Since its creation 15 years ago, Bright Red Triangle, Edinburgh Napier’s hub for innovation and enterprise practice, has supported students, staff and alumni as they embark on their entrepreneurial adventures. This support is being accessed more than ever as the ENU community look to make opportunities for themselves in this Covid-19-affected job market.

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Bright Red Triangle (BRT) offer free business advice, office spaces to work from and access to university facilities, entrepreneurial events, workshops and competitions. All this support is accessible to Edinburgh Napier’s students, staff and alumni thinking of setting up a business, going freelance or growing an existing business.   

There are currently 600 people registered with BRT and over 200 businesses are currently trading. 

The Bright Red Triangle TeamNick Fannin, Head of Bright Red Triangle, says, “Starting a business or a side hustle can be a game changer for people struggling with employment in the current economic climate. Our students and alumni are already starting to recognise this and we have seen a spike in the numbers of new businesses registered with our incubators. Between August 2019 and July 2020, we saw 174 new student and alumni registrations and supported 71 new businesses. This was a 30% increase on the 55 start-ups from last year. The really interesting part is that the majority of these registrations and starts came post-lockdown.” 

Edinburgh Napier has recorded the 2nd highest total of student and graduate start-ups of the 19 Scottish Higher Education institutions. According to figures taken from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), for the period 2016-19, Edinburgh Napier had 157 start-ups, just behind the University of Edinburgh (160) and significantly ahead of Glasgow Caledonian University (68) and the University of Strathclyde (67). This equates to 27% of the student and graduate start-ups reported by Scottish HE institutions. 

Lead the JourneyOne of these recent start-ups is Journey, a new fitness app launching in the near future. It was founded by BA Marketing Management student Aaron Reid who is now in the second year of his studies. 

Aaron utilised BRT’s services, including taking part in their Summer Accelerator programme - which was generously supported by Santander Universities - and was selected as one of ten representatives from BRT to take part in the Academic Programme for Entrepreneurship (APE) Bootcamp in Munich, Germany.  

He says, “The Bright Red Triangle start-up incubator led me to fully realise the Journey concept. If I hadn't attended Nick Fannin’s guest lecture, I would have never been able to attend my amazing trip to the Ape Bootcamp in Munich and I would never have been aware of the true potential we can all have as humans to impact the world. BRT didn’t just help me discover ‘Journey’ they helped me discover my life purpose. 

“The most difficult area in starting up was building a team. I felt scared, vulnerable and nervous. BRT helped aid my selection and my filter mechanism for choosing each team member.” 

Nick Fannin and the BRT team have been key drivers in the development of an innovative and enterprising community at Edinburgh Napier University. He says, “Given it is 15 years since we opened our first incubator space, we spoke to a random sample of 15 businesses and social enterprises from early-stage start-ups to some of our longer established entrepreneurs and asked them how they had been getting on over the last year. The results were pretty encouraging despite these challenging times. These 15 businesses employ 55.5 full time staff but also provide work for a further 83 freelancers or sub-contractors. Combined turnover for these businesses was £2.25 million. They had also leveraged investment of a combined total of £1.26 million.” 

Sustainably's co founders sitting with Richard BransonIncluded in these figures is Sustainably, an app that lets the user round up their shopping to the nearest £1 and donate the spare change to the causes they care about.  

This was founded by mother/daughter duo Loral and Eishel. Loral Quinn, BA Communication Studies 1994, says, “The inspiration for Sustainably was a mix of Tom’s Shoes (when you buy something you do something good), Acorns Investing (which rounded up your spare change to your investment portfolio) and Pokemon Go (gamifying within reality) but we wanted to create tech that did good.  I come from a line of strong women with my mother as a force of nature and I think I am too, and Eishel is exactly the same. 

“I first heard about BRT at the Startup Summit and that really gave me the push to incorporate the business as I could have a registered address, which was exactly what I needed at that moment.  It felt like a real tangible thing to do, and we met lots of other entrepreneurs and attended meetups.” 

What advice would Loral give to any budding entrepreneurs?  

“Remember to celebrate each success no matter how small you achieve and mark them meaningfully.  There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being a co-founder so I find it really helpful to connect with likeminded people across the entrepreneurial community. Nobody understands it better than they do.  And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.” 

It’s not just registered BRT members who benefit from the Hub’s knowledge and services.  

Nick Fannin says, “We have designed the content for the Business School’s new Employability Skills Programme which launched this September and is compulsory for all undergraduates. Students are required to work in teams where they will develop and pitch ideas aimed at tackling global challenges. This year’s theme is Gender Equality. 

“We have also worked in collaboration with the Business School to instigate and facilitate a series of symposia focused on Social Investment and post-covid recovery for Social Enterprise. This has been running regularly since early in lockdown and involves high-level contributions from leaders from across the Scottish entrepreneurial community. The symposia have led to a number of work streams involving potentially impactful research.  

“Finally, BRT have been invited by the Edinburgh Business Gateway Partnership to participate in a working group focused on the Edinburgh Guarantee and support for people caught up in the expected wave of unemployment in the new year.” 

Learn more about Bright Red Triangle at their website.