NEWS8 April 2024

SETsquared Surrey and Student Enterprise empower female entrepreneurs

We are fuelling our female entrepreneurs, empowering women to thrive in the dynamic world of business.

Some people dream of success while others get up every morning and make it happen. For many, the seed of a business idea takes root amidst the juggling act of academic studies and various other commitments.

At the University of Surrey, the Student Enterprise stands as a pillar of support for students, offering practical guidance and resources to those with entrepreneurial aspirations – whether it’s developing enterprise skills, creating a social enterprise or launching a scalable start-up.

Within the Surrey Student Enterprise program, two remarkable female entrepreneurs, Dr Abi Weaver and Dr Marie-Claire O’Kane, are charting their paths to success with their respective ventures, Socially Responsible Content and Beyond Consulting. Recently welcomed into SETsquared Surrey’s residential membership, selected and funded by the Student Enterprise, these two ambitious start-ups aim to leverage the comprehensive support provided by the incubator to propel their businesses forward.

Dr Abi Weaver, the founder of Socially Responsible Content (SRC), is on a mission to redefine the way charities and companies engage with marginalised communities through ethical storytelling practices. With a focus on elevating hard-to-reach communities, this not-for-profit media agency collaborates with NGOs and corporations to create participatory content that respects the dignity and autonomy of its beneficiaries; content that is transformative, ethical, transparent and places the community at the centre of storytelling.

Abi’s journey is characterised by resilience and determination. Despite facing challenges such as completing a PhD while raising a young child and navigating the complexities of entrepreneurship as a woman from a blue-collar background, Abi found solace and support in the Surrey Student Enterprise community. Through the Foundership program, funded by Future Generation, Santander Universities and the University of Surrey, she gained access to vital resources and mentorship, accelerating SRC’s journey to market and reinforcing her belief in the strength of her vulnerabilities. She is currently working on a UKRI commercialisation grant that will further develop SRC’s offering and business plan.

Similarly, Marie-Claire O’Kane’s entrepreneurial journey with Beyond Consulting is fuelled by a passion for driving organisational change and fostering individual and team growth. Drawing on her background in consulting and academia, Marie-Claire combines her expertise in business transformation with insights from psychology to empower teams and organisations to reach their full potential.

Marie-Claire spent a decade working her way up the corporate ladder with Ernst & Young, one of the largest professional services networks in the world, where she focused on advising financial services clients on business transformation and change management. However, due to challenges balancing work and family life, she transitioned into academia, pursuing psychology and ultimately completing a PhD.

The launch of Beyond Consulting represents a culmination of Marie-Claire’s professional experiences and aspirations. With plans to develop a digital app to complement her consulting services, providing insights into team dynamics and facilitating ongoing improvement, she envisions a future where sustainable behavioural change becomes the cornerstone of organisational success.

Abi and Marie-Claire attribute much of their progress and accomplishments to the supportive ecosystem cultivated by the Surrey Student Enterprise. While they acknowledge that it’s still early days, the pair emphasise the crucial role that SETsquared Surrey’s support has played and will continue to play – from securing funding for their ventures to tapping into invaluable mentorship and networking opportunities.

Since joining SETsquared Surrey, Marie-Claire emphasizes the psychological reassurance from having a supportive team, highlighting isolation and analysis paralysis. She praises Surrey’s masterclasses, networking sessions, and access to local business services for counselling and legal advice.

Crucially, Marie-Claire highlights the tailored support received from an assigned business advisor, which fosters a strong sense of accountability and progress. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be matched with a mentor, recognising the potential for a beneficial long-term relationship that will support the growth of my business,” she explains. “I’m hopeful about the prospect of securing investment, which is one of the reasons I joined the incubator program. I believe SETsquared Surrey has the necessary resources to assist with this when the timing aligns.”

Looking ahead, both Marie-Claire and Abi have their sights set on business growth and impact. Abi aims to expand SRC’s reach and influence, leveraging insights from ongoing projects with NGOs and corporations to drive positive social change.

Meanwhile, Marie-Claire will actively refine her offerings and establishes Beyond Consulting as a leader in team development during organisational change.

With SETsquared Surrey these female entrepreneurs , these two dynamic start-ups are poised to shine brightly in 2024 and into the future.