It’s an exciting time to be a Macquarie student, say Joseph Park and Divij Mehra from the Asia-Pacific Student Entrepreneurship Society (ASES). They have just launched a new entrepreneurial space on campus called The Garage. But that’s just the beginning, and they want Macquarie staff along for the ride.
What are you studying at Macquarie and where are you hoping it will lead you?
We have both been studying a Bachelor of Applied Finance & Bachelor of Commerce Professional Accounting (I know…what a mouthful!) since 2011. We knew each other from back in high school, but didn’t really talk to each other back then haha! By being part of the journey at Macquarie, we have had the chance to meet some amazing people and be part of some really cool experiences which have led to where we are now. We hope to be able to build from here and begin our very own start-up in the coming year or so – stay tuned!
Tell me a bit about how The Garage came about.
Let’s take this back a couple of years to give it some context. In 2013, we both participated in a PACE unit called the Deloitte FastTrack Innovation Challenge. That’s where it really all started – curiosity and wonder of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. This little fire was lit further when we ventured outside of Australia and entered the land famous for its creation of Lego and Danishes, for exchange. The education system in Denmark really promotes entrepreneurship so heavily that it is almost a norm to have been exposed to it sooner or later. Since then, it’s all been about getting inspired and motivated and believing that we too could make something, something valuable and meaningful.
At the start of this year, we set our minds to turn a few of our ideas into reality. We wanted to meet more people in this ‘area’ within Macquarie. We wanted to learn from their experiences, hear about the mistakes they made, exchange ideas, collaborate and work on ideas together - but to our surprise, there was no place to do that at Macquarie! And that’s where we thought, “Damn, I am sure if we are stuck in such a position, surely there have been others who have been here too!”. So we did something about it and started ‘Project ASES’, a society aimed at students who are interested in all aspects of entrepreneurship. We kept on bumping into small pockets of students who were so excited to see something like this exist, and that’s when we knew we were on to something. It needed to be done!
From there, ASES reached out to people all around the university including the Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellors, Unit Conveners, Learning and Teaching staff and others. We wanted to gauge the University’s interest in entrepreneurship and how much they were willing to support students. Surprisingly, overwhelming support came from everywhere, and continues to this day. One way was through dedicating ‘The Garage’, a space where students and teams get together and work on ideas. We believe there is somewhat of a movement around campus and for us Macquarie students, it’s an exciting time!
Why do you think it’s important to have the support of the University for an initiative like this?
Universities have two essential elements: students and staff. Therefore, to truly create an entrepreneurial movement, culture, and community at Macquarie, we need to have both students and staff involved and engaged in entrepreneurship. How awesome would that be? The level of entrepreneurial activity itself would be hugely beneficial, as it provides fertile grounds for big ideas to grow and develop! Such an ecosystem is critical for this movement to really have a significant and sustainable impact. We definitely hope to work closely with the University not only to make entrepreneurship a bigger focus, but to make it one of Macquarie’s key strengths!
How can individual Macquarie staff support student entrepreneurs?
It can be as simple as giving feedback on students’ ideas, mentorship opportunities, or even connecting students with the right people when needed. And the good ol’, word of mouth - we want as many staff as possible to spread the word. We want more and more students to be working on projects and ideas and to think of entrepreneurship as one of the key takeaways on finishing a degree at Macquarie. To be able to create that culture on campus, we need staff to be willing to encourage and support in any way they can.
Another opportunity to support students will be to contribute seed funding, via our Accelerator program (currently in the planning stages). This will be used to help students cover the costs of a startup while getting started, to the point where they have built a product that is ready to receive larger funding and take their ideas to the next level.
However, we don’t just want Macquarie staff to support students. We want you guys to be a part of the journey! Entrepreneurs can be described in many ways, and do have certain traits, but they are certainly not limited or defined by their age. Sure, having “time” on your side might help, but having expertise and experience help too. So, if you want to embrace your inner entrepreneur, we welcome you!
To learn more on how to help out or participate, please register as a member on the ASES MQ website: www.asesmq.com.au