entrepreneurial potential. They are looking to support the next generation of makers, creators and retailers, backing people who have a passion for their idea and a drive to build a large company.

Catalyst Founders take a generational view on investment, looking to support young entrepreneurs as they grow to an appropriate scale. They have no requirement to exit within a certain time frame, making them very different to many existing investors. Their intention is to back 50+ young founders over the next three years and, unlike other sources of investment and support, they are in it for the long haul: they look beyond monetary return towards mutually life-changing relationships.

This August, Catalyst Founders are also running their first ‘Summer Pitchfest’ – an opportunity for you to pitch your business to judges and investors and potentially win £500 funding (and a fast track invitation to a CF assessment day). Securing start up funding is not easy – and why should it be? – but joining a network like Catalyst Founders will turbo-charge your route to entrepreneurial success. Good luck!

The Deutsche Bank Awards for Creative Enterprise (DBACE)

Established in 1993, the DBACE has helped hundreds of arts graduates negotiate the challenges of enterprise and self-employment. In the last twenty-four years, over 177 businesses have been launched with the support of the programme.

Open to final year undergraduate and postgraduate students, and those who have graduated within one academic year, the DBACE is specifically targeted towards aspiring artists, designers and performers who intend to follow a freelance career, develop a specific project, or establish a business once they’ve graduated. Five winners receive £10,000 in start up funding and five runners up are awarded £1,000. All winners and runners up enjoy year-long business mentoring and enterprise training from Deutsche Bank.

Applications open in January of each year for all five categories: Art & Photography, Craft & Design, Film, Music, and Performance. The judges want to know that funding, mentoring and business training will make ‘the difference’ to your career – so be sure to show them what the support will mean to you and your project. Throughout the process, DBACE also offer business planning workshops, online resources, and one-to-one advice, so even if you don’t end up winning, you’ll still come away with valuable knowledge about how to progress your business.

Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards

The Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award is an annual business pitching competition for student and graduate entrepreneurs. Since its launch, Santander has given away more than £220,000 in start up funding, as well as invaluable mentoring and business support to promising small enterprises.

The great thing about this scheme is that it involves your university, too. The first stage of the process takes place internally, with Santander’s partner universities (check to see if your institution is eligible here) running their own competitions to find the best business ideas and start ups on campus. Each university submits their winners to Santander, who draw up a longlist of 20 (ten ideas and ten start ups). Business plans are then scrutinised by an external panel made up of academic leaders, successful entrepreneurs and former winners, who identify their top ten. These finalists make a 15-minute pitch to a live panel at Santander HQ, with a winner and runner-up being identified in each category (ideas and start ups). Prizes range from £15,000 to £1,000 funding, plus mentoring, brand consulting and website build/hosting.

The competition opens in February each year (which gives you plenty of time to hustle your university’s enterprise team to get behind you…).

Crowdfund Campus

Many of the most exciting businesses in recent years have been launched thanks to a new trend in enterprise: crowdfunding. No longer do entrepreneurs need to rely on banks and investors – who can be less willing to help young talent than seasoned tycoons – to get a project funded. Instead, they can open their idea out to the public and let them decide what it’s worth.

One of the best things about crowdfunding as a source of start up funding is that, unlike traditional sources of capital (who primarily look for a financial return), investors typically contribute towards a campaign because they believe in the purpose of the project. This means that not only do you get the investment required for your business, but also a real understanding of your audience and what they want from your service or product.

Here at Crowdfund Campus, we are proud to support all student and graduate entrepreneurs who want to validate their ideas and secure some start up funding. For advice on how to make the most of your budding business by taking advantage of our unique platform, please give us a call on +44 (0)7545 898120 or drop us a line at – we can’t wait to see what you’ll achieve!