Student start-ups. Fuel for tomorrow’s economy – Jay Smith

Student start-ups. Fuel for tomorrow's economy - Jay Smith

Jay Smith (Performing Arts graduate)
Stage 8 –

Covid-19 has had a profound impact on our business and an impact we will no doubt continue to feel for some time after restrictions are lifted. Overnight our income completely stopped, and we knew we needed to do something to keep some income and retain clients. As soon as the lockdown was in place we had to adapt pretty quickly to a new normal for the business, as well as in our personal lives.

We decided to move classes online, this came with many challenges, insufficient tech knowledge, encouraging participation in a time of complete social confusion and transitioning our work from real life to online, that’s the hardest thing as so much of our work in theatre school relies on us working directly with children.

We have decided to run classes and workshops online, operating a pay as you like payment term which is working well, it’s keeping our students engaged and retained and that’s the most important thing. Opportunities have opened up, perhaps not super lucrative but we have definitely made changes to the business to continue to work in this climate and ultimately this time has given us the opportunity to do vital works in our spaces which we didn’t have time to before, upgrading our facilities gives us an improved space when we return and a more commercially attractive space too. It allows us time to work on our business model, update accounts and to do some much-needed admin. There has to be the odd positive right?

I’ve been employed before, I had a graduate job straight out of UWTSD, but I’ve always known deep down that I’m a square peg in a round hole, I’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit that is inside me. I find it difficult to conform to the restrictions of an employed job, especially if I can see there are ways of improving things that aren’t being explored. I wanted to be successful, that’s what’s always been my driving force in business, I wanted to be completely accountable for my own successes in life. It’s a hard road if you choose it, I’ve never known such a testing time as the times we are currently living through, but I know that with the right attitude and mentality my business can and will survive. I wanted to make my mark in the industry I work in and there’s no better way than to bring a service to market that you truly believe in and you put your whole life into.


Jay’s top tips:

  • Don’t be afraid firstly, whether that be of starting, running or failing at a business, I’ve failed more times than I care to admit but that’s part of the learning process.
  • Set goals and work diligently towards them.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others in business – trust me, this is the most toxic mindset to be in, you are on your own path and journey, just stick to it, look forward and don’t focus on others, know your market yes but don’t spend your time fixated on other businesses, it will kill your business.
  • Make connections everywhere you go – If you’re in Uni, that’s the best place to start. I made solid and meaningful connections whilst at University with staff, students, visiting dignitaries etc and I still call on those connections to this day, some 7 years after graduating and they still call on me. If you show yourself to be passionate, driven and a hard worker now it will serve you well in business.
  • Don’t be afraid – I have a quote I live by, ‘what’s the worst that’s going to happen? Will the birds fall out of the trees? No. Will the world stop spinning? No. Will someone die as a result of what I’m doing? No.’ If I can answer no to those things you know if it goes wrong, which sometimes it does, it’s really not going to be the end of the world. It helps me take calculated risks, which in business, you need to.
  • Have a good support network at home – this is key! Without my ridiculously supportive wife I would never have even started my businesses. You need people cheering for your team at home, you’ll find yourself working all hours, taking over the spare bedroom as your ‘first office’ and using your family members as sounding boards. You want them to be on board with your ambition, they don’t have to agree with everything you say and every idea, you want honesty, but it needs to come from a place of true support and love.

Watch the full video interview to Jay: