Meet the Programme Director: Dr Stephen King

Dr Stephen King is Senior Lecturer in Information Management at Leeds University Business School. He is also Programme Director for the MSc Enterprise.

He shares a little about his background and interest in entrepreneurship, and what students can expect from studying on the programme.

Stephen King

Tell us about your background and interest in the area of enterprise?

I studied Computer Science at university and became a software engineer upon graduation. Whilst I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of programming, I also liked talking to people – and the latter was definitely missing from my role! I moved on to business analysis with the Rover Group, during which time I studied for a PhD part-time at Warwick University Business School. This made me appreciate the role of a good theory in illuminating our working lives. To ensure I could follow my passion for talking to people, I left Rover for a lectureship at Leeds and have been here ever since.

I’ve had the opportunity to take on a number of leadership roles here including Head of the Management Division, MBA Director, I also launched and lead our MSc Business Management in Germany. More recently I’ve joined the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies (CEES) to lead the MSc Enterprise.  

I have become increasingly interested in enterprise and entrepreneurship; I led the ‘New Venture Challenge’ on the MBA and also launched an online business. This made me consider what students can learn from academic theory, and also the crucial role of entrepreneurs in the learning journey. This Masters embodies exactly what I think is needed in terms of student learning about enterprise and entrepreneurship. 

What do you think is special about teaching in enterprise and entrepreneurship here at Leeds?

The MSc Enterprise aims to develop students’ ‘entrepreneurial mind-set’– a way of looking at the world that is creative, with the ability to see opportunities and understand how to exploit them. Around half of our students are interested in launching a new venture of their own, some have come from a family business, whilst others are looking to become an ‘intrapreneur’, which means they wish to find employment in a creative or business development role. The programme caters for students looking to achieve any of these three goals.

The programme has emerged from a true entrepreneurial spirit here at the University of Leeds, thanks to our highly active academic research centre (the CEES). This has made Leeds a major hub for entrepreneurship in the UK. In 2015 alone, we have won several national awards and honours in recognition of this, including the Times Higher Education Award for Entrepreneurial University of the Year, the Duke of York Award for University Entrepreneurship and a National Enterprise Educator Award.

We’ve also got excellent connections with the local, regional and national business community. Our students get to access a real network of successful entrepreneurs, which we call our Enterprise Ambassadors. They get involved in the MSc programme, regularly taking part in workshops and providing real-world projects, which helps to get a real working understanding of how to apply your theoretical knowledge in practice.

Tell us about the major areas of study within the MSc Enterprise and what students can expect from the course?

The programme combines the latest thinking and theory with lots of practice. For example, students create their own pop-up business to sell something and we also visit lots of small businesses and entrepreneurial firms to learn how they grow. Students also work on a seven-week group consultancy project for a local small-medium enterprise and get to know the founders and staff well (you can read about a student's own experience of this project). They then also spend the summer working on their own project, which can focus on either exploring opportunities for their own new business venture, developing a plan to grow their family business, or researching in-depth an area of interest to them as future employees or intrapreneurs.

Some examples of recent group consultancy projects include: ‘helping an ethical gifts retailer turn their sales performance around’; ‘undertaking a market and brand analysis for a luxury camping business’; ‘helping the UK’s leading online educational content provider to convert website visitors into sales’; and ‘researching the Jordanian and Indian market for a healthcare software company’. And so many more - our students are brimming with energy and ideas!

What opportunities does the course provide to learn from successful entrepreneurs and what value does this offer students?

Lots! We are supported by a group of about 20 local entrepreneurs from many different sectors including accounting, marketing, coffee shops, software, social media, HR, retail, recycling, social enterprise and more.

An exciting development for 2016 is the addition of a group of highly successful national and international entrepreneurs, who are committed to supporting our students. They will provide guest lectures, mentor students, host student projects and provide connections to influential people. We are constantly seeking to expand our network and to think of new ways of engaging the students with this network.

We have a part-time MSc Enterprise too, so our full time students have opportunities to work with and learn from the local entrepreneurs who are studying the part time programme alongside running their business.

How can the MSc Enterprise help students to research and develop ideas for their own business venture?

This is very much the focus of Semester 2 and the summer project. In Semester 1 students learn about ‘what makes a successful entrepreneur’. This lays the foundations for the more practical activities of Semester 2, when students are encouraged to research their intended market and sketch out a business that could prosper.

We introduce market research methods and students make use of our fantastic library resources, which puts the world’s market data at their fingertips. They gain important market insight and analyse the viability of their business idea. 

This leads on to the summer project, where students take their initial ideas much further and use our business networks to connect with the right people who will help to make their ideas fly.

Alongside this, the University of Leeds Careers Centre has an initiative called Spark, which works closely with students who wish to create a new venture. They provide advice on practical issues such as how to form a new company, appointing an accountant, marketing, intellectual property, sourcing suppliers and manufacturers, prototyping, etc. Spark runs various funding competitions where students can bid for money to help develop their ideas.  This service is available to our alumni too, for seven years after graduation.