“My body gave me a warning”
Being a student and entrepreneur at the same time is often associated with pressure. Especially when the company really starts to gain momentum. IT student Christoffer Hauthorn has personal and bodily experience of this in the form of long-term stress. But AU is now launching a new scheme that will make it easier to run a business while also studying.
Emplate is behind a marketing and communication platform that provides shopping centres with the opportunity to send customers relevant offers based on the customers' behaviour and activities in the centre. They have already sold the solution to shopping centres in Herning, Ballerup and Horsens, among others.
There is plenty of activity at IT company Emplate on the first floor in the Student Incubator Aarhus, even though the clock hand has only just passed nine in the morning. Three of the company's five partners are having a meeting, while the two others are sitting at their computers. All five of them are students at AU and started to work on the business idea for the company three years ago, while they were all studying on the Business Development Engineer degree programme at Aarhus University in Herning.
In June 2014, they officially launched the company, and since then it has gone from strength to strength, so they can today actually pay themselves a monthly salary, as well as pay five employees in addition to external developers and consultants.
Suffered from insomnia
The five partners have all moved from the Herning region to Aarhus and transferred to degree programmes at AU in Aarhus. One of them is 23-year-old Christoffer Hauthorn, who will complete his Bachelor of IT this summer. At the moment he is trying to make room in his life for both a full-time degree programme and entrepreneurship. Which is not easy.
"I try to divide my time fifty-fifty between studying and company. I spend 20-25 hours a week on my studies and with work here in the company I typically end up working a total of 50 hours each week," he says, and goes on to tell that the high pressure of work has had consequences in the form of long-term stress.
"My body gave me a warning. I couldn’t sleep at night," he says.
He has therefore also been forced to reduce his total working hours to 35-40 hours, so he can get the stress out of his body.
Lower marks than before
Christoffer has also had to compromise on his marks.
"I get lower marks than I did before, even though I use my resources on preparation. But it’ a consequence of not being able to go to all of the lectures and sometimes only having three days to prepare for an exam. I know it’s a question of prioritisation, but as a competitive person, it’s frustrating to go to an exam and perform worse than I know I’m capable of," he says.
Would put his studies on hold
Christoffer recognises that the warning he got from his body requires him to make a choice. And his prioritisation is pretty clear.
"If I had to choose one over the other, my degree programme would be the one that I dropped."
As far as he could see, the best solution was taking a year off between his Bachelor and Master.
"But it’s a question of whether you would actually return to studying after a year where you have moved out of your student housing, worked full-time and replaced your education grant with a salary," he says.
AU reaching out to student entrepreneurs
AU Entrepreneurs is a new dual-career scheme, which will make it possible for students to follow two career paths at the same time – degree programme and entrepreneurial business.
AU Entrepreneurs offers consultancy services, administrative assistance, personal support schemes and information about entrepreneurship support at AU.
The consultancy services can be found at Fredrik Nielsens Vej 5, building 1445, where it is located together with the Student Guidance Centre AU.
You can also meet an adviser from the Student Guidance Centre AU at the morning meetings held every second Wednesday in Studenterhus Aarhus and at the pit stop meetings in StartUp Factory at Navitas. The advisers also plan to visit Herning, but until then the students in Herning and Emdrup are welcome to contact the consultants by email to email@example.com or by calling (+45) 2883 9158.
Christoffer and other entrepreneurs at AU who find it difficult to combine both things are now receiving a helping hand from the university. AU has just launched a new scheme intended to make it easier for students to run a company concurrently with taking an education. The scheme is called AU Entrepreneurs and is inspired by the dual-career concept AU Elite Sport, which has helped students to combine their studies with a career as an elite athlete since it was introduced in 2011. Danish hurdler and Olympic medallist Sara Slott Petersen is one of those to have received help and advice from AU Elite Sport.
More than just a leisure activity
AU Entrepreneurs can help with advice, applications for exemption, postponement of exams, organising of study plans and study assistant schemes, where fellow students help by taking notes or recording lectures. The type of help depends on how far the students are with the company and, like AU Elite Sport, it is a case of help for students who are very ambitious with the career they are pursuing simultaneously with their studies.
“It has to be more than just a leisure activity. When it comes to elite sport, we say that they need to train for more than twenty hours a week. We’re looking for a similar level of commitment among the entrepreneurs," says Morten Mindegaard Munch, who is a consultant for AU Entrepreneurs and AU Elite Sport.
Having said that, he emphasises that students should not hesitate to contact him.
"We want to get involved as early as possible when the students begin to develop their start-ups, and certainly before they really become established."
AU has developed a point model to be able to assess how established the students' companies are. The model is based on four parameters: the company’s product, the company’s strengths, market interest and the student’s commitment. Munch explains that the model can be used to qualify the application when AU Entrepreneurs has to help a student apply for exemption.
"We help the students with documentation to attach to their application. One way in which we do this is on the basis of the point model, where we document that the company has the right level and that the students face specific challenges by him or her following two career path," he says.
No discount education
Christoffer Hauthorn is among the first to be covered by AU's new entrepreneur scheme. He hopes that AU Entrepreneurs can help him with obtaining exemption so he can make do with taking 20 ECTS rather than the compulsory 30 ECTS per semester, when he begins his Master’s degree this summer. In this way he will have better time to both follow his studies and run the company.
Munch emphasises that the students must themselves make the application, and do so through the same bodies as all other students.
"As with all other cases to do with exemptions, the board of studies will make the decision. We don’t rubber stamp anything, and neither do we advocate for the students. But we help to quality assure the application so that it’s hopefully granted."
There is also no question of the students who are covered by the scheme facing fewer requirements or ending up with a worse education.
"They’re not going to get a discount education, but they should get an education with maximum flexibility."
The alternative was to say goodbye to AU
Christoffer is pleased to be covered by the scheme now, so that he hopefully will not need to put his studies on hold, and he hopes that he will succeed in getting his exemption.
"The alternative was having to say goodbye to AU," he says.
Translated by Peter Lambourne