New business: Welsh universities' high start-up rate

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Media captionJenny Evans says running a business is "a massive privilege as well as a huge responsibility"

Textile designer Jenny Evans graduated from Cardiff Metropolitan University last June and now has eight employees.

She set up her company, Jenny Kate, while still a student and is now selling her designs on chairs, lampshades, cushions and notebooks.

Aged 24, she was one of 254 students from Welsh universities who started a business after recently graduating.

Universities in Wales are producing more graduate entrepreneurs than higher education generally across the UK.

They educate about one in 20 UK students, but produce more than one in 10 graduate start-ups.

'Extra rewards'

The most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics showed 44% of businesses set up in Wales overall were still trading after five years - slightly higher than the UK average of 43.2%.

There are many reasons why firms do not survive over a longer period, including being taken over or the founder taking up full-time employment.

Ms Evans said she did think about what would happen if the business failed but added that "with the extra risk you definitely get the extra rewards".

Image caption Some of the Jenny Kate products

"People who are graduating now are going into a very uncertain job market and the skill set that I've learned and developed, as well as the network that I've gained from running this business, puts me in a completely unique position that I wouldn't be in if I'd gone into an entry level job after graduating."

Ms Evans, who is originally from Plymouth, said employing people was "a massive privilege as well as a huge responsibility".

"It's absolutely terrifying but at the same time it's incredibly rewarding. It comes with its own set of challenges but at the same time I wouldn't be where I am now without the team that I have."

Unlike Ms Evans, many start-up founders are unable to take salaries in the early years.

The number of graduate entrepreneurs is still small compared with the overall amount of students - and may partly be explained by young people starting businesses due to a lack of jobs in some industries in Wales.

Image caption Prof Julie Lydon said many students at Welsh universities want to stay in Wales

But Universities Wales said the figures showed how much support students and graduates receive to encourage entrepreneurship. "Graduate start-ups" refers to all new businesses founded within two years of leaving university.

Prof Julie Lydon, chairman of Universities Wales and vice-chancellor of the University of South Wales, said she suspected the desire to remain in Wales for work was one of the reasons for the increased levels of graduate start-ups.

"I see it with some of our own graduates who say 'this is what I want to do, I positively want to stay in Wales'.

"Graduates who come to study in Wales are wowed by what's here. They may not have known automatically before, so there must be something around what we're doing here that makes people stay and stick which is what we want to do."

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