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Joshua Dowbiggin on placement

"I would 100% recommend other students to set up their own businesses whilst at university. It immediately sets you apart from the crowd."

Enterprising Joshua Dowbiggin set up his own business – trading bull sperm – to fund his university studies. Now the business is going from strength to strength.

Josh, from Salterforth, Lancashire, set up Ghyll Beck Hereford Stud in 2013, the year before he started university. It markets and sells frozen Hereford genetics in the form of semen and embryos.

“I’m from a farming background and was always passionate about the cattle industry and the power and potential of genetics. I had experience within the pedigree livestock sector and wanted to find a way to make a business model from it and, after travelling in Canada, I saw a niche in the market.”

Agriculture student Josh started the business from his bedroom, with cash from selling his own cattle, and has kept costs low by doing his own social media marketing. His business experience also helped when it came to applying for his placement year role with Co-Op Food, who were looking for someone “independent, confident, good at managing time and prioritising tasks based on deadlines,” all qualities Josh has been able to hone over the last couple of years. “Having the experience of running my own enterprise has definitely helped with my placement - an understanding of how a business works has been crucial working within retail. It has given me people and communication skills, and taught me to manage funds and accounts, as well as task prioritisation and organisation skills.”

In his placement role as an Undergraduate Agricultural Coordinator, the 20-year-old has been based at the Co-Op’s landmark headquarters, One Angel Square, in Manchester.

“I manage our Integrated Calf Scheme and work on various projects throughout the year including antibiotic usage research, animal feed policies, and agricultural shows. I visit farms and processing sites on a regular basis and have had the opportunities to work in depots and stores. I am also working on a project to help us tell our story better about how we are proud of our commitment to British produce. It’s so rewarding seeing how our efforts are supporting farming families up and down the country, helping them to improve their businesses but also their quality of life. There is lots of technology and investment in this area - agriculture and retail will be more and more integrated in future which is really exciting.”

And the future of Ghyll Beck? “I shall continue working on genetics and expand the marketing, PR, design and livestock sales divisions.

“My advice would be not to spend money where it isn’t needed - make sure every penny spent has an intended impact or return. And treat people how you want to be treated; first impressions count!”

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