Mathew Brace graduated from the BA (Hons) Business and Human Resource Management (Top Up) with First Class Honours following completion of the HND Business Studies. He set up his own company, Unifi, while studying the course.
Following completion of the HND Business Studies, I realised my career ambition was to become an entrepreneur. I set up my own company in partnership with Elina Unterweger and course mate Videet Mardania. Having taken the leap and setting up a company, I wasn’t sure whether to progress to the Top Up course since I wanted the new company to be my main focus. My family and friends however, convinced me that the knowledge I would gain on the course would be instrumental in ensuring the success of the business and therefore I knew it was something I needed to do.
Unifi is a unified software solution for student support departments at universities that allows students to interact with support services through an App on their mobile devices. We found that lack of awareness and the stigma attached to seeking help are common barriers that prevent many students from engaging with support services at university. I could relate to this myself - since having dyslexia I often could have benefitted from the academic support available at USW. Something was needed to help break down the barriers - encouraging students to take the first step in addressing any concern, whether it be academic or social. Even though there is a wealth of support services at the University, Unifi allows students to decide when, where and how they interact with those services.
Over the last year, we have received support from multiple USW departments that have helped us to bring a business from concept, to reality. Early in the endeavour, we took part in a week-long Freelancer’s Academy organised by the USW enterprise team. This week provided us with the knowledge, inspiration and confidence to proceed with our plans, and crucially allowed us to network with established Welsh entrepreneurs, many of which we still contact for regular business advice.
Even the most developed idea needs capital to get started, and USW provided us with multiple opportunities to get the ball rolling. We pitched three times for seed funding at the USW ‘Bright Ideas Den’ events (also organised by the enterprise team) and received a grant from the Business School to develop a prototype of Unifi. In addition we have received mentoring from multiple academic lectures, ongoing support from the USW Business Exchange and free legal advice from the University’s Legal Advice Clinic. This network of support has been really useful in helping us to identify the direction we wanted to take with regards to the business.
I chose to study BA (Hons) Business with Human Resource Management, as I felt the course content would help me to manage and understand people in a way which will help drive the success of Unifi. I can now apply what I learned to a start-up situation. It has broadened my horizons and has taught me to think critically. I no longer assume that my views are correct and I am much more open-minded.
Even though it was challenging studying and starting up the business, the journey I have been on has been invaluable. I have already achieved more than I could have hoped to before starting university. I never expected to graduate with the results I have or even considered leaving as co-owner of a company. I consider myself an example of how the University of South Wales invests in the success of its students - helping to shape our future careers.