Name: Nick Hartshorn
Course: Physical Education
Theta Alpha Sigma. Ethically made, sustainable, environmentally friendly designer t-shirts, with each t-shirt contributing to education in the developing world.
Tell us more about Theta Alpha Sigma
At Theta Alpha Sigma, we provide high quality long sleeve T-shirts with an inspired difference; each of our premium T-shirts aids the education of an orphaned child in the town of Kumbo, Cameroon. Although universal access to education is generally taken for granted in more affluent societies, many areas are not so fortunate. At Theta Alpha Sigma, we believe broadening access to education in the developing world is the key to sustainable economic and social development. As such, each of our ethically made climate-neutral T-shirt’s buys a child their own school bag and equipment. Our ability to make customers feel proud of the difference their individual purchase has made, whilst acquiring a stylish piece of apparel, makes our brand unrivalled.
People often disregard the difference one action can make. Each of our products make a significant environmental and social difference. One singular T-shirt's Carbon Footprint saves 7kg of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere; as well as providing a child in the developing world with a school bag and equipment. All items are produced in accordance with the Fair Wear Foundation, ensuring fair wages and a safe and healthy work environment for all those involved in our T-shirts production.
How did UEA Student Enterprise help you?
UEA Enterprise has helped us considerably. Providing us with structured guidance from a very early stage in the business's formulation. To then developing our contacts and links in our market and giving us the financial backing we needed to make the ideas happen.
What worries did you have while setting up your business, and how did you overcome them?
One of the main worries while setting up Theta Alpha Sigma as a business was whether or not we would be able to make a difference with our efforts. Starting a business takes a lot of personal time and effort and in the start it is often for little reward. However, with the support from friends, family as well as guidance from the UEA Enterprise team we were always encouraged along. One of the key's to progressing is to set lots of achievable targets. Be it establishing your own email domain, to selling your first product, each achievement feels great and spurs you on to complete the next.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business rather than look for work elsewhere?
I started the business with Fabio Falter a best friend and team mate. Fabio graduated from UEA last year with a degree in International Development. Having sought inspiration from Fabio's trip to Cameroon where he worked with SEREP NGO helping to build and teach in the school we now support. We decided we wanted to continue to make a difference and find a way to continue to support Kumbo's community. Having pondered various ideas we both felt most attached to the Theta Alpha Sigma idea and haven't looked back since.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to become a successful entrepreneur?
Organisation, resilience and an anything is possible attitude.
What motivates you?
Knowing the incredible difference that each of our products makes, combined with the ownership and drive to further what we have begun.
How do you define success?
Where did your funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? Was UEA part of this?
Originally Fabio and I funded some trial orders of stock to gauge interest and develop a product we were really proud of. We then applied to UEA's "Try It" funding application and received £500 upon acceptance of our application which provided the majority of our capital.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The most satisfying moment for me so far is without a doubt the first email and pictures we received from Fred (our contact in Cameroon) as he thanked us for our donations and sent pictures of the children with their new school bags and equipment.
What piece of advice would you give to university students who want to become entrepreneurs?
Once you have an idea you believe in, go for it.