Graduate part of scheme to inspire and help budding student entrepreneurs

Posted on Sunday, April 28 2013

Guy Watts

A Bournemouth University graduate who set up a charity which helps unemployed young people gain experience is now part of a project encouraging students to start up their own businesses.

Guy Watts, who graduated from a BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance degree at BU in 2005, founded Streetscape – a charity which provides unemployed 18-25 year olds apprenticeships in landscape gardening.

He is now encouraging other students and graduates to think about setting up their own businesses, through the Start-up: A Story scheme, run by University Alliance to celebrate and support graduates who are turning their business ideas into reality.

Guy, 29, said: “As soon as I heard about Start-up: A Story, I jumped at it straight away because it is based around the young group like those that we are helping.

“I am particularly passionate about young entrepreneurs and people setting up their own businesses. I think they are the future of the country.”

Guy came up with the idea for Streetscape in 2009, while taking part in a world record attempt to row across the Indian Ocean.

“I spent 102 days at sea. I had a lot of time on my hands and came up with the basic idea,” he said.

“I’m very passionate about landscape gardening – I was self-taught and loved it and I could see the values that you learn from it.

“It is very hard work, but there is something really tangible about it, which is very positive mentally for people doing it. It struck me as something that would be great for someone who had been out of work for a while.”

With friend James Gubb, who Guy knew from their hometown of Horsham, they set about establishing Streetscape, which became a registered charity in 2011.

Based in South London, it offers year-long apprenticeships in landscape gardening, alongside teaching other skills and qualifications participants may need, such as maths and how to search for jobs.

The apprentices work to design, landscape and maintain gardens and community spaces, and gain NVQ diplomas at the end.

“Everyone told us it wouldn’t work, because we were charging for our services, which was unheard of,” said Guy, who lives in South London.

“But we knew that our passions are getting people into work and providing a high quality service, and we knew those two things together would lead to success, and they have done.”

He added that his time at BU and the things that he learnt on his course had helped.

“I understand the basic principles of business from my course,” he said.

“There was a unit I did about small businesses that I really enjoyed as it was very practical. I use the skills that I learnt in all of the things that I have done.

“Our logo was designed by one of my friends from BU, so I don’t think it is always just about the course. The group of friends that I made helped and supported us through the difficult times when we were starting out.”

His advice to budding entrepreneurs includes finding a good business partner and not being afraid to fail.

“Failing doesn’t really worry us, as it can make you improve what you do,” he said.

“James and I work incredibly well together – we are very close but very different, and have very different skillsets so we challenge each other to do things differently. It is really important to have that support.

“Also, have a mentor – make sure that you quickly find someone who you look up to or aspire to and can give you advice in certain areas.”

Streetscape website

Find out more about Start Up: A Story here