From education to employment

How we went from graduating to conquering the business world

How we went from graduating to conquering the business world

Three graduates who went on to run their own successful businesses have said they would not be where they are today if it weren’t for the “invaluable” support of the University of Sunderland.

Constantin Cosmin Petcu (known as Cosmin), Heather Szucs and Ashleigh Carey graduated from the University at different times after studying different degrees, but they had one thing in common – a dream of running their own business.

Working with the University’s Marketing Hub, a facility that brings together students, businesses and marketing academics to work on real-life marketing projects, the three entrepreneurs have been able to further develop their businesses while helping current Sunderland students gain invaluable experience.

Cosmin, who graduated in 2016 with a Sports Science degree, owns and runs CETO Swim Training Group in Sunderland, providing swimming training, swimming coaching and swim video analysis in an endless pool, with the help of the underwater cameras.

Cosmin said:

“The knowledge and skills I gained during my time at the University have been instrumental in laying the groundwork for my current business venture.

“My degree provided me with a solid foundation in understanding human physiology, biomechanics, and exercise science, which are fundamental aspects of swimming and athletic training. These insights have been invaluable in shaping the services offered by my business. Furthermore, the supportive academic environment and the guidance of my professors fostered my entrepreneurial spirit and encouraged me to pursue my passion for swimming instruction and coaching.

“My journey is a testament to the transformative power of education and passion.”

After being approached by the Marketing Hub at a networking event, Cosmin returned to the University in January to work with business and marketing students at the hub to help his business thrive and grow even more.

Cosmin said:

“The students analysed my business and suggested ways to enhance its operations. I was really impressed with their work and the help they provided.”

Heather graduated with a degree in Primary Education in 2015. She began her career as a class teacher and then established, and led, a successful teaching business. She later progressed and became the founder of Ripple Education, an education supply agency providing high quality services to schools and teaching staff across the north-east.

Heather said:

“I attribute much of my success to my degree, which served as a springboard for my teaching career and subsequent ventures. My degree from the University of Sunderland not only equipped me with the necessary skills and knowledge but also instilled in me a deep commitment to education.

“Throughout my university years of balancing my studies and work commitments, I found unwavering support from my tutors, whose guidance and encouragement were greatly appreciated. In recent months, Ripple Education and I have continued to receive support from the University and the Marketing Hub.

 “Ripple Education continues to grow and thrive, fueled by our team of educators’ unwavering passion for education and the local community. We are extremely grateful for all the support we receive from all our champions here in the north-east.”

Ashleigh graduated in 2010 with a Business and Management degree before graduating with a Post Graduate Certificate (PG Cert) in Education and Training in 2013.

Like Cosmin, Ashleigh has also been working with the hub since January to progress her start-up business InspireOD, a County Durham-based business consultancy, specialising in coaching and organisational development solutions.

Ashleigh said:

“The education I gained from the University has helped immensely. Not only the Business and Management degree, which gave me the foundational knowledge on business ethics, industry knowledge and entrepreneurship, but my field of practice has been greatly shaped by my PG Cert and how I deliver and facilitate sessions with organisations that I partner with.”

Ashleigh added:

“I have recently taken up the opportunity to work with the University’s Business School and their marketing students, and as part of their degree they investigated my business as a new start-up, to offer some marketing and promotional guidance. It was a great experience to come back to the University to not only help the students, but for the University to also help me as I develop and progress my business.”

Now, graduates Cosmin, Heather and Ashleigh are hoping their journeys will inspire others to pursue their business ambitions.

Carol Stoker, Marketing Hub Manager and Lecturer in Professional Marketing at the University of Sunderland, said:

“It’s great to see all three graduates continue to flourish since graduating from the University all those years ago, and to still be working with them and supporting them today.

“Highlighting their achievements will serve as an inspiration to new and prospective students. It also demonstrates the continued support the University offers its students, their career aspirations, and local businesses, even after they have graduated. It was a privilege to welcome them to the Marketing Hub and we will continue to support them in any way we can”.

The Marketing Hub, which is based in the University’s Reg Vardy Centre at St Peter’s Campus, provides a range of business support services including audits, planning and strategy, communications, social media, digital opportunities, branding and consumer behaviour.

Through the Marketing Hub, businesses meet with student teams to identify potential areas of business development; the students then work together to create an improvement proposal for the business to implement. All student work is overseen by the University’s professional business and marketing academics, most of whom have many years of practical industry and commercial experience.

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