In this video, I interview Reshma about her start up visa journey.
Reshma was granted a start-up visa for the UK and she is a great example in 2020 of a successful applicant. In this post, we discuss Reshma’s journey and how she navigated through the visa application process. With help from the university, Reshma was able to make her start-up into a reality. Once she got sponsored by her university, she then went on to create her business plan. With an identifiable audience for her business and research to support her business, Reshma then discussed the actual visa application process.
Transcript from interview:
Tom: Let’s begin by discussing what you studied.
Reshma: I studied an MA in Contemporary Performance Practices at Royal Holloway, University of London. I chose the UK because not only was it a multicultural place but it also has a fantastic reputation in the performing arts. More importantly, I was able to visit the theatre alongside my studies t university which helped me learn a lot more about what makes an excellent performance.
Tom: That’s great. So when did you first hear about the start-up visa?
Reshma: At first I heard about the graduate entrepreneur visa whilst I was still studying my undergraduate degree. By the time I graduated in 2019, the graduate entrepreneur visa ended but luckily I found out about the start-up visa which was going to be introduced as a replacement. What really helped me with the process of discovering the start-up visa was the fact that I would often g to the visa office at my student union. I would talk to them about how I wanted to stay in the UK and ask whether the start-up visa was the right route for me to do so. It was through those meetings that I was informed that my university was sponsoring students and so I registered with my university.
They told me the next step was to create a brief outline describing my start-up. My start-up business was to create a dance company which would specialise in Bollywood and hip-hop dance. In terms of being innovative, my idea was to fuse the two styles of dance together as this is not often done. My university was happy to help me and so I moved onto the research phase. Conducting the research helped me understand how to run a dance company and figure out what does and doesn’t work. Once I had figured out how to meet my audience’s needs, I was able to present my findings to the panel for the final presentation. Thankfully, I got great feedback and they liked my idea.
Tom: That’s excellent. So could you talk about the process of creating the business plan and how you prepared that?
Reshma: It started at university. I got the idea to create a dance company which focuses on Bollywood and hip-hop dance because there were no such classes at my university. When speaking to my friends and their friends, I could see that there was certainly an interest in having such classes. What is interesting is that people liked the idea of having a Bollywood/hip-hop dance class because it was a fun and creative way of getting fit. During my research, I saw how dance could be incorporated into the fitness industry, even in employee-well being programmes in the UK. essentially, my business plan took a lot of research and also involved speaking to people. The finance was also an important aspect of my business plan. I had to consider many things from overseeing the cost of renting out dance spaces to determining how much profits I would make on a yearly basis.
Tom: So, it sounds like the business plan was a collaborative process which involved plenty of research and time. What I noticed with your business is that it is based more in the creative arts industry rather than the usual ‘tech start-up’. Could you talk to me about what that was like?
Reshma: Yes, so initially I thought that this visa route would not be suitable for me as y idea was not technology-based. However, when I looked at the criteria, which emphasised the need for innovative, scalable and viable businesses- I noticed that my business idea was able to fulfil such criteria. Whilst there are Bollywood style dance classes already in the UK, I focused on the issue of fo mental health. I know there is a rise in mental health problems like anxiety and depression and the NHS explains that dance can improve your mood and reduce stress. So, I saw dance classes as a great way to help people improve their mental health because it allowed people to work as a group and encourage each of them to cooperate. I knew my business was definitely scalable in terms of the fact that dance classes could not only work for university students but also in business workshops which encourage employees to collaborate together and also alleviate the problem of loneliness which is a big issue for the elderly.
Tom: That’s great. You clearly had an identifiable audience which was universities, businesses and care homes. So could you also talk about the actual visa process in terms of how long it took?
Reshma: Yes, I was actually quite surprised by how quick the process was. The act that there no interview was something that also surprised me because when I applied for my student visa, I had to give an interview. So, I got my answer in two days which stated that I got the visa. All I had to do was give my fingerprints for the BRP [Biometric Resident Permit] and submit some documents.
Tom: Yes, most of our other clients who are similar to you got their reply within seven days of submitting their biometric information and documents. What about your contemporaries, did any of them get endorsed and stay in the UK after graduation?
Reshma: No actually. The reason why I managed to stay in the UK after graduation was because I would regularly visit the visa office at my university. It was my persistence in wanting to stay in the UK that the university noticed and so, they were able to help me with the visa process. The main problem is that students do not often follow up with the visa office o they leave things to the last minute; both of which can prevent you from getting the visa.
Tom: I see and the start-up visa is only for two years, so what are your plans for afterwards?
Reshma: I am deciding between two options; the innovator visa route or the exceptional talent visa route. I know that transferring to the innovator visa from the start-up visa will be the easier option for me as I will not have to show the 50k funds. However, the other option which is the exceptional talent visa. Since I am already in the UK and I have friends and contacts in the industry, it will be easier for me to fulfil the criteria required for this visa route since I have both my dance business and also my performances in theatre which I do alongside. With this visa route, I can stay in the UK for another five years.
Tom: Fantastic. Thank you so much with speaking with me today and talking about your journey.