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2 April 2010

Burger van experience led to law graduate owning successful catering business

A University of Dundee graduate, who saw his dreams of a career in law suffer a recession-linked setback, used the experience of working in a burger van at T in the Park as the springboard to start his own catering company.

Bruce Sinclair (24), originally from Shetland, has been named as the 2010 University of Dundee Enterprise Gym Champion in recognition of the entrepreneurial flair he displayed as he dealt with the blow to his ambitions. He will receive his prize at a glittering ceremony held at West Park Conference Centre from 7pm on Thursday, April 1st.

After graduating in 2008, Bruce won a traineeship with a local solicitors’ firm only for the company to cancel all training contracts a fortnight before he was due to start. Too late to get a new trainee position starting that year, Bruce instead found casual employment working at a hamburger stall at various music festivals throughout Britain.

Throughout his time at University, Bruce had been involved with the Enterprise Gym, an organisation that encourages students to embrace entrepreneurialism by organising workshops, competitions and other training events.

This helped Bruce to spot a gap in the market, and led him to set up ‘Pasta U Like’, a company offering high quality, nutritious food at competitive prices, and an alternative to the fatty fayre usually dished up at festivals.

Bruce explains, 'I was devastated when the traineeship was cancelled as I’d been studying law for five years. It was impossible to get another legal traineeship as law firms employ trainees months in advance.

'I eventually got in touch with a close friend of mine who did catering at music festivals. He said I could come and work for him at a few events in the summer. I jumped at the chance, but I didn’t know what to expect.

'T in the Park was my first festival and I learned a lot from that weekend. I also had the chance to look at some of the other catering stands. I could see only burgers, noodles and more burgers. I thought at this point: 'There is something missing!' I wanted to offer a range of pasta dishes for meat-eaters, vegetarians or vegans.'

Using skills learned at the Enterprise Gym, Bruce prepared a business plan which enabled him to approach funding organisations and so his business was born and made a substantial profit in its first outing.

He had not given up on a legal career, however, and was offered a trainee position at Dickson Minto, one of the country’s top law firms specialising in corporate and commercial law. He has no plans to abandon Pasta U Like either, though, and has advance bookings for eight major festivals for this summer as well as plans to continue the growth of the brand and expand into the organic pasta sauce market.

Bruce says he has no doubt that his experiences at the Enterprise Gym and his determination to set up his own business helped him to impress the interview panel.

The project encourages students to develop the skills, confidence and self-reliance that the next generation of entrepreneurs require. Students who sign up can access online training materials, training sessions led by members of the local business community, and a variety of other resources.

The Enterprise Gym’s 5th Annual Award Ceremony will see 38 students presented with certificates and prizes recognising innovation and dedication displayed by students who have engaged with the University’s E-Gym scheme.

Academics, students, members of the University’s management team and representatives of the local business community will come together for the event to celebrate the enterprising achievements of students who work with the Enterprise Gym.

Second-year Anatomical Sciences student Bernard Cheung will receive this year’s Iron Man Award - given to the student who accumulates the most points for engaging in Enterprise Gym activities - while a Champion Team award will also be made.

Ken Edward, Enterprise Facilitator at the University, congratulated the students, saying, 'All of the students receiving certificates this evening have shown great commitment and engagement with our activities.

'Some really excellent business ideas have been formed and developed this year and some will take another step toward commercialisation over the summer. Without the involvement of the local business community through sponsorship and direct interaction with the students, the Enterprise Gym would not be the success it is today.'

Tim Allan, Director of Unicorn Property Group, who will present Bruce with his award, said his story illustrated the kind of enterprising graduate that employers sought and the economy needed.

For media enquiries contact:
Grant Hill
Press Officer
University of Dundee
Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4HN
TEL: 01382 384768
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