Learning from My Experience of Supporting Student Entrepreneurs with Autism 
By Clare Griffiths, Business Development Manager (Entrepreneurship) 

I have been working as a business support practitioner (i.e. someone who supports people to start up and grow their own businesses) for the last 16 years – initially in the voluntary sector, and for the last 13 years, in higher education. Currently, I work at the University of Brighton, within the Careers Service, and manage our extra-curricular entrepreneurship support service called beepurple, which aims to equip our students and graduates with the business skills and entrepreneurial mindset to start up their own venture. (I also run my own social enterprise, The Thrive Effect, which specifically supports female founders to start and grow their own small business). 

I love my work because I get immense satisfaction from seeing my clients realise their business ambitions and bring their entrepreneurial ideas to fruition. Mark Blake, Founder of The Autism League and a student of the University of Brighton, is one of my clients, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing over the last 18 months. As far as I am aware, Mark Blake is the first entrepreneur whom I have supported who is autistic. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Mark, and believe that my experience of supporting him has genuinely benefited my practice as a business support practitioner. I am now more conscious of what I am saying, for example, when I am sharing complex knowledge and information, and also when giving instructions and discussing action plans.  

There are a few things I have found myself and my colleague, Luke Mitchell, saying to Mark during our entrepreneurship advice sessions with him which I now realise are relevant to – and benefit – all entrepreneurs. So, here are my top five tips for Mark and other student entrepreneurs who are at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey. 

  1. Don’t get distracted by the bigger picture. Always identify clear, actionable steps to move your business forward. 
  1. Keep things simple. Less is more – in the context of your actual business idea, and also in the communications you write to your audience. 
  1. Business relationship take time to build, and are built on trust. Don’t rush things. 
  1. The entrepreneurial journey is a long and tiring one! Don’t dwell on the things that go wrong. Look forward to the next steps of your journey and your future achievements.  
  1. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Be authentic. 

I really admire Mark’s ambition, his creative mind, and his contagious passion to support young people with autism. I look forward to continuing my work with Mark whilst he continues his studies at the University of Brighton. 

Learning from My Experience of Supporting Student Entrepreneurs with Autism
By Clare Griffiths, Business Development Manager (Entrepreneurship) 

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