Mastering entrepreneurship: Translating side-projects into viable solutions

Entrepreneurship has taken a lead role in developing solutions to counter the effects of COVID-19.

By Geetha Bai 

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Dave Jarman is the postgraduate director of the one-year taught master’s programme at the Centre and Bristol Futures Theme Lead for Innovation and Enterprise across the wider university and Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the University of Bristol.

He is also a freelance innovation consultant, a social innovation charity trustee, and an expert adviser to the National Union of Students on enterprise and employability.

Jarman believes that while entrepreneurs are essentially individuals who act on solving problems, there are skills that will be useful for those who aspire to become entrepreneurs.

Any individual who wants to innovate and introduce new products and services to the market can develop entrepreneurial skills through formal undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications.

There are also programmes that can give the individuals hands-on and real-world experience, such as entrepreneurial boot camps.


The need for skills in entrepreneurship is critical to organisational success post COVID-19

The UN University reports that COVID-19 and its impact on the economy could push an estimated half a billion people into poverty.

This is a setback for global development progress and will particularly impact emerging economies.

Additionally, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) cautions that the steep decline in the ability to work and operate due to the pandemic is threatening the livelihoods of 1.6 billion workers, close to half of the global workforce.

The World Economic Forum has recently stressed on the need for entrepreneurship at a societal and global scale. Jarman echoes this need and defines an entrepreneur as “someone who does something different to create value.”

“Entrepreneurship value might be social, cultural, or economic, and the way in which they do something different might be incremental or radical, but the key is acting on an idea to create actual value rather than just talking about it,” he said.

All entrepreneurs start out with an aim to solve a problem by inventing and introducing a new product or service to meet a need or a market gap.

Evidently, entrepreneurship has become the forerunner in solving some of the problems faced as the world battled the recent pandemic.

“Entrepreneurship has taken a lead role in developing contact tracing apps, repurposing factories to manufacture ventilators and PPE, creating makeshift hospitals, and accelerating the search for a vaccine,” says the World Economic Forum.


In his day to day work, he designs and teaches academic units of study in entrepreneurship at the University of Bristol: These include two venture-creation units in which students create a new business venture from scratch.

He also teaches a pair of units for new undergraduate and postgraduate students which introduces key principles of collaborative and participatory design for value-creation.

“Those qualifications and several years of direct experience supporting young would-be entrepreneurs and freelancers ultimately helped me make the shift into teaching entrepreneurship. However, my academic centre is unusually practical in nature and values experience and passion over pure academic experience when hiring staff,” he says.

Jarman also tutors students and supports his colleagues by running the university’s one-year MSc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship programme. He believes that this programme offered by the university is a great way to explore a range of projects and build the skills for venture-creation.

Developing entrepreneurial skills

Jarman believes that while entrepreneurs are essentially individuals who act on solving problems, there are skills that will be useful for those who aspire to become entrepreneurs.

“There are technical skills, financial skills, and human skills to learn but the most important elements are a willingness to act, to fail, to learn, to try again, and to become comfortable being uncomfortable,” he said.

Jarman has also designed award-winning student-focused leadership development programmes. He has also delivered an entrepreneurship boot camp series.

Through his work with Basecamp support programme and Spark Bootcamp for entrepreneurs, he was a part of a team that provided inspiration, tools, and coaching for would-be entrepreneurs to work on their own ideas.

Dave Jarman
Dave is a former University Head of Enterprise & Employability and former Head of Enterprise Education at the University of Bristol.

These boot camps prepare individuals for entrepreneurship by applying a more hands-on approach and get to learn by doing.

Entrepreneurship boot camps focus less on teaching and more on curating an environment where students have the opportunity to build good connections and receive encouragement to share ideas and build teams.

He adds, “There is no substitute for experience, but you need to make that experience one where you can fail inexpensively and fast, and then get the chance to reflect on what you learned!”

He adds, “Lots of people who would not consider themselves to be entrepreneurs have a ‘side project’; a hobby or passion that has the potential to create real value. Side projects are a great way to explore an entrepreneurial idea part-time and see if it works for you – and for your potential customers.

A good side-project is something you love to do and will always find the time for, it should be something you’re at least quite good at already and can get better at, it should be something you want to do more of, and, if it’s actually going to be a venture, it has to find enough customers who will pay you enough to run it.”