Robert Lundgren Jones is a second year student at Northumbria University in Newcastle. In November he attended the IOEE’s Celebrating Enterprise Awards in the House of Lords as a nominee in the category of Enterprising Learner of the Year. Although the ambitious student didn’t win the title this year, he’s certainly enjoying impressive success as a young entrepreneur.
Growing up in rugged Northumberland, 19-year-old Robert had planned to study Business Management and Economics at Durham University. However, having attended Northumbria University’s open day, he says a different kind of future began to appeal:
“In school I was quite academic but I had always been inspired by people who had set up their own businesses, including my Dad who’s an independent oil industry consultant. When I attended the Open Day, I fell in love with the course. The programme provides opportunities for students and lets you work in your own way. It’s very interactive and team-based but it also encourages independent thinking, which is what you need to set up your business.”
Northumbria University’s Entrepreneurial Business Management Programme does indeed present its students with a wide-ranging number of opportunities invaluable to those keen to fulfil their entrepreneurial potential. From providing great contacts and setting up networking events to enlisting coaches to inspire students one-on-one, the university does all it can to enable entrepreneurial activity. The taught and theoretical elements of the course are also very strong and specifically designed to work in tandem with the more practical learning, as Robert explains:
“The academic element of the course is integrated with students’ business activity. Over each year we study four modules. Two of these focus very much on your own entrepreneurial activity, covering topics like business growth, marketing and finance. Meanwhile the other two modules are reflective, looking, for example, at how you’re improving personally as a future business owner or manager.”
It’s clear from how he speaks about the programme that Robert has really embraced both sides and taken his learnings directly to his own enterprise – Lundgren Tours. Joining the course in September 2015 with no solid business idea yet in place, Robert came up with the notion of a touring company when he interviewed a Northumbrian holiday cottage owner as part of his course. He recalls:
“She said that although business was going reasonably well, the people staying in her cottages were sometimes a little isolated because Northumberland is very rural and the transport links aren’t the greatest – unless you have a car it can be inaccessible. I had also read articles in local publications in which cottage owners wished there were tours to offers residents.”
Spotting a gap in the market, and realising how much he would enjoy sharing his beautiful home county with visitors, Robert decided to set up a coach touring business. Initially the young student undertook every element of the business’s operations – coordinating and organising the tours, sales & marketing, payments & admin as well as being a tour guide. However, he soon learned that this approach was unsustainable and adapted his business model to make his workload more viable as a long-term commitment.
“Currently, I have one business model with two income streams. One of these is coordinating bespoke tours for societies, schools and corporate events. The second income stream comes from businesses, monuments and attractions in Northumberland that hire me to be a tour guide, without the coach. I promote their interests as a stand-alone tour guide.”
This capacity to work flexibly and respond to market demand and opportunities marks Robert out as a true entrepreneur – a fact his tutors have been quick to spot. Natalia Blagburn, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Newcastle Business School nominated Robert for the IOEE Celebrating Enterprise Award. We asked her what had made Robert stand out to her. She said:
“Robert simply has an unquenchable thirst for learning, this really makes him stand out as entrepreneurial student. From the start, he embraced every opportunity offered by our Entrepreneurial Business Management programme to fulfil his entrepreneurial potential. Although Lundgren Tours is still in the early days, the company and its founder have already earned credibility and track record amongst Northumberland’s well-established firms in the travel industry. We are very proud of Robert’s achievements and we wish him every success with his venture and his studies.”
So, how does Robert himself feel about the nomination? He says:
“It was amazing to be quite honest. When I heard that Natalia had nominated me it was completely out of the blue. She had come on one of my tours and seen how hard I had worked but I was really surprised. To even be recognised as a nominee in this category by the IOEE was fantastic.”
In fact, this nomination is just the start for Robert, who told us a little about his entrepreneurial plans for the future:
“Because I enjoy running Lundgren Tours so much, I have decided to go for it full-time alongside studying, as well as after graduation. For the next year I will build up a portfolio of trips I can offer creating a lower risk, more profitable business model. My ultimate aim is to become a tour coordinator operating behind the scenes and training & employing tour guides to deliver the tours themselves.”